The Jazz Foundation of America Loft Party

The Gods have finally spoken! As if coming down from their perch, they came in limos, they came in Rolls, some had a cane, and others even rolled up in a wheelchair – but they ALL rolled up at Hudson Studios for the 23rd Annual Jazz Loft Party held by the Jazz Foundation of America (JFA). The Foundation rolled back the tables and chairs indeed; this was one party, on one stellar night that, yes – did bring the house down!

The JFA’s “Cirque Du Jazz ,“ sponsored by Parmigiani in partnership with the Montreux Jazz Festival, hosted a fundraiser event that represented this art form on the last Saturday of April. What many of our iconic jazz figures today have come to call home, The Jazz Foundation is noted for being the only national organization dedicated to saving the homes and lives of the elders in the jazz community and jazz & blues musicians in crisis.

Performing feats no less than walking on water, Executive Director & CEO Wendy Oxenhorn safeguards and helps preserve this community; creating work for 100s of musicians in need, while bringing jazz & blues to thousands of people across the country. Wendy and her team outline brilliant ways to provide structures for their sponsors to donate funds at different levels of sponsorship. One level, a corporate donor for instance would sponsor to help make emergency rent payments for musicians – keeping them safe from eviction and homelessness if they’re too ill to work.

The evening began with a presentation of the Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, given to recording giant Bruce Lundvall. The legendary record label titan is noted as having helped launched the lustrous careers of Dianne Reeves, Willie Nelson, Anita Baker, Paquito Rivera, and Norah Jones to name a few. Most would agree that music touches something deep inside (which some refer to as soul). It’s one of the oldest carriers of culture and an integral part of our socialization. Whatever the case may be, it is quite evident that Jazz (a music that encompasses Gospel, Blues, Rock, R&B and of course Classical genres) transcends language barriers and serves as an intangible bridge that celebrates and embraces all of life and the living. “….And celebrate we did,” said the Chairman of Jazz Foundation, Dick Parsons. “Dianne Reeves sang, she knocked it out!” Mr. Parsons said.

Bruce Lundvall and Dianne Reeves
Bruce Lundvall and Dianne Reeves

The clearly larger than life, almost outer-worldly thunderous sounds of Dianne Reeves rang throughout the studios, as if she were descending upon her audience from Angels on high. The utterly organic, sweet sultry tunes of one Norah Jones slid ever so softly over the crowd; intoxicating us under her soulful powers. In fact, the Jazz Master himself, Wynton Marsalis gave us a kiss to build a dream on as he played a tribute to “The Dr.” Bruce during the awards presentation. When the sun comes out everyone can feel its rays. Such is the case when great music pulsates throughout your surroundings, as does the creative genius of internationally acclaimed Marsalis.

The evening’sother highlights included: performances by the very young and amazing pianist Matthew Whitaker, innovator and visionary Randy Weston (who played with the fervor and agility of a man half his 80 years). Mr. Weston was accompanied by the highly spirited saxophonist Billy Harper. The Heath Brothers, Hamiet Bluette, flamenco artist Sonia Olla, and Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks also were present. At one point I do believe we looked up and saw “The roof, the roof, the roof is on F-I-R-E!”

Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, and Dick Parsons
Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, and Dick Parsons

The evening ended with a crescendo of rug-cutting, foot-stomping performances from Eric Lewis a.k.a. ELEW and Sweet Georgia Brown. The New musical genius “Boy Wonder” sky-rocketed across the stage, leaving nothing in his path but the entire house jumping from their seats screaming for more; sweeping across the jazz circuit crossing over into the far reaches of yet another musical stratosphere where every note becomes an adventure — where the creative juices run off to the land of the free and take you right along with them. ELEW explores the magical world of Jazz-Rock and what it might be like to personify Jimmy Hendrix meets James Brown meets Prince….Hummm.

Finally the sassy blues chops of Sweet Gerogia Brown entices those of us who haven’t already passed out from the riveting sounds of ELEW, to collect what remaining ounce of strength we have back out there again! It was a sight to behold …white-collar financiers alongside the coolest jazz partygoers, mixing it all up. Jennifer Beale from Flashdance even brought in her own snappy spin on some new steps.

These phenomenal minds grandfathered, sheparded, nurtured, and facilitated some of America’s folklore into many art forms that would change the world forever. The JFA has been very instrumental in instituting school music programs and for providing aid to musicians in New Orleans, throughout Hurricane Sandy and throughout the U.S. “The JFA Loft Party makes saving the music, one musician at a time — fun”, so says the chair, Dick Parsons.