Blog Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Jazz Sessions: The Live Performances

Posted April 26, 2018

By Maria Traversa

Since its inception, jazz has transformed the musical landscape with its originality of style and spirit. It’s a diverse music that can be cool or hot, ordered or freeform, swinging or transcendent, and so much more. The evolving nature of jazz, owing to its boundary-pushing ethos and the personal expressions of its players, allows it to tap into a multitude of emotions and, often, the depths of our being. It is a rich and diverse American art form that has transfixed the world for nearly a century. Still, this great music has faced challenges. It’s certainly not as economically viable as its rock and pop counterparts. Jazz clubs open and close, while radio stations are few and far between.  And yet, jazz education has found its way into the most prestigious music schools and universities in the United States and around the world, and indeed is being performed at our major cultural institutions. A new generation of young players is emerging that honors both tradition and innovation and it is thrilling.

Given the Burns Film Center’s history of cutting-edge programming and support of emerging artists, it is no surprise that this 10th Anniversary retrospective of the Jazz Sessions series, Jazz Sessions: Take 10, looks back at the masters with nine audience favorites from past years and two new films, including Django, Black Orpheus, Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser, Charlie Haden Rambling Boy, I Called Him Morgan, and The Girls in the Band. We’re honored to present five films that explore the lives, recordings, and performances of some of the masters, followed by live performances from the great John Pizzarelli Quartet as well as four young rising stars in the jazz world and their bands.

A Casa do Tom—Mundo, Monde, Mondo  (The House of Tom) with John Pizzarelli – May 2  (SOLD OUT)
The series opens on May 2 with a film about the legendary composer and performer Antônio Carlos Jobim, with a performance by Burns community member and great guitarist and singer, John Pizzarelli. John recorded an acclaimed CD last year in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the classic Jobim/Sinatra collaboration. He toured Europe and Brazil with this magical music, and we’re so happy to have him performing it here.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary with the Julian Lee Quartet – May 9
The child of a jazz musician, saxophonist Julian Lee has been winning awards for his playing since he was a child. He grew up with a reverence you can expect on display as he honors one of his musical influences and one of the great innovators of the genre. He is a regular at Jazz at Lincoln Center, leads his own band, and can be heard as a sideman with many of the greats. Julian’s respect for the music is evident in this quote from an interview: “Ben Wolfe, the great bassist, once told me, ‘Listen to every other person on the bandstand more than yourself’. This advice has taught me to be a more selfless musician. When everyone playing is listening intently to each other, the greatest music is created.”

Bill Evans: Time Remembered with the Julius Rodriguez Trio – May 16 (SOLD OUT)
The beauty and depth of this music will be given its due by Julius Rodriguez, a young man with enormous talent. Though still at Julliard, he is one of the busiest players around, performing in New York and around the world. On his early years growing up in White Plains, he says,  “… my dad was a huge jazz fan. We listened to the greats: Monk, Coltrane. I started classical piano lessons at a young age. I was always watching the musicians in my church…They got season tickets for the “Jazz for Young People” series at Lincoln Center. I’ve been going to those since I was six or seven. I did a community program in Westchester called Jazz Elite, and we did some festivals like the Mingus festival and the Essentially Ellington festival…There’s a bit of a jazz scene in Westchester!”

1959: The Year That Changed Jazz with the Benny Benack III Quartet – May 23
1959 – what a year! Four albums that were responsible for that evolutionary leap I spoke of earlier. We are so pleased that Benny Benack III, the son and grandson of musicians, is on hand to celebrate a film about musicians that have influenced generations. He’s a fiery improviser on the trumpet and a smooth singer with a touring schedule that takes him around the world. Happily he makes his home in New York, where we get to hear him frequently. He’s also an excellent composer, as is evident in the wonderful song that we used in our trailer. No less than Tony Bennett has told him, “You’ve got the gift!”

Jazz on a Summer’s Day with Veronica Swift and her trio – May 30
The next best thing to having been at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 is to bask in the glory of the music performed on that summer day. Among the great vocal performances were those of Anita O’Day and Dinah Washington. Veronica Swift has absorbed their lessons, honed her impressive musical skills, and, with the natural beauty of her voice, taken the jazz world by storm. At 23, she plays to sold out houses in the best venues. Of Anita O’Day, she says “…her time is effortless. She doesn’t ever sound like she’s pushing anything, there’s no show about it, and it’s always so subtle. And I try to not imitate, but emulate. Especially over really fast tempos, she just floats, and that’s something — that ease, her manipulation of phrase and time to make it a different song. That’s what I love.”

We hope you’ll join us for this special series!


Thank you Adam R. Rose and Peter R. McQuillan, whose sponsorship makes Jazz Sessions possible.
Special thanks to Kathy Bonomi for your thoughtful programming and guidance.

Maria Traversa is the Coordinator of the live music for the Jazz Sessions series. She is a graduate of the NYU Film School and has worked in the film industry for over 30 years. She has been the Script Supervisor for the Saturday Night Live Film Unit for the last 22 seasons and produced the evening “30 Years of SNL Commercial Parodies” for the Burns in 2014.

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