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World Premiere Of ‘The Jazz & Blues Art Box’

By Doug Hall

“As any jazz archivist can attest, filming records in the smoky nightclubs with dimly lit stages, where many jazz & blues musicians performed, were sometimes all that history had as a record. Housed in a modular cabinet, are 400 hours of music, 96 exclusive interviews and 20 yearbooks. Inside ‘The Jazz & Blues ART Box’ – it is this type of storytelling that brings alive the behind the scenes aspects of jazz history.” – Doug Hall

The roots of jazz, according to many sources (scholars, musicians and jazz aficionados) derives from a “union of African and European music”. Connecting the American origins of the birth of jazz music dates back to New Orleans about 100 years ago – and its most important originator Louis Armstrong. Fast forward to the present and we have a rich history of musicianship that has driven this particularly American-based genre of sound. And before jazz – the blues, an origin that dates back to, historically, and generally accepted as, evolving from “African spirituals, chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns and country dance music.”

But in the modern age of the 20th century, particularly post WWII, the “live” performance of both jazz and blues was the way to reach greater audiences and truly let the music and musician express themselves and “improvise” and “take it” to the audience, “at the moment.” We know the “big” names for premier festivals in the U.S. such as the Newport Jazz Festival, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival. But how about the International Jazz Festival Bern, Switzerland? For 40 plus years of “hard swinging”, the founder Hans Zurbrügg has been delivering a commitment to a purist form of jazz shared by icons such as Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Sonny Rollins and contemporary legends Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Christian McBride and Diana Krall. Now – picture a collection of 20 years of impeccably recorded and on-stage filming (by Swiss Television) of seminal performances by these jazz greats followed-up with off-stage interviews – where these pioneers share thoughts about their life, their music and the expression of jazz music itself.

Hans Zurbrügg, George Wein, Wynton Marsalis at NYC Premiere  

Photo Credit Hank O’Neal

Hans Zurbrügg, Founder and producer of the International Jazz Festival Bern(Switzerland) has just announced release of ‘The Jazz & Blues ART Box’, a collection of 230 DVD’s, in a fully functional and accessible 3 drawer cabinet, that includes DVD’s, yearbooks and an art book. On-board with enthusiasm and helping to present and promote the uniqueness of this collection are other legendary members of the jazz community including George Wein (founder and artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival), Wynton Marsalis (trumpeter, composer, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center) and Hank O’Neal (photographer, author and music producer). From 1983 to 2002, the International Jazz Festival Bern was televised and broadcast by Swiss Television, resulting in this remarkable record -both visually and auditory – archiving what Hank O’Neal calls the “most remarkable collection of jazz and blues performances on video ever assembled.”

Hank O’Neal, George Wein, Wynton Marsalis and Hans Zurbrügg

Mr. Zurbrügg’s – commitment as a musician (trumpeter) and passionate promoter, and noted entrepreneur would take his jazz festival along the steps, from a fledgling beginning in the 1960’s to what would become “one of Europe’s great jazz festivals.” Reflecting on his early days in Bern, Wynton Marsalis recalls, “This festival stood out as one of the few that embraced the integrity of Jazz when many others proudly and successfully expanded their festival audience by selling a watered-down roster of non-jazz.” By 1976, Mr. Zurbrügg would be the founder and producer of the Bern Festival, and creating a line-up year after year that would include the seminal names in jazz on stage including Oscar Peterson, The Modern Quartet, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan, Art Blakey, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, Benny Carter, and Gerry Mulligan. This is just a taste of the full line-up of filmed recordings in this collection of stellar musicians at the height of their creative abilities – caught live for all future listeners and historians to enjoy and to serve as an educational history for this unique genre of music.

Legendary Jazz – Saxaphonist – Composer – Arranger – Jimmy Heath attending the NYC Premiere

Photo Credit Hank O’Neal

As any jazz archivist can attest, filming records in the smoky nightclubs with dimly lit stages, where many jazz & blues musicians performed, were sometimes all that history had as a record. Mr. Zurbrügg took this to heart and pursued an agreement with Swiss Television to record every performance at his festival. But most importantly, Mr. Zurbrügg ensured a standard excellence and caliber of recording, “It was determined that the concerts would be filmed with full production values, with the highest quality technological standards of the era.” As many of these legendary musicians have not only long since left the stage, but also have passed into history, “The Jazz & Blues Art Box” now remains a very critical record of performance and also interview.

At the World Premiere of “The Jazz & Blues Box”, (NYC, June 8, 2017), in just one example, in interview, I listened to Art Blakey (of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers) tell his story about his beginnings, moving from the piano to the drums in a Chicago club, operated (by his own admission) by the “mob”, and how he was un-ceremoniously told to vacate the piano seat and accept his next job as drummer. This, again, is an interview moment that would be lost without this vital collection. Blakey, of course, would go on to be an extraordinary performer and contributor as bandleader and mentor for many upcoming jazz leaders like Wynton Marsalis. It is this type of storytelling that brings alive the behind the scenes aspects of jazz history. In fact there are 96 individual un-released interviews in this collection, as stated by Wynton Marsalis, “Hans Zurbrügg went a step further and convinced Swiss television to record and broadcast interviews…the most important jazz legends provide an in-depth insight into the life and musical heritage of Jazz & Blues culture.”

The Jazz & Blues ART Box on display at the NYC Premiere

Housed in a modular cabinet, with three drawers, on caster wheels, designed exclusively by Swiss manufacturer, USM, are 400 hours of music, 96 exclusive interviews and 20 yearbooks (and one large format book). Touches of modern art affects are finished-off by legendary graphic artist Roger Pfund. This small footprint reveals a treasure of recordings, which Hans Zurbrügg refers to as a “collection of historical value.” At the World Premiere in New York (June 8, 2017), all attendees were given a numbered ticket that coincided with one of the DVD’s in the “The Jazz & Blues Box”. As I approached to receive mine, I felt, as certainly everyone else did in the audience that night, that this was a “lottery” ticket where every selection was a winner.

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The best part of what we do is meeting inspiring people like writer Doug Hall. His contributions are a blessing and bright light to Fresh Independence.
Meet Doug…
My lifelong passion for writing and literature (which are wed to each other) continues to stay active, with art and cultural freelance writing assignments for on-line entertainment web sites. Home has been New England, Rocky Mountains, and London and lots of places travelled through books and points of view. (publishing in lazysundaymag.com and bubbobar.com )
“Creativity is a continual surprise.” 
― Ray Bradbury

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Lawrence Grey – The Joker

Photo credit: Felix Groteloh

Born and raised a classical pianist Lawrence Grey is finding his niche amongst our finest crooners with his debut offering. A multi talented musician who’s unbridled enthusiasm for life is written all over everything he touches. His handsome looks and debonair style will have him collecting hearts one beat at a time with his new EP – The Joker.

It has been an amazing collaboration with British lyricist Mick Evans and together they are only getting started.

“With my first language being German, I needed someone to help me better express lyrics in english. I’ve practiced for a long time but it is still hard for me to write songs in english. On ‘The Joker’ I colour Mick’s words with music. It’s all I need to do.”

LAWRENCE GREY

“I had coached Mick Evans, a very talented UK based lyricist for a couple of years and had always been looking to connect him to a kindred spirit. When I first heard what Lawrence was writing I had a feeling it could be one of those amazing partnerships – sort of as if Bernie Taupin had met Chet Baker. And here it is, one unique mix of what they both do best.”  Mark Cawley Nashville Tennessee

 

 

 

GET YOUR COPY OF THE JOKER HERE

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Eva Cassidy – Up Above

If you are one to believe that gifts come from above then you might think of the late Eva Cassidy. Whenever I hear her, she makes my heart stop in reflection of all that is meant to be.
She was painfully shy, not at all glamorous and much to the frustration of record company executives, impossible to pigeon hole. Pop tunes, blues, jazz, gospel – she sang whatever moved her. In an era of brightly packaged stars, think Britney Spears – Eva Cassidy was the polar opposite. Indeed she never knew fame, that is coming only now years after she died in the prime of her life, and her version of ‘Over the Rainbow’ see if it doesn’t give you goose bumps.
Nightline corespondent and jazz and blues enthusiast Dave Marash said that putting together the Eva Cassidy story was definitely a ‘labour of love.’

A beautiful story.

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Nicholas & The Pessimistics – Cincinnati, OH

It’s a beautiful thing when new music finds you. Believing that all things come together as they are intended to be, this runs true for these good ole’ boys from Cincinnati. Take away the quest for simply being cool and just cut to the good stuff – and there you will find ‘Nicholas & the Pessimistics calling you too. Frontman Nicholas Baker has a voice that will imprint on your heart and keep you coming back for more. Their self titled debut album is available now.

NICHOLAS & THE PESSIMISTICS

Name: Nicholas Baker
Age: 33
Where you are writing this: Standing in front of the computer at the Flower shop my wife and I own.

Home is where your story begins, please tell us a little about yours…

I grew up in a 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch house in a small historic town in Southwestern Ohio. I have a brother who’s 8 years my elder and two parents that shouldn’t have been together but still managed to keep it together for about 20 years. Dad played in bar bands and mom sang in the choir at the local non-denominational church. I like to say that I figuratively grew up somewhere between George Jones and Jesus. Learned a lot about what music is for people during that time. Especially the healing aspects.

NIck2

Introduce your band mates…

Shawn Steele (lead guitar) is a true student of his instrument . He takes pride in his job and is very careful to add to the song without trying to be too flashy or over the top even though he’s more than capable of being both.
Alex Fraser (Bass) has a knack for streamlining songs and an excellent ear for audio. With a dense engineering background he brings so much to the table both in the studio and during writing sessions.
BJ Schweinlin (drums) is a true optimist and has enough motivation too for all of us. To say he’s an asset is an understatement.

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