Partnership’s Opening Number: A Day of Jazz

Originally Published by The New York TimesBy Phillip Lutz

When Jeffrey P. Haydon took over as the chief executive of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah almost three years ago, favorable attendance at its jazz concerts was a hit-or-miss proposition. So he began networking, eventually approaching Jazz at Lincoln Center about forming a programming relationship.

As it happened, he had a leg up: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s managing and artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, had performed at Caramoor with both his quintet in 1987 and his septet in 2008 — and he fancied the experience.

“Some of our best gigs have been at Caramoor,” Mr. Marsalis said recently.

The parties took a year of negotiations to seal a deal. But seal one they did and, on July 18, Caramoor will present a full day of jazz programming — the opening event of a planned three-year collaboration that promises to bear Mr. Marsalis’s imprint.

“I’m personally involved,” he said, “and the institution is behind it.”

The collaboration, he said, “gives us a chance to concentrate all the things we’re doing” in a single location. And, he added, it allows Jazz at Lincoln Center to “get the music into the community” outside New York City, a possible step in pairing with other institutions around the metropolitan region and beyond.

Cécile McLorin Salvant performs in the Venetian Theater at Caramoor in Katonah New York on July 18, 2015.  (photo by Gabe Palacio)

For Caramoor, the collaboration is intended to increase attendance by drawing on both Mr. Marsalis’s star power and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s reputation for curating shows with wide appeal.

“This needs to be jazz for everybody,” Mr. Haydon said. “We want to make sure this will be a place where not only people who know jazz well will come, but people who want to explore the world of jazz can come and be inspired.”

This summer’s program will have a distinctly youthful hue. While Mr. Marsalis will lead the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, a big band known for codifying the jazz canon, his co-headliner will be a 25-year-old singing phenomenon, Cécile McLorin Salvant, who has been lauded for her interpretations of the canon.

Ms. Salvant, who like most of the performers on the bill has a strong relationship with Jazz at Lincoln Center, actually made her Caramoor debut last year. Tickets at the 470-seat Spanish Courtyard sold out quickly, and this time she will move to the main stage, the 1,508-seat Venetian Theater, where she will also perform with her own group.

Preceding her on that stage will be an 11-year-old Indonesian pianist, Joey Alexander, who will perform with both his trio and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra, which is made up of high school students from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

At Friends Field, a lawn near the food concession, groups led by musicians in their 20s — the Bryan Carter Quintet and Sammy Miller and the Congregation, a sextet — will hold forth. And in the 220-seat Rosen House music room, the sole indoor venue on the 90-acre grounds, the guitaristJake Hertzog, 29, will take a solo turn.

The Amigos Band perform in the Garden Courtyard at Caramoor in Katonah New York on July 18, 2015.  (photo by Gabe Palacio)

Despite all the millennial talent on tap, the program is shaping up as one reflecting the cynicism-free ethos of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Mr. Alexander said he would show “respect for the song,” while putting his own stamp on the material. Mr. Miller, asserting that “there’s enough irony in the world as it is,” said his group, including a sousaphone player, will try to uplift the audience with music by American composers. And Mr. Carter, putting together a Ray Charles tribute, said that even on tunes he reworks — “Bye Bye Love” will be transformed from a swinging big-band-and-choir number to a “boogaloo rumba” — he intends to retain the integrity of Charles’s music.

Mr. Hertzog, in introducing what he termed “chaos and dissonance” into an electronic soundscape inspired by photos from the Hadron particle accelerator, seems poised to offer one of the more adventurous presentations. It will also be among the loosest in logistical terms; he will be free to roam in and around the Rosen House, Mr. Haydon said.

A certain looseness will be woven into the overall event. Musicians from Mr. Miller’s sextet may split into duos or trios and stroll the Sunken Garden, a meditative spot. And the student musicians will be able to hobnob with Mr. Marsalis’s band during that band’s sound check, enhancing their educational experience.

Adding to that experience will be Jazz for Young People: “Let Freedom Swing,” with the Jerome Jennings Sextet, part of a curriculum illuminating the links between jazz and democracy, on Friends Field. A separate, more general Q. and A. session, in the Rosen House, will employ material recorded by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra while the orchestra is conducting its sound check on the main stage.

Ce?cile McLorin Salvant performs in the Venetian Theater at Caramoor in Katonah New York on July 18, 2015.  (photo by Gabe Palacio)

If there is a programming wild card, it might be Orrin Evans, a pianist, and his quartet, on Friends Field. Mr. Evans, known for throwing musical curveballs, said he would not decide on a set list until the time of performance. But even his treatments of standards — “Autumn Leaves” and “All the Things You Are” are two he has favored of late — tend to feature radical reharmonizing and restructuring.

Absent from the program will be exponents of the avant-garde. Such musicians have rarely been booked at Caramoor and, given the limited time available onstage and the sensibilities of a broad swath of its audience, Mr. Marsalis said he did not have “the luxury” of scheduling them for this summer.

But, as the collaboration unfolds over the next few years, Mr. Marsalis is not ruling out any artist. While the only event scheduled beyond summer is a Nov. 7 appearance in the music room by Cyrus Chestnut — a stalwart of urbane pianism not likely to ruffle feathers — many possibilities are being considered.

“We definitely plan to experiment,” Mr. Marsalis said.


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