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Though the Miami New Drama-commissioned “Queen of Basel” will have its official world premiere at Studio Theatre in Washington D.C. next season, you don’t have to wait or travel to discover how playwright Hilary Bettis has reimagined August Strindberg’s controversial 1888 classic “Miss Julie.” With three powerful actors and a small audience sharing the stage space at Miami Beach’s Co..

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Mexico City-based theater collective Teatro Ojo's works are constantly evolving. Nothing is ever really finished. That's because they take from every performance. Whatever the audience experiences, observes, feels, and offers feedback, which they highly encourage, all is used, considered, and included in the evolution of the same piece, or introduced into another new work. Two of the ..

“America’s Greatest and Least Known Playwright.”This is how the Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes is referred to several times throughout Michelle Memran’s documentary “The Rest I Make Up,” which makes its Florida debut this Saturday as part of Miami-Dade College’s Miami Film Festival. Fornes has been called the “Mother of Avant-Garde Theater.” Theater giants like Edward A..

“Once” has always been touched with magic. And as anyone who has seen the sublime new production of the show by Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables would tell you, the musical’s spellbinding pull is as powerful as ever. When Irish director-screenwriter John Carney first told the tale of a heartbroken Irish street musician and the spunky Czech pianist who reignites his passion, a 200..

Consider the idea of land in Palestine, and conflict may be the first thing to come to mind. But for Jumana Emil Abboud, the Palestinian landscape evokes other, older, associations – with mythological creatures like water spirits and ghouls. “These stories were told way before 1948,” says the Galilee-born artist, speaking by phone from her home in Jerusalem. She suggests looking back ..

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Ira Sullivan: A Long Life in Jazz

Written by: Tracy Fields
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Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Sullivan recalls. “I kept pulling it out, and he said, ‘Boy, you really wanna get hold of that thing, don’t you?’ So at three-and-a-half [years old] he started teaching me trumpet.”

Not long after, Sullivan had his first gig, playing at a church founded by his grandmother. He was allowed to decide what to play. “I got to pick the tunes when I was five years old, and I’m still picking them,” he says.

Sullivan will call the tunes at a couple of performances this month: at the Alper JCC in Kendall on April 15, and at a celebration at the Open Stage Club in Coral Gables the day before he turns 87, on May 1.

“When I was 12 years old I was already working at gigs in Chicago at the Rotary Club,” he says. “As far as I was concerned I was in the music business and I’ve been in it ever since.Still trying to get it right.”

Sullivan has gotten it right more often than not. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has played with a Who’s Who of jazz: Art Blakey, Red Garland, Eddie Harris, Hank Jones, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Red Rodney, and countless others.A star on the Chicago scene since the 1950s, he’s eagerly welcomed when he returns for a longstanding annual gig.

“I play the Jazz Showcase for Joe Siegel every August because he’s been celebrating Charlie Parker’s birthday for 63 years.” Parker, the legendary bebop alto saxophone player, died in 1955 at 34.

“Every August he hires four good alto players, like Benny Golson and Gary Bartz, and I usually finish up the last week.” The alto and trumpet are just two of Sullivan’s horns; also proficient on tenor, soprano, flugelhorn, peckhorn and flute, he’s known for an ability to learn new instruments swiftly.

He tells the story of trying to get work as a trumpeter at a bar in Chicago. But the owner wanted a saxophonist.

Sullivan had been introduced to the sax with a few lessons by his mother while in high school, so he took the denial as a challenge. Working in a closet to keep the noise down, he taught himself to play the blues in four keys on sax, went back and got the job.

“The guy didn’t want to hire me at first, then he started to brag: ‘I got a guy plays both trumpet and saxophone!’” Sullivan recalls with a chuckle.

In 1963, he was on top in Chicago. But a visit to his parents in Florida led to an unexpected change. “I was gonna stay a couple of weeks, and my wife fell ill and they said don’t ever take her back to a cold climate.”

There was a huge difference between the jazz scenes in Chicago and South Florida. But Sullivan quickly made himself at home. After he’d been here about a year, he was approached by a man who’d just bought the Rancher Motel in North Miami.

“He said, ‘What would it take to get you in my club to play jazz?’ I said, ‘A year’s contract.’ His cigar flared up and he said, ‘A year?’

“I said, ‘Well, if you want me to get established...’ I ended up staying there seven years.”

Staying put was important to Sullivan. In the early days in Chicago, he talked with many musicians who were constantly on the road and sometimes asked how they managed to see their families. “They’d say something like, family don’t travel with us but I think I’m gonna be home a couple of weeks at Christmas. I heard that, I was just a young man, but I said, no no, I’m not gonna live like that.” He and his wife, Charlene, have a daughter and two sons.

“I’m happy with the career I’ve got,” he says.

Along with family, faith shapes Sullivan’s life and work. For nearly half a century he has ended every performance with “Amazing Grace” and says there will be a chapter in his forthcoming memoir, being written by his wife, about his adventures playing the song.

He remembers the time he saw a woman remonstrating with a man during his performance. Afterward she came to tell Sullivan she’d been pleading with her husband, who’d been drinking, to give her the car keys, but he refused. Hearing “Amazing Grace,” though, he dropped them into her hand.

“When you realize your music has that kind of effect on people...” he says, letting the thought trail off.

Asked what he’s looking forward to, Sullivan says, “My next gig!” He adds that he wants to record more, and that he’d like to improvise with a symphony orchestra.

“Musicians, we’re constantly going,” he says. “We’re doing the same thing we were born to do.”

Ira Sullivan plays jazz of the Israeli and American Songbook on Sunday, April 15, at 4:00 p.m.; at the Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112 Ave.; tickets $15 for JCC members, $20 for all others; or call 305 271-9000 for more information.

The Miami Jazz Co-op presents Ira Sullivan on Monday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m., at the Open Stage Club, 2325 Galiano St., Coral Gables; tickets$10 general admission, $25 VIP; both will be $5 more if available on the day of the show;


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About The writer

Tracy Fields is a reporter, writer and host of Evenin' Jazz

A member of the South Florida media for more than two decades, Tracy Fields has been a reporter/editor for The Associated Press and a freelance wordsm..

About the Writer

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