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Free Columbia University Jazz Concert featuring Abbey Lincoln, Wayne Shorter Quartet Aug. 11; Symposium on Jazz Sources Aug. 10, and Photo Exhibition of Jazz Cities through Aug. 23

By Lauren Marshall

Is jazz strictly U.S. music or does it carry the rhythm, tune and spirit of the African, Caribbean and Latino cultures that thrive in our cities and beyond? On August 10, a circle of the nation's leading jazz scholars—including musicians, poets and photographers—will debate "The Sources of Jazz" during an all day symposium hosted by Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies on the Columbia campus.

The symposium is one of three free public jazz events to be held at Columbia in August. On August 11, the Columbia lawn will be transformed into an outdoor stage as the University hosts the 2001 Verizon Music Festival concert featuring Abbey Lincoln, Wayne Shorter and other contemporary jazz artists (4 p.m. to 9 p.m.). A photographic exhibition, "Jazz in the City: New Orleans and Harlem," with scenes from two great jazz cities will run through August 23 in Dodge Hall. These activities coincide with the centennial year of Louis Armstrong, who may well be considered the key source of jazz music.

Jazz is considered by many to be the quintessential American music. But the symposium, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Mathematics Building, room 312, will expand this definition by pointing to a greater geographic complexity and variety of sources and venues. Today's scholars believe that while the New Orleans to Chicago to New York formula for jazz's geographical history is not wrong, there is a wider and more variegated map to consider.

"We do not challenge the argument that jazz is our national treasure and expresses our democratic ideals of individuality and cooperation with gusto and beauty. However, with this symposium, we are taking the opportunity to examine a larger jazz geography," said Robert O'Meally, the literary scholar, founder and director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia, who is the event coordinator and moderator.

Leading scholars who are defining jazz studies today will discuss these ideas during three segments: "The Cities of Jazz," "Beyond our Borders" and "Theoretical Reflections."

The renowned American jazz centers of Harlem and New Orleans as well as a network of jazz cities-- including St. Louis, New Orleans, Newark , Detroit, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and Houston-- all will be discussed in "Cities of Jazz."

But Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean also play a role in jazz's past and present. Scholars will discuss the degree to which jazz is a Latin American, European, and/or African music and the sources of jazz music that are found overseas in "Beyond our Borders."

Aside from geography, panelists will examine other ways to frame the question of jazz's sources. While the novelist Albert Murray has argued that the Saturday night party is a circle from which the music emerges, others, such as Columbia English Professor Farah Griffin, consider the human body, particularly the voice and the body's various pulses, as the most radical loci of the music's origin. Robin Kelley will explore the commercialization of Monk and marketing as yet another source of jazz during "Other Sources/Theoretical Reflections."

The accompanying photographic exhibition, "Jazz in the City: New Orleans and Harlem," brings the work of master photographers Michael P. Smith and Gerald Cyrus to Columbia. The exhibition of passionate moments in great jazz cities will be on view August 7 to 23 in the LeRoy Nieman Center in Dodge Hall. The exhibition is curated by Daniel Veneciano, curator of shows at Studio Museum in Harlem and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Following the symposium, there will be a book signing with the panel participants, many of whom are authors of new or recently published books on jazz. Panelists include: Amiri Baraka, poet, author and social critic; Christopher Washburne, assistant Columbia professor of music and trombonist who has been called one of the best in salsa; Brent Hays Edwards, professor of English at Rutgars University and expert on the Harlem Renaissance, who is interested in links between Harlem and French Africa and the Caribbean; Farah Griffin, professor of English at Columbia and author of a new book on Billie Holiday; Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, Newark, who has been active in the jazz field since 1957, and Robin Kelley, Armstrong Professor of Jazz Studies at Columbia, and others.

O'Meally is the Zora Neale Hurston Professor in the department of English and comparative literature and founder and director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia, which opened in the fall of 1999. Bringing jazz to the forefront of a liberal arts education, Columbia is among the first research institutions to approach the study of jazz as a cultural phenomenon—a way to understand the soul of American culture and society today. As a literary scholar, O'Meally is trailblazer in the interdisciplinary field of jazz studies. He is a biographer of Billie Holiday and Grammy music award nominee as co-producer of the Smithsonian Collection CD set, "The Jazz Singers." He is also editor of the newly published book Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings, which chronicles the influence of jazz on the writer.

The seminar schedule is as follows:

9 a.m. - 10 a.m.Opening remarks by O'Meally with refreshments
10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m."Cities of Jazz"--Harlem, St. Louis and New Orleans
Gerald Cyrus: "Stormy Monday: The Harlem Jazz Scene"
William Kenney: Jazz on the River: Music and the Parade of Power on the Mississippi, 1900 to 1950"
Jason Berry: "Jazz Funerals: A Mirror on New Orleans History"
Michael P. Smith: "New Orleans; a picaresque tale of cooperation, mutual admiration, cross-fertilization, comings-together and driftings apart"
Amiri Baraka on Newark Jazz
12:30 - 1:30Lunch
1:30 to 3:30"Beyond the Borders"
Chris Washburne: "Latin Jazz: the Other Jazz"
Brent Edwards: "Rendez-vous in Rhythm: Notes on Jazz and Biguine in Paris"
Dan Morgenstern: "Jazz in Copenhagen"
John Szwed: "The African and Creole Nature of Jazz"
3:30 - 4:00coffee break
4:00 - 5:00"Theoretical Reflections"
Robin Kelley: "Marketing Monk: Myths as 'Evidence'"
Farah Griffin: "When Malindy Sings"
5:00 - 6:30Reception and book signing

Media interested in attending any of these events or printing an exhibition photo with a story should contact Lauren Marshall at 854-6595.

Published: Jul 31, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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