Jazz is a musical language of storytelling and on Sunday, June 12, 2011, many stories were shared throughout the Ravinia Festival. By the afternoon, things were cookin’ in the Martin Theatre as the Ravinia Jazz Scholars and Mentors played a short and sweet two song introduction set of Drew’s Blues and Mr. Kenyatta. Once the masters set the stage, the Jazz Scholars were introduced and performed a memorable set of tunes that showcased a variety of styles within the jazz spectrum. The high school Ravinia Jazz Scholars started off with a fast bebop tune, Groovin’ High, in which soloists Andrew Rehayem on trumpet, and Brian Sanborn on guitar, displayed their learned abilities of “keeping with the changes” and playing meaningful solo lines. Max Bezanson and Angie Fritz then showcased their voices on the well known swing tunes In a Mellow Tone and Do Nothing Til’ You Hear From Me. The Jazz Scholars concluded with a Latin percussion-driven feel in Afro Blue where soloists Rachel Alicea on tenor sax, Raleigh Ford on flute, and Charles Ruiz on drums, revealed their keen sense of Afro-Cuban jazz. With songs and stories chosen from across the century, the Jazz Scholars did well to respect the roots and traditions of jazz history.
As the evening continued on, the stories played on. From jazz compositions inspired by the impressionist paintings of Claude Monet to the traditional New Orleans standards of King Oliver, Wynton Marsalis lead the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in an array of illustrious tunes that each told a story of their own. The various modern jazz compositions based on famous works of art within the last century painted vivid and almost mystical pieces. Marsalis introduced each song and as he spoke, nothing short of honesty remained, as he told us the story of each song and then sang it together most beautifully with the jazz orchestra. Then, at the peak of evening, Duke Ellington’s Sunset and the Mockingbird spoke for itself.
With just barely enough time, Marsalis kindly allowed a meet and greet with the Ravinia Jazz Scholars during the intermission. No more than a minute had passed since he entered the room in which he began humming the various tunes that we played earlier that afternoon, bringing smiles to each of our faces. When asked the question, “What do you think about where jazz is going today as opposed to traditionalism,” Marsalis responded by saying that “the legacy [of jazz] works both forwards and backwards. While the tradition and standard was set early in the 20th century the legacy is still being carried on into this generation, where teacher teaches what needs to be known and student bring about what is new.”
The legacy of jazz will live on, far beyond the events of this past Sunday, yet it is hard to now imagine how one can forget such a beautiful day of storytelling and simply gorgeous music.
Charlie Kim, Ravinia Jazz Scholar