Its all about the sounds of young lions roaring, the meeting of the musical minds, and the fusion of the genius of established jazz giants with the fervor and passion of tomorrows jazz legends. New York City restaurateur and entrepreneur Kevin Walters makes it all happen every Tuesday night at his now venerable East Harlem restaurant and gathering spot, CREOLE Restaurant, Music and Supper Club; 2167 Third Avenue @ 118th Street, New York City, creolenyc.com.
Jazz legends ranging from Grady Tate and Roy Hargrove to Killer Ray Appleton take the stage with young lions such as Experenza Spalding, Marc Cary, Gerald Clayton, Louis Cato, Daru Jones, and brothers Luques and Zaccai Curtis. They bridge the two jazz generations with the hot sounds of improvisation at one of Uptowns coolest meeting places. According to Kevin Walters, who devised the Harlem Evolution Series, the inspiration for the jazz program is multifold, and the results are proving to be a resounding success for everyone involved.
We really want to keep jazz alive in the community, and this is an excellent way and the perfect venue in which to make that happen, Mr. Walters explains. The word has caught on, and every Tuesday night the crowd grows a little larger and more enthusiastic as legends and lions convene to do justice to the quintessential American art form known as jazz. From everyones perspective, its clearly an idea whose time has come.
The idea evolved by way of these young lions looking for a place to come and jam, Mr. Walters says. These are all very talented, college-educated musicians who currently play with masters. He adds that the young musicians rarely find the opportunity to play with one-another. It was a natural evolution to invite more established jazz musicians to meet with the young lions at CREOLE, share their love of music, and learn from one-another. The elder statesmen of jazz are invited to perform, the younger musicians gravitate to the stage, and the magnetism catches on. The word gets out, Mr. Walters says, and the young ones just show up.
Its an education for everyone, he points out. The masters come in, they listen, they offer their words of wisdom, and they give support to the young musicians, Mr. Walters says. And when hot jazz masters get together with younger players, he adds, you never know whos going to step up and give a conversation.
The Tuesday night gigs at CREOLE cover a lot of ground. Keeping jazz alive it serves many purposes, Mr. Walters says. The organizers and I have had many discussions about the value of pairing New Yorks jazz masters with a coterie of up-and-coming talent. The project makes sense on many levels, not the least of which is the opportunity for mentoring. Young jazz musicians look to established players as a source of guidance and inspiration, both musically and for their insights into navigating the sometimes-treacherous waters of building a successful jazz career. The program also helps to strengthen relationships with the Harlem community, making music the focus of attention. As for the young lions, Mr. Walters says theres no place theyd rather be on a Tuesday night.
Theyre all smiles when they get in here, he says. They get into playing, and they forget everything else. The young musicians are enlivened by the music they hear and play, and with their mentors. As far as these young lions are concerned, some of them havent heard anything new in a good long time, so they love coming out.
The Young Lions Roar jazz events are sponsored by Domaine De Canton, French Ginger Liqueur. The Tuesday evening jazz jam sessions are presented by Revive Music Group in conjunction with CREOLE Restaurant. With sets scheduled from 9:00 p.m. to Midnight, they cover a lot of ground both musically and artistically, and serve as a welcome haven both for creative musicians on the rise, and for their established mentors. The sets are hosted by Igmar Thomas and feature DJ Raydar Ellis.
As if the Harlem Evolution Series was not enough, Mr. Walters has plans to expand the idea of the mentoring program beyond the confines of his CREOLE Restaurant. Currently on the drawing board is the genesis of an idea to create an entire music festival centered on the Evolution Series and built on the young lions of jazz concept. Broadening the venue and even taking it to the streets is a natural next step for a program that is already yielding positive results, he says. This could be the start of something even bigger!