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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

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Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

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We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

Here’s a riddle – name the 1892 box office flop panned by critics for lack of seriousness and for casting too many kids, which has now transformed into a force of nature timed to occur yearly..

It happens every year, right around Thanksgiving, productions of the Nutcracker pop up from coast to coast, marking the start of the holiday season. But on Saturday, Miami audiences have the ..

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Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..

It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..

It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..

A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”­—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..

When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..

Jazz Roots Run Deep in Miami

Photo: Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg; photo courtesy of artist management.
Written by: Fernando Gonzalez
Article Rating

 

Many were skeptical when Jazz Roots, a concert and educational series, was launched at the Arsht Center for the Performing Artsin 2008. Even Larry Rosen, who had moved to the area from New York in 2000 and co-founded the event with the Arsht Center, once talked about how “anyone who’s in the jazz business knew that Miami was not a jazz market. So when I came here, I certainly knew what to expect. But you don’t really understand Miami unless you live here.”

So he got to work. A very successful musician, producer, record label owner and entrepreneur, Rosen certainly had experience at going where more timid souls dared not tread, going all-in on the digital revolution in the early 1980s (founding the all-digital GRP record label with composer, arranger and pianist Dave Grusin) and, a decade later, anticipating iTunes with his online music retailer N2K.

To the concept of a jazz series, Rosen brought to bear his experience with branding, a hard-to-match list of jazz contacts, thematic ideas for programming, and an educational approach to promotion, including interviews with the featured artists broadcast on local radio. The series also established a partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and by now, nearly 8,000 high school students have attended concerts, sound checks and Q&A with the artists.

Miami remains a difficult market for jazz— but Jazz Roots has thrived. (Along the way, the series expanded to performing arts centers in places such as Orlando, Dallas, Indianapolis, Newark, Atlanta and Las Vegas.)
Rosen passed away in October of last year, but perhaps there is no better tribute to his talents than a new season of Jazz Roots in Miami, which opens November 4.

Pianist, composer, arranger, producer and dean of Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, Shelly Berg, a longtime friend and collaborator of Rosen and a jazz musician himself, was appointed artistic advisor by the Arsht Center in July. He talked about the challenges of programming and presenting jazz in South Florida and Miami as a 21st century New Orleans.

How do you see the place of Jazz Roots in the South Florida scene?

Jazz Roots is not only a concert series but also 200 kids come to every concert and get to see and talk to the musicians, see the sound-check and attend a master class, so I think in that way it’s a hub for jazz in South Florida. By the time we're done with the series every year, 1,200 school kids who participate in music get extra training.

The other component is curatorial. You want to excite people about the series, so you don't want the music to be so esoteric that it turns them off. In terms of programming we just try to do whatever we think might be the most entertaining. We have built a brand that people trust.

How does the size of the hall (2,200 seats) and the entertainment-directed approach frame your programming choices? Does it automatically preclude more challenging, adventurous artists and styles of jazz?

Everything is on the table — but I don't think entertainment is a dirty word. In [an area] of two million people you can probably find a hundred people to like almost anything. But if you are going to do something for a subscription series, for people who trust a brand, then my filter is not only how great the music is but also how entertaining is it going to be for the audience. The other thing we consider when we book artists is the education and inspiration that they might provide young people. That's been a cornerstone of Jazz Roots from the very beginning.

How was this season put together — especially being the first one without Larry?

Larry Rosen’s vision for this series was not to just see who was on tour and plug in six dates. For those of us who were at the beginning of this, we knew that there was a vision, and part of that vision was to make something special happen six nights a year in a concert hall so a large audience that are not just your jazz devotees, walk away thrilled and would want to hear more.

The idea has been to curate a six-concert season that had some sort of a narrative and along the way, create something special. The first concert is To Larry with Love, the tribute to Larry. Every year ever since Jazz Roots started, we kick off the season with a curated concert for which we write the script, we hire the artist and create a one-time, it-only-happens-in-Miami event. We also have the Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcaba concert. That wasn't something that was going around, that's something we curated.

Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling had never performed together. … We asked them to come and do this concert for Jazz Roots.

And Steve Miller is a rock star. He can charge for one concert what we have as a budget for the whole season. But he's coming to Miami because he wants to do the show here. So to the extent that I can do what Larry did, and use our relationships to curate singular events that you cannot hear anywhere else, I will be very happy to do that.

You have a lot on your plate as a musician and educator, why taking on Jazz Roots?

I’m so honored to be able to keep Larry's vision going. Larry started a jazz record company when jazz was supposed to be dead — and it was huge. And Larry started a jazz concert series in a concert hall when you were not supposed to do that — and it's been very successful. When 1,800 people walk out of the Arsht Center and say “I'm so glad I went,” you are creating a better world for jazz.

Jazz Roots 2016-2917 six-concert season featuring Dave Grusin, Steve Miller, Chick Corea, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis; opening November 4, 8:00 p.m. with To Larry With Love, Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; tickets range from $45-$125. For series subscriptions and individual tickets, 305-949-6722, or online at arshtcenter.org/jazz.

 



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About The writer

Music writer, associate editor of the Latin GRAMMY Print & Special Projects for The Latin Recording Academy

Emmy-winner and GRAMMY®-nominated writer, critic, and editor Fernando González is the associate editor of The Latin GRAMMY Print & ..

About the Writer

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