Seed Artists has brought together an unprecedented gathering of artists to celebrate Dolphy and raise funds for the Jazz Foundation of America. From leaders of the Sixties avant garde, such as Gunther Schuller and Richard Davis, to today’s young innovators, this promises to be an event of great cultural significance. Here are some of the highlights that the audience can expect through eight hours of performance over two days. We will post new additions as they occur:
- The Coup: Dolphy Reborn
- The Music
- The Symposium
- The Dolphy Story
- The Graphic
- The Graphic Novel
- Food and Wine
- Student Seating
- Bonus Bits
The Coup: Dolphy RebornIn a truly historic world premiere, a top-flight ensemble will perform newly discovered Eric Dolphy compositions that he did not live to record or to perform in public. They have never been performed by anyone, and it is unclear if even Dolphy ever heard them played in full form. This is Holy Grail territory, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness history in the making.
The scores are part of a much larger archive of Dolphy’s personal documents that reveal a theoretical and conceptual sophistication that no one previously imagined. In the estimation of the esteemed source who has long possessed these papers, this will substantially elevate Dolphy’s status as an important musical thinker. These discoveries will figure prominently in the symposium.
The MusicThe world premiere of newly discovered Dolphy compositions that he did not live to record or to perform (see “The Coup”) on its own makes this a must-see event. So does the music slate. Please do check out the detailed roster of Scheduled Performers. From Dolphy contemporaries to his innovating heirs, this is one for the books.
Musically, the celebration will feature both interpretations of Dolphy’s work and compositions inspired by him, played by more than 30 world-class musicians. Among the many highlights:
NEA Jazz Master and Out to Lunch! bassist Richard Davis will play both nights, in settings of his choosing.
Avant-garde legends Grachan Moncur III and Andrew Cyrille will perform in varied settings.
Henry Threadgill, playing with the brilliant pianist David Virelles, will premiere a new composition.
A quartet of bass-clarinet virtuosos Don Byron, Marty Ehrlich, Howard Johnson and Oscar Noriega will perform a tribute on the instrument that Dolphy revolutionized.
The leading Dolphy repertory group Russ Johnson’s Still Out to Lunch—Johnson, Orrin Evans, Roy Nathanson, Brad Jones and George Schuller—will perform interpretations of Dolphy tunes, including a composition that he did not live to perform or record.
Oliver Lake, the leading interpreter of Dolphy’s music, will perform with the brilliant trio Tar Baby.
The Diane Moser Quintet featuring Howard Johnson will perform a Dolphy-inspired birdsong suite that she composed for this event.
Vocalist Veronica Nunn will perform Dolphy songs to which she has written lyrics.
Cellist Tomeka Reid will perform a solo version of Dolphy’s famous bass-clarinet take on God Bless the Child, accompanied by solo dancer Beatrice Capote.
The SymposiumJames Newton will lead a roundtable discussion on Dolphy’s life, work and legacy. Participants include NEA Jazz Masters and close Dolphy friends Gunther Schuller and Richard Davis; John Szwed, PhD, Acting Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University; and Michael E. Veal, PhD, Professor of Ethnomusicology, American Studies and African-American Studies at Yale.
PoetryNational Book Award-nominated poet Michel S. Harper, who has deeply explored jazz in his work, will read original poems, including some written expressly for the festival.
Beatrice Capote, an Alvin Ailey and Montclair State University instructor, will perform a piece that she has choreographed for Tomeka Reid’s cello version of God Bless the Child, as well as an improvised piece for improvised music.
Kunle Mwanga, a longtime producer, concert organizer and musicians on the avant-garde jazz scene, will display photographs of Dolphy given to him by the famed photographers who took them—Raymond Ross, Chuck Stewart and Val Wilmer—and by Dolphy’s parents. Mr. Mwanga will be present to discuss the photos, which hung in his West Village shop Liberty House during 1970-71.
A second photo display will feature images from the personal collection of Joyce Mordecai, Dolphy’s fiancee at the time of his death. Most of these images have never been published. Her family has generously lent them for this celebration.
Video screens in the theater lobby will continuously run concert footage of Dolphy, with his own groups and with Mingus and Coltrane.
The Dolphy Story
Every Freedom of Sound event will be both a celebration of the honoree’s art and a deeper educational experience. In addition to the symposium, we will post placards throughout the theater lobby that educate the audience on the artist’s life and work.
Artist, musician and educator Peter Bodge, whose jazz portraits are in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection, has created the central graphic image for the celebration, a linoleum print based on Chuck Stewart’s famed profile of Dolphy. Part of the proceeds from t-shirts and posters will go to the Jazz Foundation of America.
The Graphic Novel
Graphic artist Keith H. Brown, who has produced a graphic novel on Dolphy, will be available to discuss the work and will sell it in the theater lobby. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Jazz Foundation of America.
Food and Wine
A local restaurant will serve hot, delicious food outside of the theater before and during the event–we will soon announce who it is–and we will serve wine in the lobby. Proceeds from wine sales will benefit the Jazz Foundation.
This is potentially one of the most intriguing aspects of the celebration, one that would make it an enduring part of jazz history and an important educational tool. Given funding, we will professionally audio-record and film the entire two-day event and interview performers, noted guests and other audience members about Dolphy’s life, music and legacy. With the addition of outside interviews of Dolphy’s family and friends, the resulting full-length documentary would be not only a fitting tribute to him but also a resource for jazz-education programs and young musicians.
The purchase of ticket blocks by private donors will facilitate the attendance of college and high-school music students who otherwise would not be able to attend. By doing so, we hope to help inspire the next generation of musicians and advance the spread of Dolphy’s music and the form in general.
A Youtube page for the event will feature not only Dolphy videos but also cellphone-video testimonials on Dolphy’s life and music from performers and fans alike. It will link to the website and serve as a permanent homage to Dolphy. Instructions for posting videos will be posted on the Seed Artists website.
The Seed Artists website will serve as a repository for Dolphy information suited to both the novice and the devotee. It will feature regular posts on Dolphy, photos, the cellphone videos, and links to Dolphy websites, blogs and articles.