The Jazz Age

Classic Arts Features   The Jazz Age
Jazz at Lincoln Center prepares a grand opening for Frederick P. Rose Hall.

The jazz world is about to grow in leaps and bounds as Jazz at Lincoln Center prepares to unveil a true masterpiece of modern music: its new home, Frederick P. Rose Hall.

Located smack dab in the middle of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, overlooking beautiful Central Park, Jazz at Lincoln Center is at a crossroads in its history. The 100,000-square-foot performance, education, and broadcast facility is the first-ever home for the arts specifically designed for the acoustics of jazz. The October 18, 2004, grand opening of this brand-new facility will be broadcast on PBS on Live From Lincoln Center.

Promoting the arts is important work, says Derek E. Gordon, Jazz at Lincoln Center's newly appointed Executive Director. "Culture is what makes us human. It's an essential part of who we are. I think that it's the one thing that lasts. The music that we make, the art that we create, these are the things over the centuries that we will be remembered for and we will be judged by. So I think that working in the performing arts, as well as the visual arts, represents the most important work that can be done for society."

JALC's Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis puts it this way: "The realization of this facility signifies that our culture has matured to the point of accepting jazz as an art form deserving of an international home. The creation of Frederick P. Rose Hall continues the long line of innovation that is the hallmark of jazz."

Marsalis continues, "This performing arts facility affords us new opportunities to further our mission of collaboration and integration with all the arts through the spirit of jazz. The breadth of the programming reflects tradition and innovation and celebrates the complete integration of ideas, generations, and feelings."

The new JALC facility is made up of three venues: the Irene Diamond Education Center, including the Armstrong Classroom; the Edward John Noble Foundation Studio; and the Education, Rehearsal, and Recording Studio. In addition, an incredible resource for the music lies in the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. Rose Theater has the largest capacity and seats a little over 1,200. The Allen Room accommodates anywhere from 300 to 550 people with a 50 x 90 foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall for viewing the Manhattan skyline and Central Park. Across the Jazz Atrium from The Allen Room is Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, a 140-seat intimate jazz club that boasts top jazz ensembles as well as a tasty menu that is a collaboration between Great Performances and Spoonbread, Inc.

The Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame offers a colorful history of jazz in an interactive experience at the new facility. Films and facts about jazz heavyweights bring history to life.

Education always takes a front-seat at JALC as the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and festival celebrates a decade of youthful inspiration. Then there's the WeBop classes for two- to five-year-olds and much, much more, including music publishing, teacher training, and a Jazz For Young People curriculum.

JALC's Vice President of Education, Laura Johnson, is proud to be part of the expansion. "The opening of FPRH and the Irene Diamond Education Center is a milestone for us," she says. "We will be able to expand our educational programming significantly over the next few years to serve students, teachers, and general audiences in ways we've only dreamed of. Particularly exciting is our ability to provide on-site training for teachers, expansion of our Jazz 101 adult class series, and the launching of WeBop classes for pre-schoolers."

The Grand Opening Festival runs from October 21 to November 5 and includes a little something for everybody‹from Bill Cosby's comedy to Savion Glover's fancy footwork. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performs music by Duke Ellington and Count Basie, as well as the sensational Let Freedom Swing: A Celebration of Human Rights & Social Justice. For a complete schedule, log onto (The schedule is subject to change.)

The celebration continues throughout the 2004-05 season, which features an abundance of artists: Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Freddy Cole, Gil Scott-Heron, Brad Mehldau, John Scofield, Kurt Elling, Marcus Roberts, Taj Mahal, and even Ricky Skaggs. Of course, expect to also hear the seasoned sounds of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Marsalis and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with Arturo O'Farrill.

What better way to celebrate the opening of New York City's hottest new nightclub‹Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola‹than the three-week-long Dizzy Gillespie Festival? Beginning on Gillespie's birthday, October 21, the festival presents music written or made famous by John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. Settle in for a cool cocktail and hot jazz with a view of the city that'll blow your mind.

The Jack Johnson Festival comes to Rose Theater, November 13, celebrating the life of Jack Johnson, the first African American to claim the boxing heavyweight crown. His triumphs and travels are chronicled in Ken Burns's documentary, Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. Marsalis joins Burns for a rousing discussion on the controversial boxer's life. The Wynton Marsalis Septet performs music that Marsalis wrote for the film's sound track to round out a knockout evening.

"When you travel the world, as we do with this organization, you discover that New York is truly the most integrated city in the world," says JALC's CEO Hughlyn F. Fierce. "Despite all the tensions, this city has the most amazing mix of people to be found anywhere. That's why Frederick P. Rose Hall represents a great hope for our new century‹because this place is dedicated to the integration of the arts, of cultures, and of people."

As the torch is passed to Gordon as JALC's incoming Executive Director, the invitation remains open. "There's no other place in the world like Jazz at Lincoln Center," he says. "And with our new home, that's even more true. We invite everybody to come and enjoy and to celebrate with us. We want to make sure that they know how welcome they are and how glad we will be to see them when they come through our doors. The doors open October 18 and we'll be open every night from that point on."

Scott H. Thompson is Assistant Director-Public Relations for Jazz at Lincoln Center

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