[Dixielandjazz] Lincoln Center Starts Popular Music Jazz Series

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 16 06:06:55 PST 2009

November 16, 2009 - NY TIMES - by Stephen Holden
Michael Feinstein to Lead Jazz at Lincoln Center Series

Jazz at Lincoln Center is bringing classic American popular song into  
its fold with the appointment of the singer and pianist Michael  
Feinstein as director of its new popular music series. Mr. Feinstein  
will create three programs as well as a family event, all focusing on  
the relationship between jazz and songwriting, for the spring of 2011.  
The concerts will be in the Allen Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall, at  
Broadway and 60th Street.

The announcement is to be made on Monday night at Jazz at Lincoln  
Center’s fall gala, “A Celebration of the Music of Frank Sinatra,”  
featuring Mr. Feinstein and his guest, Diahann Carroll, performing  
Sinatra standards with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. It is the  
culmination of a three-year artistic courtship between Mr. Feinstein  
and Wynton Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.  
The two were introduced at an Apollo Theater fund-raising gala in 2006  
by Lisa Schiff, the chairwoman of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

“It seemed like kind of a natural fit,” Ms. Schiff said. “Michael is  
such an archivist, and Wynton was intrigued by that.”

The popular music program, which is distinct from Lincoln Center’s  
American Songbook series, is part of a larger plan to broaden  
programming at Jazz at Lincoln Center by bringing in what Mr. Marsalis  
called “the pods of jazz.” Over the long term it will incorporate  
separate blues and gospel arms in addition to popular song.

“We want more artistic things in our halls,” Mr. Marsalis said. “We  
know we could not program enough in our spaces to fill an entire year.  
But we want quality, substantive programs, and the American popular  
song is one of the important branches of jazz music.”

He added that Mr. Feinstein would have complete artistic freedom.  
“Michael has endless good ideas,” he said. “We discussed what we think  
will work in this context and were in agreement.” He said he expected  
Mr. Feinstein’s programming to expand gradually, in the same way the  
jazz programming did after Lincoln Center officially incorporated the  

If Mr. Marsalis, as a world-class trumpeter and New Orleans jazz  
aristocrat, and Mr. Feinstein, as a cabaret and concert entertainer  
and scholar, seem an unlikely pairing, both are ardent classicists in  
their fields and devotees of what Mr. Marsalis called “ongoing  

“I have enormous respect for Michael’s knowledge, enthusiasm and  
ability,” he said. “It’s very much a personal thing with him and me.”

Mr. Feinstein recalled early conversations in which they discussed how  
most people were not aware of the intimate relationship between jazz  
and popular song. “In Ken Burns’s mighty documentary on jazz, the only  
songwriter mentioned is Duke Ellington, not George Gershwin, Irving  
Berlin or Cole Porter, whose music is also an integral part of the  
jazz world,” Mr. Feinstein said. He cited “I Got Rhythm,” and “How  
High the Moon” as examples of songs from which dozens of jazz pieces  
have evolved.

As their talks continued, Mr. Feinstein submitted a three-page list of  
possible programs. One idea is a re-creation of the short-lived 1966  
Duke Ellington Broadway musical, “Pousse-Café,” whose songs have  
lyrics by Marshall Barer and Fred Tobias. Another is to build a  
program around W. C. Handy’s 1944 book, “Unsung Americans Sung,” a  
collection of songs, arrangements and biographical sketches of African- 
American musicians. A third program might be built around the music  
for the 1947 movie “New Orleans.” Other concerts, he said, could  
examine the songs of African-American songwriters like James P.  
Johnson, Andy Razaf and Clarence Muse.

“I’m interested in looking at the cultural significance of this music  
and how it has an uneasy alliance with Tin Pan Alley and the white  
community and at how African-Americans and whites dealt with the  
racism and prejudice in songs that were so accepted in the white  
population, yet had to be tolerated by the African-Americans,” he said.

“We live in a time where people want to erase so much of what came  
before, because they are humiliated or embarrassed or angry. I want to  
look closely at what those songs meant then and what they mean now.”

He added: “Even in 1920 George Gershwin knew that the true voice of  
America’s musical culture — our original voice — came from African- 
American history.”

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