It was announced on Tuesday night that the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Foundation in association with presenting sponsor Kia Motors would present an expanded second season of JAZZ ROOTS: A Larry Rosen Jazz Series, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Georgia.
This announcement follows the phenomenal success of the first offering of concerts and educational events in 2012. This innovative concert series not only provides great entertainment for its audiences, it also provides an unparalleled opportunity for high school students interested in jazz music to get exposure to, and learn from, some of the best jazz musicians performing today.
Quincy Jones has said, “Larry Rosen’s Jazz Roots is the most important new concert and educational jazz series in America,” adding “It’s so important that Americans and particularly our children learn about their culture. This series is simply imperative. You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve come from.”
For the five concerts of the 2013-2014 series some of jazz music’s greatest artists will come to the Cobb Centre for a concert that pays homage to either great jazz musicians or a particular regional jazz style.
However they will also provide aspiring jazz musicians from local high schools the opportunity to participate in pre-concert Q&A sessions and sound-checks; up close access some of the greatest musicians of the genre!
This dual emphasis is part of the appeal of the series and a major reason behind its success.
I had the opportunity to speak with Larry Rosen who is the driving force behind JAZZ ROOTS. Larry is a giant in the jazz music industry having created the renowned jazz record label, GRP Records. He has produced more than 350 jazz albums winning 33 Grammys. The Jazz Series is Larry’s baby and, as you might expect, he is passionate about his child.
“We are thrilled to bring our JAZZ ROOTS series to Cobb Energy Centre for its second season and the music fans of the Atlanta region. Our concerts and accompanying education and outreach program reach out into the community and bring folks together as we celebrate the great artists and the legacy of America’s music.”
Rosen started playing drums in a jazz band at the same age as many of the high school students who attend the educational sessions but wasn’t as lucky, there was no such formal environment to nurture his passion of jazz music. But now, at least in six cities around the US there is the Jazz Roots series.
JAZZ ROOTS started in Miami when Rosen embraced the new Performing Arts Center with his fledgling concept. Rosen felt that, to distinguish itself from other shows, they would need to create a “brand” that encompassed the birth of American jazz music and placed the concerts in that context.
Miami was also the birthplace of the community outreach program which served as the template for the programs that have been adopted in the other JAZZ ROOTS cities.
While the series now plays in Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas, Indianapolis and New Jersey, Rosen believes that Atlanta is extremely important to the continued growth of the JAZZ ROOTS concept because it has an audience that is pre-disposed to jazz music; it has a great venue with a dedicated staff at the Cobb; and it has WCLK Atlanta’s local jazz radio station, a media outlet that provides great exposure for the product to its audience that it has been cultivating for more than 40 years. This assemblage of critical factors creates the perfect storm for continued development of the program in the city.
Rosen does not see the live performing concept expanding much beyond the six markets in which it is already playing. “It’s not a scalable product as it’s so customized. If I wanted to expand into other markets I’d have to change how the shows are produced and my involvement with them.”
That isn’t likely to happen as Rosen loves to be involved with every facet of he show. Furthermore many of the artists who play, do so because of his personal relationship with them. That would have to change if he expanded.
He continued, “Rather than expand the product into thirty different performing arts centers I’d rather keep the highest quality and document these things in a way that allows people around the world to enjoy them.”
So beyond growing the shows in the six markets where the JAZZ ROOTS series is already playing, Rosen sees his next challenge as creating recordings of these live evenings so a broader worldwide audience can see them. The concerts are so good they deserve to be seen for more than just the one night they are performed.
When I asked Larry which of the upcoming shows he was most anticipating he didn’t hesitate in his response. “The tribute to Ray Charles show came about because the Cobb Centre asked for a show with a local flavor, that connects to Georgia; and in Ray Charles you have one of the greatest artists in the history of the world and on the other hand there was a time when he banned from performing there.’
‘It’s a great human interest story and the music is so iconic, everybody knows every one of the songs so from the perspective of shooting and recording something that can live on this one would have the best opportunity.”
The series kicks off in September with an evening of tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams and Count Basie Orchestra. Rosen has a particular affinity for this show because he loves everything about the music and the history surrounding those artists. But he also added that each of the shows will provide great entertainment and a better understanding of America’s musical heritage.
The 2013-14 JAZZ ROOTS series consists of five concerts and includes :
A Tribute to Ella, Joe and Basie honoring Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams with Janis Siegel, Kevin Mahogany, and the Count Basie Orchestra.
A Night in Rio celebrating Bossa Nova music styles and presented by Sergio Mendes and Eliane Elias.
Saxophonist Dave Koz returns to the Cobb with Oleta Adams and other friends to celebrate the holiday season.
New Orleans! brings Aaron Neville and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band playing the sounds of New Orleans in January.
The 2013-2014 season ends by coming home to the peach state with “Georgia On My Mind: Celebrating Ray Charles.” Take 6, Nnenna Freelon, Kirk Whalum, Shelly Berg, and the Clark Atlanta University Band and Singers will provide the audience with some wonderful interpretations of Ray Charles’ music.
Each of the evenings will provide some great music but just as important each will provide Georgia high school students with some practical advice and some indelible memories.
If you can’t wait for the start of the 2013-2014 season you could always catch the end of the 2012-13 season which ends next week with a night of Satin and Soul featuring David Sanborn and Jonathan Butler.