June 06, 2000


JAZZ FESTIVAL

More than 8,000 jazz enthusiasts filled South Field and Low Plaza on Sunday evening for Columbia's first-ever major outdoor jazz festival.

More than 8,000 jazz enthusiasts filled South Field and Low Plaza on Sunday evening for Columbia's first-ever major outdoor jazz festival. The evening, which began under cloudless skies with balmy temperatures, turned unseasonable chilly with a brief shower, but the crowd was brought to its feet by the legendary Max Roach on drums and Cecil Taylor on piano in a reunion of their first duet performance at a campus theater 21 years ago.

The concert received rave reviews in The New York Times, Newsday, and on top music web sites, sonicnet.com and CDNOW.com. The Wall Street Journal commented that the Columbia concert, part of the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, was the more "eventful" of the festival performances, which run through June 11 in New York City.

Staged in front of Butler Library and broadcast live by the Columbia radio station, WKCR, the event was organized through the efforts of Professor Robert O'Meally, director of the newly established Center for Jazz Studies, and the Office of the Vice President for Administration, Emily Lloyd.

The New York Times Music Critic Ben Ratliff wrote on 6/6/00 that the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival "presented an outdoor concert on the beautifully symmetrical, acoustically reasonable south lawn of the Columbia University campus, headlined by Max Roach and Cecil Taylor, that went a long way toward redefining what such events can achieve."

Ratliff praised the performance by Taylor and Roach "this was a case of two highly defined languages finding common areas through rhythm. Of the David S. Ware Quartet, he wrote "performing to a few thousand young people in the open air presented a challenge, and this band rose to it."

Ratliff wrote of the evening: " this concert free, full of the curious, and a few thousand strong had such good will going for it that it seemed nothing could spoil it."

Critic Gene Seymour wrote in Newsday on 6/8/00 that "Roach caught each of Taylor's bolts with a snapping energy field of his own, an exchange of conceptual ingenuity that set a kind of pattern for the seemingly patternless program that followed. That flow of energy between the two men was so thick and imposing that one could almost feel it spreading into the audience."

Roach's "intricate rhythm patterns, coupled with Taylor's rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness piano forays, kept most of the huge crowd on its feet throughout the show," wrote Sonicnet.com's Ralph Pantuso. "Staged in front of Butler Library and broadcast live by the Columbia radio station, WKCR, the concert was organized through the efforts of Professor Robert O'Meally, director of the newly established Center for Jazz Studies, and the Office of the Vice President for Administration, Emily Lloyd. Even a brief but chilly rain could not dampen the audience's focus on the brilliant, challenging music."

The opening act, Bob Stewart and the nationally acclaimed LaGuardia High School Jazz Band, warmed up the crowd for performances by the David S. Ware Quartet and the Joey Baron and Ron Carter Duo.

The Center for Jazz Studies, through the teachings and writings of O'Meally and other jazz scholars, takes the approach that jazz is the cultural touchstone of American life, not simply a musical style, O'Meally presents jazz as a way to address fundamental questions about society, politics, history, painting, literature, even spirituality. Through O'Meally's efforts, Sunday night's program was the only concert of the Bell Atlantic festival staged on Harlem's doorstep, where so much jazz history has been written.