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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

All that jazz as music vehicle to connect Charlotte
Jazz Arts Initiative opens monthly series
Published Thursday, April 19, 2018 3:27 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Connecting a community takes time.

Lonnie Davis, president and CEO of Jazz Arts Initiative, has been using jazz to connect Charlotteans for over a decade. In preparing for their 11th season with the vision and goal of their music creating further connections, Davis has seen significant strides in the arts since JAI’s launch.

“I have seen lots of growth in the cultural sector,” Davis said. “With a lot of newcomers coming to Charlotte kind of demanding high quality arts and arts experiences, I see the community really being brought together through the arts. I think the community will continue to be brought together, and art will be the tool that helps to connect the community.”

JAI commences its monthly series at the Jazz Room on April 27 with vocalist Eileina Dennis bringing the songs of Sarah Vaughan to life at Stage Door Theater in Uptown. There will be four performances: April 27 at 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. and April 28 at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Dennis performed at the Jazz Room for Jazz Appreciation Month (April) a few years ago.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to bring her back to the Jazz Room,” Davis said. “We chose her and this show because it was such a beautiful experience last time, and it was only for two shows. This is going to allow us to present her to four new audiences with strings. There will be not only a jazz quartet, but there will be a string quartet playing with the jazz quartet. It’s going to be a really rich musical experience.”

Presenting Dennis for four performances versus two illustrates the increase in JAI’s reach, which Davis noted as one of their biggest points of evolution.

“We’re growing and reaching new audiences pretty regularly,” Davis said. “That’s a great change. The growth is bringing on these changes, and we’re bringing on new staff members administratively to meet the demands of our growing organization.”

A highlight of 2018 is JAI’s inaugural Jazz Popup on May 10.

“We’re going to do something we’ve never done before, and that is to present our All-Star Jazz Youth Ensemble in the Jazz Room setting,” Davis said. “Our most advanced group of young artists who we work with in our Jazz Academy will be presenting their own Jazz Room concert performance at the Stage Door Theater at the Jazz Room. They’re playing both jazz classics as well as some original compositions that the students have written and composed.”

Their performance marks the first time students will be the featured artists in that setting. Proceeds from ticket sales fund the young artists’ summer jazz experience in New Orleans.

“The goal and the purpose of that event is to help raise money for the students’ upcoming New Orleans jazz summer experience,” Davis said. “We bring that group of students to New Orleans for roughly five days and give them a very robust experience performing all over the city. They get to sit in with famous jazz artists like Ellis Marsalis. They play their own performances. They get private concerts from Preservation Hall. They go to different landmarks, and just have a great time.”

While the increased demand has brought on change, some areas have remained the same.

“The love that our patrons show for this music, and the dedication and loyalty that they have shown is the same,” Davis said. “We have individuals who have been supporters since we started our Jazz Room concert series 11 seasons ago, and they are still subscribers to the season. They’re just as excited about Season 11 as they were for Season 1. It’s another exciting season with local, regional and national artists.”

For information on the April performance: https://www.carolinatix.org/events/detail/the-jazz-room-at-the-stage-door-theater-5


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