Feature on Barbican/Jazz at Lincoln Center

I have written a feature on the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s residency at the Barbican, and all the events and education projects around it in East London.

It is published today in Arts Industry magazine.

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Swinging from Center to Centre

The residency of Jazz at Lincoln Center (see below) at the Barbican later this month, under the banner “United in Swing 2010”, is an extensive and far-reaching undertaking.

Wynton Marsalis, the charismatic artistic leader of Jazz At Lincoln Center, and someone always worth hearing, might be the one who gets photographed and who makes the headlines, but the real story of this venture is very different, and will take place far away from media attention.

The numerous performance and education events of this residency will be a pulling-together of a number of strands.

First, they should provide the best demonstration to date of the Barbican’s strategy in action, to broaden participation, and to reach out into the communities of East London – the residency doesn’t just entail major concerts in the Barbican Hall itself and in the centre’s free spaces, the project will also take performances to a number of East London venues (see box). And in the education work there will be collaborations with Tomorrow’s Warriors, Peter Shrubshall’s jazz students from the Centre for Young Musicians, NYJO 2 and the Bexley Little Big Band. And in the longer term, there will be the presence of an East London Creative Jazz Orchestra.

Secondly, they will show off some relatively unknown world-class British music education, centred around the Guildhall School of Music and Drama which has been steadily growing in reputation, confidence and impact for over 20 years, and has just taken a substantial forward leap.

As one participant from the Barbican told me, “This is a lot more than just the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra turning up and doing a few concerts and workshops”. In fact, both the Barbican Centre and Jazz at Lincoln Center conceived the relationship from the start as an extensive and far-reaching collaboration, and both are happy to confirm, touch wood, that their collaboration is due to continue in each of the even-numbered years up until 2020.

But perhaps the development which will have the biggest long-term impact, but which has gone relatively unnoticed, has been the appointment of Sean Gregory to a new role of director of creative learning for the Barbican Centre and Guildhall. In this role Gregory now oversees not just the activities of Guildhall Connect, which he has run since 2001, but also those across all art forms of Barbican Education, the two entities having merged.

The Guildhall Connect activity, initiated in the 1980s by Peter Renshaw and Peter Wiegold, has a reputation among people involved in music education which is second to none. “A complete eye-opener,” said one former member of the London Symphony Orchestra‘s management, remembering the first visits of Renshaw and Wiegold to work with the musicians of the orchestra in the 1980‘s. “They were the first to square the circle” says Regis Cochefert of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. “They found the way to address simultaneously the needs of both the students in the conservatoire going out into communities, and also of the communities in which musicians would work.”

The participation in the Connect programme by Guildhall undergraduates has been compulsory for several years. A former Guildhall jazz student, who is now a full time educator, told me: “Where did my confidence come from when I left college and walked straight into classrooms? It was those sessions.”

But Sean Gregory is not one to rest on his laurels, and is clearly looking forward to bringing this, the first major project since assuming his new role, to fruition.

The educational approach, and the sheer reach and scale of the activity of Jazz at the Lincoln Center under the leadership of Erika Floreska, are things which Gregory and his team learn and gain from. “Whatever evolves from it” he says “will help build connections, and enhance and develop what we do”.

Meanwhile, teenagers in bands all over London are finding that a quote from bassist Chuck Israels in the JALC teaching notes has just indelibly printed itself on their minds : “The most important things in music are: rhythm, rhythm, and rhythm, in that order.”

Who could ask for anything more? See you at the Barbican.

What’s happening – Wednesday 16th June to Sunday 20th June

-A swing dance evening at Stoke Newington Town Hall

-Concerts, talks, films workshops, masterclasses, professional development and a keynote address by Wynton Marsalis and a Big Band Britannia evening at the Barbican Centre,

-A family concert at Hackney Empire

-A free outdoor concert by a sextet from JALC at Paradise Gardens, Victoria Park, E3

-A British jazz generations series and late night jam sessions with members of the JALC Orchestra and omorrow’s Warriors at the Vortex Jazz Club

-Details of the performances and other events at the Barbican and the East London venues from the
Barbican Centre Box
Office 0845 120 7550 http://www.barbican.org.uk/

Vortex 020 7254 4097 http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk


Jazz at Lincoln Center Top Ten Facts

-Jazz at Lincoln Center is the world’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to jazz.

-The organization is almost twenty years old It moved to new purpose-built accommodation in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in October 2004-It has three performance spaces, the 1200 seat Rose Theater, The 480-seater Allen Room with a massive window overlooking Central Park and the intimate Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

-In its year-round schedule it organizes over 3000 performances, education projects and broadcasts

-JALC’s educational mission, taking a cradle-to-grave approach to developing audiences and participation, from “Weebop” for tots to “Swing University” for adults encompasses 22 programs and resources that reach upwards of 50,000 people directly and an estimated four million people through curricula, print music and online resources. Materials are distributed to 15,000 schools

-Artistic Director is Wynton Marsalis, a major figure in jazz. His new work commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic will be premiered on 12th June in Berlin

-The Executive Director since October 2007 is Welsh-born Adrian Ellis, a former HM Treasury Civil Servant, with seventeen years in arts consultancy

-The Annual operating budget is $38.5m

-At the heart of the Center’s performance and education work are the fifteen word-class musicians of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, directed by Wynton Marsalis

-The orchestra includes two more Britons, Scottish-born baritone saxophone legend Joe Temperley (b 1929) and trombonist Elliott Mason (b 1977), originally from Norfolk


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2 replies »

  1. Don't forget the Tomorrow's Warriors and Jazz @ Lincoln Center jam sessions at The Vortex this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday starting at 10.30pm.

  2. If you miss these guys at the Barbican, you can also catch them out on tour – they play Brighton, B'ham, Manchester, Glasgow, Gateshead

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