The opening act of “Jazzy Jazz” at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College begins this Friday, July 7.
The opening performance features Bashiri Johnson & Frances Elizee; Jazzmeia Horn; Alex Blake & Collective and others, according to organizers of the Dr. Mary Umolu Jazzy Jazz Festival.
The festival will be held on nine Friday evenings, from July 7 to Sept. 1, and will this year pay tribute to the legendary Lena Horne.
Summer 2017 Jazzy Jazz Festival takes place in front of the College’s Academic Complex Building at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Crown Street, in Brooklyn.
The program is from 7 pm to 10 pm. Seating is on a first-come basis. This event is free to the public, organizers say.
This year’s lineup includes: Eric Wyatt Quartet, Steven Kroon & Sextet; MEC Jazz Ensemble, Hillard Greene and The Jazz Expressions; Melba Joyce and Friends, Ngoma’s “Not Your Average String Thing”; Rhythm Healing featuring Bashiri Johnson & Frances Elizee; Jazzmeia Horn; and Alex Blake & Collective.
“Bring your lawn chairs, the street is blocked off every Friday,” said Dr. Clinton Crawford, the Guyanese-born chair of Evers College’s Department of Mass Communications, Creative and Performing Arts and Speech, which sponsors the event.
Horne was born in Brooklyn, June 20, 1917 – 100 years ago. Hence this year is her centennial year.
The department said Medgar Evers College, of the City University of New York, is “proud to celebrate the unmatchable contributions of this talented actress, singer, dancer and civil rights activist, with nine outdoor Jazz concerts every Friday from July 7 to September 1, 2017.
“This Brooklynite who shared the company of Max Roach and Randy Weston, among others, lived in BedStuy and began performing in Clubs in Harlem at an early age of 16,” the department said. “Her illustrious career spanned almost eight decades as a performer and actress in Hollywood, not without controversy.”
The college said Horne’s association with Paul Robeson, who was blacklisted as a communist during McCarthyism, slightly damped her stint in Hollywood, but she continued to perform in elegant clubs in the US and Europe.
“Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather” are the signature pieces for which Horne was best known.
“Horne’s repertoire of musical performances bequeath to us is a treasure strove,” Medgar Evers College said. “Like all great African descendant artists in these United States of America, Lena never failed to lift her voice against the rampant discrimination against ‘Colored folk’ of that era.
“Her comradery with the likes of Medgar Evers, Harry Belafonte and Paul Robeson cannot be understated in her courage to stand up and speak for suffrage of African Americans,” the college added.
Founded in 1996 by the late Dr. Mary Umolu, the Medgar Evers College Jazzy Jazz Festival is celebrating its 20th year of free concerts to the Crown Heights and surrounding communities.
“Every year, members of the community have made this festival a Brooklyn summer tradition,” Medgar Evers College said. “The festival has become the stage for a series of exceptional musicians who engage and share their talents with local residents.”
Originally created as the Jazzy Jazz Festival, the festival was renamed the Dr. Mary Umolu Jazzy Jazz Festival in honor of Umolu, a late professor and chair of the department of Mass Communication, Creative and Performing Arts and Speech at Medgar Evers College.
The college said Dr. Umolu was committed to educating a new generation about the history of the only uniquely American art form created in the 20th century—Jazz—thus ensuring that the entire community heard the music.
“The department is carrying forth the legacy and goal of this extraordinary educational and cultural program,” Dr. Crawford said. “Attendees can relax in style to the rhythms of Jazz in the cool and friendly outdoors.
“We do not envision Jazzy Jazz as simply a summer concert event,” he added. “This festival and its performers will become embedded in the educational life of the community.”