On any given night at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, programming director Todd Barkan introduces the band, thanks the audience (profusely) and issues his catch-phrase: "Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you."
On Monday, Jazz at Lincoln Center will announce a new way in which it is taking care of the future of the music: the Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival, a five-week event, running from Sept. 6 to Oct. 10, that will aim to bring jazz musicians of all ages onstage together.
The Man Who Keeps the Jazz
Todd Barkan, the Program Director for Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, has been runnign jazz clubs since the seventies, when he owned the Keystone Korner in San Fraincisco. In addition to programming a mix of jazz musicians, he also finds time to produce original recordings. Pia Catton reports.
"We are reaching a critical stage in jazz music because we've lost a lot of people in the last few years," Mr. Barkan said. "Older artists teach a lot by example and the practice of jazz."
Mr. Barkan pointed specifically to the Kenny Barron Quintet, which will perform Oct. 6 to Oct. 11. "Kenny Barron was one of the kids working with Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy helped mould Kenny Barron—now Barron is moulding some younger players," Mr. Barkan said.
Mr. Barron, a piano legend at 67, will be joined by 27-year-old trumpeter Brandon Lee and 34-year-old drummer Jonathan Blake.
Among the vocalists, Shelia Jordan, 81, and Karrin Allyson, 47, will sing together from Sept, 20 to Sept. 22. And the "Triumph of the Trumpets" program (Sept. 23 to 26) will include trumpeters spanning three generations: Jon Faddis, 57; Terell Stafford, 44; and Sean Jones, 28.
The most seasoned musician in the line up is Marian McPartland, 92, who will be joined on a program that introduces newer pianists (Oct. 4). The youngest musician is trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, 15, who, with his father, pianist Arturo O'Farrill, 50, and brother/drummer Zack, 18, will open the festival on Sept. 6.
Presenting the O'Farrill Family Band is especially important to Mr. Barkan: He worked for several years with Arturo's father, Chico O'Farrill, the renowned Cuban composer and big-band leader who died in 2001. "I produced his comeback album. For me, this represents working with three generations," he said.
If it all seems rather personal, well, it is. Mr. Barkan is more than a host or booker or just the guy who talks before the show. He's a jazz-world celebrity—one whose fame is largely based on making other people famous.
From 1972 to 1983, he ran a jazz club in San Francisco called the Keystone Korner that showcased the likes of Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans. Wynton Marsalis, now artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, played there with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and recorded two live albums in the club. Mary Lou Williams called it "the Birdland of the Seventies." Along the way, Mr. Barkan produced more than 800 recordings, earning dozens of Grammy nominations and many other awards. He also developed personal relationships that spanned decades: Grover Washington Jr. was the best man at is wedding; Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a musical mentor.
The depth and duration of those relationships shapes the programming at Dizzy's all year round, but especially so in this new festival. Among Mr. Barkan's ideas was the pairing of pianist Eldar, a "wunderkind" at 22 years old, and guitarist Pat Martino, a "grand master of jazz guitar" at 66. The two have played the Iridium together, and they will perform in the festival on Sept. 13. "They have a musical affinity. They are harmonically akin to each other," said their matchmaker.
There are also direct links to the past. "Bobby Watson & Horizon are the closest thing in our whole jazz culture to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. Bobby Watson embodies that tradition," said Mr. Barkan.
Mr. Watson, the 57-year-old alto saxophonist, served as musical director for Art Blakey. His performances (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) will be followed by the Paris Wright Band playing an After Hours program title, in true Barkanian wit, "Our Father Who Art Blakey."
After Hours programs ($10) will follow all of the headliners—just as they do every week. On Thursdays, the deal is even sweeter: $5 cover charge, $5 drinks and a $5 menu. The pricing will continue after the festival, something that will also help to ensure the future of jazz: The artists scheduled for the After Hours slot—11 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday) and 12:45 a.m. (Friday and Saturday)—are the up-and-comers.
"One of the most important things we do is After Hours," Mr. Barkan said. "I can hire a lot of younger artists. I am trying to integrate them into the whole fabric of the booking at Dizzy's. He added, however, that age has to be paired with talent. "The only thing that is going to keep people interested in the music is consistent quality."
The Jazz at Lincoln Center website (www.jalc.org) contains the full listing of the festival, times and prices.
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