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PREVIEW: THE TRIANGLE NORTH CAROLINA 2018-19 JAZZ SEASON SWINGS, EXPLODES AND GROWS! by LARRY RENI THOMAS
(Published: August 08, 2018)

The busy, expanding, thoroughly-satisfying jazz scene in what is called the "Triangle" area of the Piedmont section of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) just keeps getting better and better. Who needs the New York. Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C. or any other East coast jazz scenes when everybody seems to be coming this way? The area can boast of several venues that present live jazz including, C. Grace's, Irregardless Café, Brasa's, and The Empress Room in Raleigh; The Beyu Cafe, The Carolina Theatre (www.carolinatheatre.org), Motorco Music Hall, Blue Note Grill, Durham Jazz Workshop, Sharp Nine Gallery, Nzinga's, Ubuntu Artspace, Pinhook, the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham; and Weaver Street, The Station, The Second Wind, and The Arts Center in Chapel Hill/Carrboro. The scene is also enhanced by the music presented by the three main universities in the area: Duke University in Durham (Duke Performances, (www.dukeperformances.duke.edu), North Carolina State University (NC State LIVE (www.live.arts.ncsu.edu) and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) (Carolina Performing Arts, www.carolinaperformingarts.org).


In addition, other area colleges and universities present live jazz and have outstanding jazz studies program and jazz ensembles. North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham has nationally-acclaimed, award-winning jazz ensembles, under the direction of saxophonist, Dr. Ira Wiggins. They have performed at The White House twice and at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Durham resident saxophonist Branford Marsalis was recently an artist-in-residence at NCCU, and vocalist Nnnena Freelon, who also lives in Durham, has been featured at several of NCCU jazz events.


A good sign that the Triangle jazz scene is growing is the very pleasant emergence of organizations dedicated to jazz: The Art of Cool Project in Durham, The North Carolina Jazz Listening Group, and The Triangle Jazz Society, which has been around since 2005, The CoCo Jazz Arts Community and The Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation. The area is also fortunate enough to have a 24-hour jazz radio station, NCCU' s WNCU-FM, Durham (which has been on the air since 1995). Other radio stations, such as WCOM-FM, Chapel Hill-Carrboro's community station, Duke University's WXDU-FM, and UNC-CH's WXYC-FM, also program jazz music. WXYC-FM and WNCU-FM both hold live jazz concerts on special occasions.

This robust, contagious wonderful jazz activity makes for a jazz scene that is just as hip as any scene in the nation, or the world for that matter. Where else, can you hear radio stations playing the music day and night, experience live jazz in the clubs, colleges and the universities, and have an abundance of jazz studies programs in almost all of the area's institutions of higher learning, including high schools? Jazz heaven maybe. This Triangle jazz community is enjoying jazz heaven very well. The community will smile and be highly pleased with the upcoming, splendid, variety-packed 2018-19 jazz music season.


The fall jazz season gets started when The Eight Annual John Coltrane Jazz and Blues Festival (www.coltranejazzfset.com), takes place, Labor Day weekend, (September 1 and 2, 2018) in his hometown of High Point, North Carolina, about an hour and half east of the Triangle area of the state. This year's Coltrane festival lineup includes vocalists Gregory Porter, Dianne Reeves, Jazzmeia Horn, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and percussionist par excellence Pete Escovedo and his daughter Shelia E. Also, in the month of September, pianist Jason Moran and Bandwagon, are scheduled to perform, September 13, 2018, at Rubenstein Arts Center's Von Der Heyden Studio Theater. The next night, September 14, 2018, Jason Moran will present his "Fats Waller Dance Party," at The Durham Fruit and Produce.

The Fifth Annual Art of Cool Festival 2018 takes place on the weekend of September 28-29, 2018, in downtown Durham, North Carolina. Calling itself a "collusion of jazz, r&b, hip-hop and soul." this year's list of artists certainly makes that point clear. The thoroughly eclectic lineup includes vocalists Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton and Eryrah Badu, rapper Nas, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold and the British jazz group Sons Of Kemet. (www.aocfestival.com)

The month of October 2018, will feature two performances (October 5 and 6, 2018) by Durham, North Carolina resident saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet. The Lee Konitz Quartet, led by 91-year-old saxophone legend Lee Konitz, is scheduled to appear, October 16, 2018, at The Arts Center, Carrboro, North Carolina. On October 27, vocalist Lizz Wright, will be featured at The Carolina Theater, in downtown Durham. On November 2, 2018, reedman Steve Coleman and Natal Eclipse, will appear at Baldwin Auditorium, on Duke University's East Campus.

In early December 2018, Duke Performances will present what it calls "In The Jazz Tradition," an eight night series of concerts at The Durham Fruit and Produce in downtown Durham, which will feature an excellent, soulful cast of first-class singers. The event begins December 3, 2018, with Durham resident vocalist Nnenna Freelon. She will be followed by these superb ladies: Cecile McLorin Salvant (December 4), Nellie McKay (December 5). Catherine Russell (December 6), Jazzmeia Horn (December 7), Rene Marie (December 8), Kate McGarry (December 9) and vocalist Lucinda Williams joins reedman Charles Lloyd and The Marvels, at The Carolina Theater, Durham, North Carolina. (www.dukeperformances.duke...) On December 11, 2018, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, bring their annual engagement, Big Band Holidays, to Memorial Hall, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH).

The spring season of live jazz in the Triangle should start the new year of 2019 off with a big beautiful bang! It begins on February 1, 2019, with the appearance of trumpeter Ron Miles and his group, at Baldwin Auditorium. On February 15, the hot, New Orleans sensation trumpet player, Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah and his ensemble, will be at Memorial Hall, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. On February 22 and 23, 2019, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, will host the percussionist Pedrito Martinez and the pianist Alfredo Rodriquez, at The Titmus Theater. March live jazz dates include: Sammy Miller and the Congregation, March 1, 2019, at Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill; Dafnis Prieto Big Band, March 29, at Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University and Jazzmeia Horn, on the same night (March 29, 2019) at North Carolina State University's Stewart Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina. April jazz concerts include an April 23 program at Memorial Hall (UNC-Chapel Hill) featuring The North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra with special guest Branford Marsalis; an April 23 concert with The Afro-Cuban All Stars, at The Carolina Theater, downtown Durham, and an April 27, 20i9 date showcasing pianist Fred Hersch and vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry, Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University's East campus.

Whew! What a fine, fruitful, uplifting jazz season 2018-19 looks to be in the Triangle area of North Carolina and one that will get better and better as time goes by. We've gone full circle. Jazz musicians used to leave the state. Now there coming back to the place where Trane, Monk Max, Nina and Percy were born. The music is alive and well in North Carolina and the proof is in the pudding. Viva the Carolina Jazz Connection!


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