NiteTalk: Digging Jazz Roots with Larry Rosen
By John Hood
January 19, 2011 On Friday night, the Arsht Center stage will again light up with the sound of a legend. In this case, it'll be none other than Keith Jarrett, who was at the forefront of late 20th century Jazz, and who continues to wow audiences the world over. Since it's all part of Larry Rosen's Jazz Roots, Niteside went to him for the lowdown.
Whats the big idea behind Jazz Roots?
Jazz Roots was created in 2008 for the purpose of launching a Jazz concert series for the Arsht Center and focus on bringing together our ethnically diverse community around music. I felt jazz and its origins, which include at its nucleus, the drums and rhythms from Africa, were the musical roots, or DNA, that are the common denominator for all the music of the Americas... therefore, Samba, Bossa Nova, Calypso, Reggae, Son, Rumba, Cha, Cha, Cha, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Rock, and Rap all come from the same source. That's what Jazz Roots stands for!
What were some of the first two seasons highlights?
Each themed concert and artist performance was unique. Buddy Guy and Dr. John; A Tribute to Machito and Tito Puente with Arturo Sandoval and Nestor Torres; Roots of Fusion with Chick Corea and John McLaughlin. Jazz Roots audiences have no idea what awaits them from concert to concert - everything from a small band, to a Latin Dance Party, to an orchestral setting. That's what makes it fun.
Season Three includes Friday night's appearance of Keith Jarrett. Can you please remind us why he's such an important figure in world of Jazz?
Keith Jarrett is a one of a kind artist. He comes with a wonderful jazz history - attended Berklee College of Music, then went to NY and played first with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (this is the band that launched many famous jazz stars, from Lee Morgan to Wynton Marsalis), then with Miles Davis, [where he] launched the genre called Jazz Fusion. From there he went out on his own to play trio music (piano, bass, drums), as well as solo improvisation piano concerts. He has taken the trio and solo formats to a new level in his playing and in his powerful performances.
Who else can folks look forward to in Season Three?
In February we have Celebrating Miles with Wallace Roney, Ron Carter and an all-star band, and Marcus Miller and Christian Scott and an electric monster funk band. This show will celebrate the two sides of Miles Davis - his acoustic period, and then his electric period.
Miami isn't the only city to have laid down Jazz Roots either, is it?
Due to the success of the Jazz Roots series in Miami, other cities keep calling to ask me if we can present a similar jazz series at their performing arts center. Dallas and Carmel, Indiana have now been added to the Jazz Roots family, and three or four more cities will be signing on for our 2011-2012 season. In fact, Jazz Roots is going international next year.
Word is you were also the guiding mind behind PBS's Jazz Legend series. What was that all about?
Yes, I created and produced the PBS TV series called Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis as host. We shot those TV shows mainly in Chicago and sometimes in LA or NY.
How did you and Ramsey Lewis connect?
Ramsey Lewis was on my GRP RECORDS label, which Dave Grusin and I created in 1982. GRP became one of the largest independent jazz labels in the world, and featured many of the great artists in the jazz genre.
Are there any other Larry Rosen productions we need to know about?
I'm completing the production on a 2-CD historical package with Sony Music called Jazz Roots: The Music of the Americas. The compilation will trace American music and will be coupled to the Quincy Jones American Music Curriculum. We will be presenting components of this program in our Jazz Roots cites - and Miami will be key.
Also, I've been working on a very large TV project called Recording: The History of Recorded Music. I'm doing this project with Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone, two of the great American music producers of all time. The idea is to tell the complete story of America's music - and in many ways Jazz Roots tells that story from a concert point of view.
Before we go can you please give us a sentence or three on why you think Jazz is such an enduring art form?
Jazz is America's unique art form. It could only have been created here in America, because it grows out of an ethnically diverse population, The music is celebrated all over the world and we need to make sure that Americans understand and preserve this music - it is the history of our culture.