Volume 19, Number 2 | May 26 - June 1, 2006

Tribeca PAC tribute to jazz clubs continuesMets vs. Nationals
 

By Lee Metcalf

For two of the next three Friday evenings (May 26 and June 9), the Tribeca Performing Arts Center pays homage to the Café Bohemia, one of the historic venues in jazz history. As part of their annual “Lost Jazz Shrines” series, the program honors this brief but brilliant star on the jazz club horizon, harkening back to the art form’s golden age and celebrating some of the musicians who brought 15 Barrow Street to life with their music. Originally a distinguished jazz club in its own right during the 1940’s called the Pied Piper, the Café Bohemia came to prominence in the mid 1950’s with legendary players such as Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley and Charles Mingus each enjoying long standing engagements. (The opening night of the three-part series honored the music of Adderley.)

Tribeca Performing Arts Center artistic director Willard Jenkins explains how the idea for the series came about: “The original idea behind the Lost Jazz Shrines series is simply to recall the legacy of important jazz venues. In jazz, we usually celebrate the history of certain musicians, bands or eras and rightfully so. On the other hand, there are also places (venues), which for a variety of reasons proved to be key havens of jazz creativity. Our series seeks to honor that legacy of venues.”

Though most jazz fans today never attended the intimate Café Bohemia, a somewhat long and narrow space featuring a bar on one end and a small bandstand at the other, the name is nevertheless synonymous with jazz history largely due to the numerous records that were recorded live at the club by artists such as Kenny Dorham, Charles Mingus and most notably Art Blakey, whose “Jazz Messengers at the Café Bohemia” is considered a classic from this era. Similarly, when Miles Davis undertook two marathon sessions at Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey, famed jazz historian Ira Gitler writes that, “Miles called the tunes just as he would for any number of typical sets at a club like the Café Bohemia. There were no second takes. All in all, 24 extended performances were recorded.” These two sessions provided the music for four separate records by the Miles Davis Quintet, “Cookin,’” “Steamin,’” “Workin,’” and “Relaxin,’ ” and are not only considered classics, but serve as the standard for small group playing from this era.

This Friday the 26th features a performance by jazz organist Lonnie Smith in a tribute to the late Jimmy Smith, probably the most important figure in this style. In 1956 the Café Bohemia had been Jimmy Smith’s first regular gig following his switch from piano to organ, and this early engagement was a showcase for his new concept, establishing the organ trio as a legitimate and respected jazz format. Lonnie Smith is the perfect choice to honor Jimmy Smith, as Lonnie (no relation to Jimmy) is arguably the most exciting jazz organist alive today, masterfully constructing phrases that feature contrasts in texture, density and color to form dramatic solos that often start from a whisper and build to a highly charged crescendo. Also joining Smith is special guest and fellow organist Reuben Wilson, who like Smith was greatly influenced by those early recordings of late organist. The concert will be preceded by an interview of Junior Mance, Bill Crow and Dick Katz, all musicians who performed at the Café Bohemia. (Admission is free to this portion at 7pm, and $25 for the concert at 8:30.)

The program on June 9th will pay homage to the legendary bassist Oscar Pettiford, who in addition to his impact on the jazz world, was the original musical director at the Café Bohemia. The group will consist of Eric Gould (piano/musical director), Sean Jones (trumpet), Antonio Hart (alto), Don Braden (tenor), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Leon Lee Dorset (bass) and Vincent Ector (drums) and they will be performing the music of Oscar Pettiford. In addition, Ron Carter, probably the greatest living bass player, will appear as a special guest. The evening will conclude with a dinner afterwards at the Tribeca Grill honoring Art Blakey, John Levy and Ron Carter for their lasting contributions to the jazz world and to Café Bohemia. (For tickets to the dinner, contact Gabriella oler-Buzali at 212-220-1459. Concert begins at 7pm, Dinner is at 9 p.m.

Both concerts are at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street. For tickets call the box office at 212-220-1460 or visit www.tribecapac.org.)


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