Articles by

Steve Watson | East End Arts Council

02/11/11 6:05am
Catering to jazz neophytes and aficionado alike, “Inside the ‘Out’ side of Jazz” is a three-event series of one-hour talks presented by the East End Arts Council at locations in Greenport, Southampton and Riverhead. The series kicks off Saturday at Brecknock Hall in Greenport.

Catering to jazz neophytes and aficionado alike, “Inside the ‘Out’ side of Jazz” is a three-event series of one-hour talks presented by the East End Arts Council at locations in Greenport, Southampton and Riverhead. The series kicks off Saturday at Brecknock Hall in Greenport.

I didn’t really care for jazz. Or maybe I just didn’t get it. Could be as simple as that, but the truth is that I suppose it just kind of sounded the same to me and tended to go on for a long time.

Then someone taught me how to listen to Jelly-Roll Morton and Bill Evans; how the players each take turns with their own version of the song, and how the audience applauds after each solo. Then I started getting into it.

Dubbed by Congress a “National Treasure,” the public persona of jazz may be that it’s out of the mainstream, and even out of the loop. But this year’s new series of panel discussions at the Long Island Winterfest aims to put that illusion to rest.

Catering to jazz neophytes and aficionado alike, “Inside the ‘Out’ side of Jazz” is a three-event series of one-hour talks presented by the East End Arts Council at locations in Greenport, Southampton and Riverhead. Topics ranging from John Coltrane and Duke Ellington to social media, aesthetic realism, YouTube and Kickstarter.com will orbit around the general theme of the “relevance of jazz music in today’s world.

The series launches at 1 p.m. Saturday at Brecknock Hall in Greenport with internationally renowned saxophonist David Liebman and author, scholar and pianist Dr. Lewis Porter. Hosted by trombonist Ray Anderson, these heavyweights will discuss the recorded artistry of the great John Coltrane in “Trane’s Travels: Giant Steps to Ascension.” In addition, Dr. Porter and Mr. Liebman (who has performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Elvin Jones and Chick Corea, among others) will also demonstrate musical examples by performing them in the spectacular surroundings of Brecknock Hall’s Victorian mansion.

Dr. Edward Green is an award-winning composer and Fulbright Specialist in American Music.  Dr. Green’s presentation on the value of the aesthetic realism method for the future of musicology is at Southampton Cultural Center on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. This event,  “Ellington, Jazz, the Opposites — and You!” will examine the creative process and sociology of music as they relate to our everyday lives. Dr. Green will also use recorded examples and his own demonstration at the piano.

The third event, “Reaching the Audience: Jazz in the Digital Age,” is a three-speaker panel discussion at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead on March 12 at 1 p.m. Featured speakers are NPR writer and Princeton University Professor Lara Pellegrinelli; Adam Schatz, concert promoter and founder of Search and Restore; and Ken Druker, general manager, Jazz at Lincoln Center Media. Sharing thoughts on jazz through the ages and the impact of digital technology and social media on traditional and modern improvised music, this panel is moderated by Vail-Leavitt president and jazz enthusiast Bob Barta.

For many listeners, experiencing jazz from the outside has left them wondering what all the fuss is about. The goal of this series is to shed new light on the subject from the inside and to reveal its role and relevance in our time. Newcomers and experts alike are invited to enjoy these entertaining and informative discussions.

02/10/11 9:32am


Winterfest kicks off Friday, celebrating wine and jazz throughout the North Fork.

Winterfest kicks off Friday, celebrating wine and jazz throughout the North Fork.


Editor’s Note: Winterfest 2011 kicks off Friday night at Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead  with the Winterfest Warm-Up and continues for six weeks at vineyards across the North Fork. The following essay was excerpted from our Winterfest guide.

From the listener’s perspective, in 500 words or less, how does one start to break down the identifying features and more than 120 years of history to describe what makes jazz, jazz? Is there a silver bullet that tells us how, or why, or what to listen for?
Well, actually, not specifically, and yes.

Born in New Orleans in the early 1900s, and later through Chicago to New York via Louis Armstrong, the building blocks of jazz have always been linked to the founding principles of America: individuality and liberty.

As the center of society in African cultures, the drum and its rhythms represented identity and communication for African slaves. In America, the rhythmic use of European brass and woodwind instruments, combined with Jelly Roll Morton and Scott Joplin’s “Ragged Time” approach on the piano, became the means of “singing” with an individual, yet stylized voice. It was about the rhythm, yes, and it was also about the inflection and the mood.

Building upon spirituals and work songs that inspired the blues, jazz music grew to become a means of expressing improvised versions of popular songs, maintaining the basic structure, but varying the melody. George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” for example, was rewritten by Lester Young as “Lester Leaps In,” by Charlie Parker as “Moose the Mooch,” and by Duke Ellington as “Cottontail.”

Imagine, for a moment, some simple nursery rhymes and well-known songs. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and the alphabet song “A-B-C-D-E-F-G,” for example, are really the same tune with different words. Think about it.

“Happy Birthday” and “The Star Spangled Banner” begin as identical rhythms, but they are clearly different tunes. Right?

Jazz musicians not only change the words and the tunes in their performances, they also change the rhythm — and the more unique they are, the more successful the improvisation. But the spontaneous interplay also needs to make sense. The players need to be listening, interacting and speaking in the same language and accent.

Just as spoken English — in England, Texas or Brooklyn — is still the English language, the styles of jazz and the evolution of the music continue to represent geographic and cultural identities. The Swing Era dance bands of the 1940s inspired adventurous musicians to create be-bop in the after-hours clubs. 1950s “cool jazz” and “hard bop” were countered by “modal” and “free jazz” in the 1960s. Jazz/rock/fusion and “California smooth jazz” spun off from the downtown and uptown scenes in New York, not to mention Latin, European and “third stream” movements. And all the way through was the rhythm, the notion that “It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”

So, underlying all of these developments and interpretations of the great art form known as Jazz, we find three principles. One: Borrow from the past and respect where you came from. Two: Be yourself and tell your own story. Three: Pay attention to the world around you, and stretch the limits of your imagination.

OK, in 500 words, that’s a start.