JAZZ IN THE VALLEY RETURNS
to POUGHKEEPSIE’S WARYAS PARK SUNDAY, AUGUST 15,
featuring JAVON JACKSON QUARTET, THE CURTIS BROTHERS, LAKECIA BENJAMIN,
JULIUS RODRIGUEZ and SAMARA JOY
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, June 22, 2021 – Jazz in the Valley (JITV) returns Sunday, August 15, 2021, noon to 6:00 pm, with a celebration of Legacy, History and the Future of Jazz. Presented by TRANSART & Cultural Services, Inc., the day-long festival features its Artistic Director Javon Jackson and his Quartet and celebrates the future of jazz with four young musicians – the Curtis Brothers, Lakecia Benjamin, Julius Rodriguez and Samara Joy – who are taking the jazz tradition to the next level.
“After the pandemic wreaked havoc on the music industry, and the the world in general, we are pleased to return to Waryas Park to celebrate our 21st year of Jazz in the Valley,” said Greer Smith, festival founder and producer. “The support from our festival family, sponsors, the city, the county and the state over this past year was overwhelming and we know, without a doubt, that jazz is alive, well and wanted here in the Hudson Valley. Based on the love shown to us, we know there is no better way to highlight our return than to present a special tribute to the future of jazz.”
JITV observed its 20th anniversary last year as a virtual production, due to the pandemic. This year’s edition features the return of live music, with a diverse assemblage of world-class and emerging jazz musicians, performing in spacious, nine-acre Waryas Park, located in downtown Poughkeepsie, in New York’s historic Hudson River Valley, just 90 miles north of New York City.
While there will be some changes to help protect the audience, musicians, vendors and festival staff, TRANSART is looking forward to another exciting day of music. Tent seating will be limited this year, and producers encourage those who want a seat in the tent to arrive early to claim a spot. Lawn seating will have enhanced sound and attendees are invited to bring chairs or blankets. Due to evolving pandemic protocols, JITV will announce any additional safety procedures closer to the event.
Siblings have been swinging since the birth of jazz, as evidenced by the Ammons, Montgomery, Adderley and Marsalis clans, among others. Hailing from Hartford CT, the Curtis Brothers, bassist Luques and pianist Zaccai, are the latest in that tradition. Both masters of straight-ahead and Afro-Caribbean jazz, they have worked and recorded with over 100 musicians, including Eddie Palmieri, Stefon Harris, Christian Scott and on the late drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr.’s final recording, Raise Up Off Me. They’ve recorded five CD’s, including their latest, Algorithm, and they co-own a label, Truth Revolution Records. Curtis is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, earned his MA at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and studied privately with the late Fort Apache bassist Andy Gonzalez. Zaccai graduated from The New England Conservatory of Music, won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Competition, served as a Jazz Ambassador for the State Department, leads his own Afro-Cuban Jazz Quartet, and was commissioned to compose “A New Jazz Work” by Chamber Music America in 2017.
Last year Zaccai Curtis was a sideman at a concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center for alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, who performed selections from her third and latest CD, Pursuance: The Music of the Coltranes, her passionate and propulsive tribute to John and Alice Coltrane. A triple threat as an instrumentalist, vocalist, and rapper, this upper Manhattan native is an alumna of New York’s famed LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, and the New School University. Mentored by Gary Bartz, Reggie Waters, Buster Williams, Joe Chambers and Billy Harper, Benjamin has racked up a dancing and diverse resume as a sidewoman that includes work with pop stars Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, and The Roots, and jazz legends Clark Terry, Charles Tolliver, and Gregory Porter. Simply put: Ms. Benjamin is a rising star in the jazz galaxy.
Another New Yorker, by way of White Plains, the Haitian-American, multi-instrumentalist Julius Rodriguez – AKA Orange Julius – is, as they say in hip-hop, “Something Like a Phenomenon.” A virtuoso on keyboards, drums, bass and guitar, Rodriguez enrolled at the age of 12 in Manhattan School of Music’s Pre-College Division, and studied at the Juilliard School. Though he’s got tons of jazz cred, thanks to his gigs with Carmen Lundy, Jazzmeia Horn, Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove, he’s also backed up R&B and hip-hop artists including Meshell Ndegeocello, A$AP Rocky, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan. He makes all of those musical genres swing on his latest CD, Blues at the Barn. Rodriguez simultaneously is a harbinger of musical things to come, and is a throwback to the early New Orleans musicians who always pierced the veil that separates popular and fine art.
Jazz vocalists also have merged popular and fine art, and the New York-born Samara Joy is ready to join that proud pantheon of musical magicians. She was literally born to sing. Her father toured with the legendary gospel great Andre Crouch, and her Philadelphia grandparents formed the pioneering gospel group, the Savettes. Joy grew up in a household that played George Duke and Stevie Wonder. She sang in the jazz band of her high school, the Fordham High School for the Arts, and won the award for Best Jazz Vocalist at a Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Competition. After enrolling at SUNY Purchase in their jazz program, she scored a stunning victory by winning the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition. She’s performed with pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Jon Faddis, guitarist Pasquale Grasso, and drummer Kenny Washington. Grasso and Washington, along with bassist, Ari Roland, play on Joy’s forthcoming debut CD. As her appearance at the festival will show, there is nothing more thrilling than catching a rising jazz star.
Samara Joy also will be a guest with Colorado-born tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson, the Artistic Director for JITV. A former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Jackson has worked as a sideman with Hank Jones, Thad Jones, Curtis Fuller, Charlie Haden, Freddie Hubbard and Ron Carter, and as a leader with over 15 CDs to his credit, including his 2018 release, For You. Jackson currently heads the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.
“After more than a year of COVID-19-related venue closings, the deaths of so many jazz legends and the pandemic slowly receding, there is nothing like the life-affirming good vibes of Jazz in the Valley to remind people of the healing power of the improvisational arts,” said Smith.
In past years, JITV has presented many jazz greats, Grammy winners and NEA Jazz Masters including Randy Weston, Ron Carter, Roy Hargrove, Hugh Masekela, Kevin Mahogany, Bill Charlap, Cedar Walton, Curtis Fuller, Mulgrew Miller, Jimmy and Percy Heath, Eddie Palmieri, Arturo O’Farrill, Steve Turre, Michelle Rosewoman, Roy Ayers, Houston Person, Ray Mantilla, Lou Donaldson, and Ahmad Jamal.
TRANSART & Cultural Services, Inc. is a West-Park, NY-based non-profit arts organization dedicated to promoting awareness of the art, history and popular culture of people of African descent. The festival’s origins go back to an afternoon of music in the year 2000, when TRANSART received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts to commission Ahmad Jamal to write an original composition for the organization. Jamal composed “Picture Perfect,” inspired by the scenic beauty of the Hudson Valley, which he played in concert. In addition to the music, JITV also features films and other programs designed to increase dialogue dealing with jazz music, the musicians and the audience. The festival also includes Behind the Beat: Intro to Jazz Programs, a series of workshops, master classes and traditional drum instruction. The festival can also be heard on WKNY, 107.9 FM,1490 AM, www.radiokingston.org.
The festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by Dutchess County Tourism, City of Poughkeepsie and its media partners, the Poughkeepsie Journal and Metro North Railroad.
Discounted early bird tickets are $45 through August 1. Afterward, general admission is $55, and $65 at the gate. The cost for students with valid ID is $20. Tickets can be purchased online through the festival’s website (jazzinthevalleyny.org), or in person at Blue-Byrds Haberdashery & Music (320 Wall Street, Kingston, 845-339-3174). For group ticket sales, directions and more information about Jazz in the Valley, contact TRANSART at firstname.lastname@example.org, (845) 384-6350, or log on to www.jazzinthevalleyny.org.
Carolyn McClair Public Relations