|Cynthia Scott sings alongside Patience Higgins and Jeremy Pelt|
Old jazz souls united under one roof to honor 50 years of Jazzmobile, the country’s oldest non-profit organization dedicated to keeping jazz alive.
Hosted by Rhonda Hamilton of 88.3 FM WBGO, the tribute concert took place at the First Corinthian Baptist Church on Friday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. with appearances by venerated jazz legends and young, emerging stars.
“And I’ll get along, as long as a song, strong in my soul,” were lyrics to Without a Song, sung by Melba Joyce, that echoed throughout the evening and reflected the beauty of musical composition and it’s role in feeding the soul. She described it as a song about “us and about music” which was powerfully performed.
Vocalists like Cynthia Scott, Ghanniyya Green, Lynette Washington, and Whitney Marchelle were some of the leading ladies that ignited the stage that evening with beloved jazz standards and cherished blues renditions.
Many musicians played unpaid for the love of music, and many were Jazzmobile educators like bass player, Darnell “Jay” Starks.
|Patience Higgins on sax, James Zollar on trumpet|
“Over the last 50 years we have reached over 200,000 students, like Solomon Hicks,” said Hamilton, regarding the organization’s commitment to joining students of diverse backgrounds and ages with the opportunity to develop a talent into serious skill.
Solomon Hicks, 19, a guitar and singing prodigy, showcased his music alongside the jazz idols he grew up listening to.
“When I first learned jazz, I was in the classes studying how to read music at 13 - 15 years old,” said Hicks. “I feel so fortunate to play with so many Jazz musicians like Danny Mixon, Lafayette Harris, and Patience Higgins,” he added.
One of his favorite guitar players, Michael Howell, taught an intermediate class with Jazzmobile that Hicks was a student in.
“He would play at a million miles per hour,” said Hicks, “but I kept on keeping on and now I’m a full-time professional musician.” Now a musician that has played at venues like the Lenox Lounge and the Cotton Club, he also plays internationally and said “all of this basically started with Jazzmobile.”
Currently in the midst of numerous projects, he looks forward to future collaborations and is working on preparing for upcoming performances with Antoinette Montague who entered the stage of performers for the second set.
|The FCBC's Young Dreamers Choir opens for the jazz performers|
“It means everything, because every time you get a chance to rejoin the people, during these crazy times, it’s a privilege,” said Montague. “It’s an honor to work for Jazzmobile during the summers, they help give me my Harlem audience and my New York presence.”
“Whenever she’s around its always a good time, she's got really a warm and loving spirit,” said Hamilton about Montague.
For New Year's Eve she announced her upcoming show with Danny Mixon and Solomon Hicks.
“We’ll stomp the yard and have such a great time,” she said.
Another young artist, Camille Thurman, known for her skills on the flute and saxophone, performed and scatted the evening away.
“It’s like a full circle experience,” said Thurman, who started in her early teens with Jazzmobile and is now part of their 50th anniversary celebration.
|Camille Thurman resting the sax to scat away|
It was at the National Endowment for the Art’s Jazz Masters Ceremony hosted at her school, LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, where she had the opportunity to play with Chip Jackson, Winard Harper and Dr. Billy Taylor. That then opened the door to attending a summer music camp, expanding her opportunities to collaborate with other artists.
Inspired by Sarah Vaughan, Thurman said that taking the stage allows her to feel “free as a bird” when she scats a melody or jams to a tune.
Jazzmobile, founded in 1964, has grown to the outreach organization that touches New Yorkers to “preserve, promote and propagate Jazz.” With music workshops, symposiums and artist panels they work to incorporate a fundamental understanding of a style of timeless music and serves as resource to the musically expressive spirit.