On the Importance of Jazz…
AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 31 YEARS
MESSAGE from DAVID AMRAM on September 12, 2008
Thank you for the fine information you have let me now about. i wish it could be broadcast on network tv and AM radio!!
The music (and your poem about Johnny Griffin and all your writings) are really fine and a breath of fresh air as well as blow for mental health!! I hope to get back to Pittsburgh again and look forward to meeting you (and playing with you) when I do.
I'm back from a week in Denver, hiding out again at the farm working around the clock on my new piano concerto for its upcoming premiere. My series of concerts for the Democratic National Convention took place August 22-28, where I was designated as the composer-in-residence. It was a real honor to have been a small part of the historic week in Denver.
My opening concert at the convention Sunday, August 24th was called....
"Outside of Convention- From Fanny Lou Hamer to Martin Luther King to Barack Obama: How the Civil Rights Movement changed American politics"
This gala event (free to the public in Denver as well as to the delegates and their families) was sponsored by Nation Magazine, the Democratic National Convention, the Denver Public Library and PBS, (both the English and Spanish speaking stations) who taped my opening concert as well as other events, including the August 24th program at Convention Center, which took place at the Convention Center the night before the opening of the convention. Over a thousand people came, and it couldn't have been any better!!
My musical contributions included my Three Songs for America, settings of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy for bass voice and orchestra, written 40 years ago for PBS. The singer, operatic bass Steven Taylor was really exceptional. It was the best performance that the piece has ever received.
For the second piece on the program, I conducted the Colorado Children's Chorale (a killer 100 voice prize winning choir) in three pieces for children's chorus for which I composed both the words and the music, dedicated to three great musicians I have played with over the years. They are Native American master musician and actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman, jazz innovator Thelonious Monk and ambassador of Afro-Cuban music, band leader Machito. I conducted the chorus, accompanied by my Denver-based trio.
We also performed the premiere of a new piece "You Are Somebody Too" for which I composed both the words and music, based on the "I am somebody" statement of Rev. Jesse Jackson in a version which I conducted with the children's choir, based in part on the use of phrases by the people of Denver who were interviewed on the street by sociologist Dr Audrey Sprenger, for a film she created for the convention as well as for the Denver Public Library, documenting their statements ("I am a cabdriver,
I am a student, *I am a Bronco's fan, I am a future doctor, I am a proud father....etc)
All of these statements were sung and chanted, with audience participation, as a call and response, accompanied by my jazz trio, with special guest Jose Madera, leader of the Latin Giants of Jazz.
Congressman John Conyers was honored for his work in civil rights, interviewed in a discussion with John Nichols, editor of Nation Magazine, about the progress over the past sixty years of everyone's civil rights in America. Congressman Conyers is also a lifetime supporter of jazz as a national treasure (as well as his being someone who truly appreciates the symphonic masterpieces of European culture and how they relate to jazz as music which endures)
We ended the evening with my "Theme and Variations on Amazing Grace" which I performed on my Irish double D penny whistle, followed by the grand finale with my trio playing Now's the Time by Charlie Parker, honoring the early civil rights slogan "Our moment is Now," with audience participation.
I performed at a series of concerts for radio station KUVO in Denver with some outstanding musicians which was simultaneously broadcast by WWOZ in New Orleans, and at one of the late night jam sessions afterwards played with Hugh Masekela, whom I hadn't seen in forty years.
I also appeared at Red Rocks (a gorgeous amphitheater which holds 14,000 people). i was a guest artist with the bands of Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Earlier that day I presented a program for teachers and students at the Denver Academy, showing how the principles of musical construction in countries around the world could be used to teach geography, linguistics, social studies, history and developmental skills in all disciplines, and how a no more walls approach towards music (and life) helps us all in adapting to a global culture.
And between all the hectic activities, I worked in my motel room on my piano concerto. Composing into the wee hours every night kept me from getting into trouble!!!
I am now in relative hibernation, except for playing with Willie Nelson and his band for Farm Aid September 20, a few local engagements, and going to Iceland to perform for the world premiere of the film for which I composed and conducted the score "The Frontier Ghandi," created by Teri McCluhan, (Marshall McCluhan's daughter). The film will then be screened at the Lincoln Center in NY.
Other than this, I have a stretch of five weeks to work around the clock on my piano concerto, which will be premiered January of '09 in San Jose California.
I wish you extra energy in all you do, as well as joy and inspiration.
Best cheers always.
THEY CAN'T STOMP US OUT!!! Creative music and those who make it are here to stay!!!
Here is a copy of the opening program for the Democratic National Convention. I wish you could have been there, it was standing room only and a real thrill to do. Eventually it will be on PBS and You Tube
The National Democratic Convention, Nation Magazine, Rocky Mountain PBS and the Denver Public Library present
FROM FANNY LOU HAMER TO BARACK OBAMA
A CELEBRATION IN WORDS AND MUSIC OF CIVIL RIGHTS In AMERICA
Representative John Conyers
Composer/conductor/multi-instrumenallst David Amram
Nation Magazine Editor John Nichols
The Colorado Children's Chorale
l. Three Songs For America for Baritone and Orchestra......................................David Amram
(Composed for National Educational Television 1968)
a. John F. Kennedy
b. Dr. Martin Luther King
c. Robert F. Kennedy
Steven Taylor vocalist
ll. Three songs for Young People. (1996) .........................................David Amram
a. Rabbit Song For Floyd Red Crow Westerman (based on traditional Lakota round dance melody Mastinchila Wachipi Olwan)
b. Summer Song For Thelonious Monk
c. Son Montuno For Machito
The Colorado Children's Chorale, Deborah DeSantis Artistic Director
Conducted by the composer with the Amram jazz trio.
Interview with Representative John Conyers and John Nichols
Music Honoring Jesse Jackson's Legacy
Variations on Amazing Grace- (2002) .................Amram (based on Traditional Spiritual)
David Amram Irish double D whistle
I am Somebody for chorus and jazz ensemble (2008).............Amram
(Based on Jesse Jackson's words and statements recorded by people from Denver. Composed for the Democratic National Convention 2008 )
Now's the Time (1945)---------------------Charlie Parker
Honoring the civil rights motto "The time is Now," The music by Parker and his colleagues, who were at the vanguard of the civil rights movement.
The David Amram Trio
Tony Black drums
Artie Moore bass
David Amram piano, French horn, flutes, percussion and scat vocals
Special guest Jose Madera, leader of the Latin Giants of Jazz, congas and Latin percussion
On the Importance of Jazz…
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