Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good business to take care of

(see contact update at the bottom)
The jazz community has learned how to take care of its makers - past, present - and way in the past. The greatest examples come out of the the Jazz Foundation of America’s Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund, which is run out of New York by a jazz angel named Wendy Oxenhorn. She and the JMEF step in when they hear about a musician, or retired musician who can’t make a rent or mortgage payment, is threatened with eviction, needs medical help or had an instrument stolen - his or her livelihood - and no funds to replace it. The work they do is nothing short of amazing.

Two events are coming up in early October that will either help JMEF continue its critical business or fulfill an unaffiliated, long-overdue need that has the very same spirit.

On Tuesday evening, October 6, Joe Lovano and John Scofield will host and lead an all-star jazz benefit (two sets) at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, which is located at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The program will remember late colleague Dennis Irwin, a bassist who died of cancer last year. The event will also raise money for Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund. Lovano and Scofield’s “Playing Our Parts” concert also will include players Joey DeFrancesco, Jim Hall, Bobby Hutcherson, Lee Konitz, Matt Penman, Cedar Walton and Matt Wilson.

Two days earlier - Sunday, October 4, Small Jazz Club will host a symposium and series of solo piano tributes to James P. Johnson, the father of Stride piano, who died in November 1955. If nothing else, you likely know him for composing “Carolina Shout.” It’s being billed as “James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party” - referring to a rather prevalent tradition many decades ago in which musicians held jam session-style apartment concerts - charging admission to literally pay the rent that week. And Johnson no doubt played at many of them.

This event one returns the favor. Johnson is buried in an unmarked grave in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens NY. The all-day rent party is designed to help raise money so the James P. Johnson Foundation can buy a monument that will bring this historic jazz great a bit more posthumous recognition. Pianists scheduled to play at Smalls that afternoon and evening include Ehud Asherie, John Bunch, Aaron Diehl, Conal Fowkes, Dick Hyman, Ethan Iverson, Mike Lipskin, Ted Rosenthal, Terry Waldo, Spike Wilner and others not yet announced.

These are great events. If you can’t get there in person, support them in spirit - or more.

Playing Our Parts: If you are unable to attend the concert but wish to make a tax-deductible contribution, make checks payable to: The Jazz Foundation of America
MAIL TO: The Jazz Foundation of America, 322 West 48th Street, 6th floor New York, NY 10036
ONLINE: Donate online at

James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party: Send a check, payable to The James P. Johnson Foundation, and mail it c/o Smalls, 183 West 10th street, NYC 10014

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