By NATALIE SAYEWICH
Friday, April 26, 2013
Hidden within the notes that will echo throughout Greenville this weekend is a history lesson.
Beyond the sheer entertainment value provided by the Billy Taylor Jazz Festival, which reaches an acme today and Saturday, the event provides a learning opportunity about the roots of a key part of American culture.
This year’s event — the 10th annual under the Billy Taylor name, but which has been in existence for more than 20 years — will feature guest artists Kenny Garrett, a Grammy-award winning saxophonist and flutist and Arthur Dawkins, former director of jazz studies at Howard University. Both have played key roles in furthering the genre while keeping its history alive.
In addition to his work helping to build the program at Howard, Dawkins was one of the first African-American musical contractors in the Washington D.C.-metropolitan area, working in that position for one of the region’s premier theater’s, the Arena Stage, for more than 25 years.
Garrett’s history includes work as a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and five years in Miles Davis’ band. He won a Grammy with the Five Peace Band for its self-titled live CD. He received two Grammy nominations this year for his album “Seeds From the Underground” and performed at this year’s awards show. Though he has worked to create his own memorable sound, that has not entailed separating himself from his past.
“In most conversations, Miles Davis’ name is going to come up,” Garrett said. “I think for me, I’ve been plugging away, creating my own music and I think people, even though they associate me with Miles, they can see that I have a large body of work. It’s always good to kind of go back and reflect on Miles and the lessons he taught us, to be your own person. So I’m just trying to create my own body of music.
“I’ll always be associated with Miles. I’m not trying to distance myself from that, it’s part of my history.”
Garrett will give a clinic to ECU students tonight, giving him a chance to impart some of the wisdom that has been passed down to him. Dawkins will do the same at 11 this morning.
“They get to exchange musical ideas with working world-class musicians,” said Carroll Dashiell, the director of the festival and professor of bass at ECU. “From a historical perspective, it’s really a lineage and the only way the lineage is passed on is if we actually have that one-to-one transfer. This gives the students an opportunity to reach out and touch and talk to these artists that they see performing on MTV, BET and all of that. Kenny Garrett is a multi-award winner. Just the historical perspective of being able to pass that lineage on, saying ‘this is what Miles Davis did when we played in Italy,’ ‘this is what Miles Davis did on his last recording’ that’s great.”
Garrett has worked with students in the past and is eager to do the same at ECU.
“It’s always interesting to see what level they are and see if I can impart some information to them,” he said. “I’m always open to that. Sometimes you find some good students and you give them information and it kind of opens them up.”
After working with the students, Dawkins will play saxophone with ECU’s Jazz Ensemble A and Vocal Ensemble tonight. Garrett will perform with the Kenny Garrett Quintet on Saturday as the Billy Taylor Jazz Fest finale.
“That’s how we really have to keep what I call ‘America’s classical music’ — one of America’s only true original art forms: Jazz — here in the United States,” Dashiell said of the performances. “It’s one of the best ways to keep that tradition going.
“So many of our European friends and our brothers and sisters around the world know more about our American jazz than we do. This is a great way to make it an educational thing, but also an entertaining experience too. “
Contact Natalie Sayewich at email@example.com or 252-329-9596.
via The Daily Reflector.