Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jazz Class at the White House

Michelle Obama - OK, her East Wing staff with a newbie Chief of Staff, is setting the stage for June 15th concert and class taught by members of premier talent in the Jazz genre, the Marsalis Family. It will be quite the scene at the East Gate tomorrow as students, bringing their instruments, line up to enter the People's House to learn the intricacies of jazz from some of the younger and elder statesman of bebop, horn-blowing, improv and post-humous Pulitzer Prize-winning Artiste, Coltrane. (There is even a church of Coltrane - no joke.) First Lady Michelle Obama will have one part of her heart envying her husband's destination on Monday, but not his activity - he will be in Chicago as she directs traffic in her day dedicated to a White House Jazz University or Lecture Series. President Obama and First lady Michelle Obama already had a successful White House Poetry Jam last month that was taped for HBO.
While the East Room in the building designed by James Hoban is meant for large functions or concerts, it still is not enough room for what the First Lady has in mind. The other end of the elegant Cross Hall on the West Side, the grand State Dining Room, will become a working classroom. In tribute to the body of work that encompassed Ragtime to Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, and a presidential nod to the Newport Jazz Festival, President Jimmy Carter hosted the first significant White House Jazz concert in a major event on the South Lawn on June 18, 1978. That was an Event with Eubie Blank among other jazz royalty.

President Lydon Johnson first featured Jazz vocalist Pearl Bailey and the incomparable Sarah Vaughn. Scat rang out from the First Lady of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, in the jazzy aficionado Ford White House. Dizzie Gillepsie and Chick Corea added to Reagan White house entertainment repertoire. In 2004, a program titled A Salute to the NEA Jazz Masters showcasing the Billy Taylor Trio among others plus six students was held in the East Room courtesy of president and Mrs. Bush. Jackie Kennedy, as first lady, was known for her eclectic mix of guests and the cultural performances first introduced Jazz to the White House at a children's event with the performance by the Paul Winter Jazz sextet. (Photo by Vance Jacobs of President Bush at jazz event in East Room.)

Ellis Marsalis, courtesy Times-Picayune & Wynton Marsalis courtesy LA Times
The White House concert and classroom style instruction headlined by the Marsalis Family of New Orleans is the first leg of a three part series on music in the White house featuring Jazz. Another trumpeter, Sean Jones and saxophonist Todd Williams with vocalist Eli Yamin sport ties to Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center. Professional music educator Stephen Massey will also be on hand as well as Cuban-American clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera. Country and Classical music will also do a star turn, tune and tap later this year to complete the three part series. Father, Ellis Marsalis, will tickle the ivories as his four sons, Jason, Branford, Delfeayo, and Wynton will bring percussion, a saxophone, trombone and trumpet to 150 students in the East Room of the White House.
Lincoln Center Art Director Wynton Marsalis last performed at the White House during a dramatic period in the Clinton presidency in 1998 for a Millenium Lecture as part of a series of concerts. But Monday night will be topped off, not at the White House, but at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with members of the Marsalis Family and Harry Connick, Jr., in full smooth jazzy style. Wonder who get the tickets for the presidential box... (Obamas at Alvin Ailey Dance performance at Kennedy Center in February 2009)

(Maureen heavily contributed to this even while still being on the mend.)
Live from the White House website at 12:30 PM today will be many first rate Jazz artists offering three break out sessions in the State Dining Room with large groups in the East Room.  The White House's timing is excellent as the Jazz Lecture Series comes after President Obama finishes his address to the AMA on healthcare.


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