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The play begins, as it must, with the velvet voice of Nat King Cole crooning “Mona Lisa.” After all, how many paintings inspire an Oscar-winning song? For that matter, how many masterpieces survive damage, theft and the rapacious covetousness of collectors for more than half a millennium? Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Gioconda,” popularly known as the Mona Lisa, is that inspi..

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Of Jazz, Biking Tours, and Poetry

Photo: Photo credit: Kelly Jensen
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In the fall of 2014, Jazz composer Taylor Ho Bynum spent five weeks biking from Vancouver to Tijuana, with concerts stops along the way in an effort to re-envision the process of creating and consuming music while reducing his own carbon footprint. Surrounded by breathtaking sunrises and colorful sunsets, he played his cornet to both audiences of stoic ancient red wood trees and raucous jazz fans.

MDC Live Arts brings him and his Acoustic Bicycle Tour to Miami for a series of concerts, discussions, and improvisations at locations across South Florida -- including five of Miami-Dade Colleges’ campuses. The weeklong residency will allow Bynum to create deeper relationships with the local community and artists that live here.

“When I did the West coast bike tour,” Bynum says, “I realized once it was over, that one of my few regrets was not having the chance to have a deeper engagement with any particular community, because I was always on the go. So while the journey aspect of it was incredible, I felt I hadn’t fully tapped into the potential of connecting with a community, and sort of generating discussion.

“What’s been fantastic about this program, is that its become a really in depth collaboration, and that’s one of the things I’m excited about.”

Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts executive director, who was attracted to the flexible nature of the work and the opportunity to engage the community in many different ways, agrees: “We jumped on the chance when we heard about this project because we knew that it would be perfect, as it doesn’t require any particular venue -- he can do performances anywhere. This piece is all about alternate thinking -- alternate ways of listening to music, so that for us, was really exciting.”

In addition to residencies and pop-up improvisations along his bike route to each campus, Bynum will also perform with his long-time ensemble. the Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette at WDNA studios on Friday, April 10. On April 11, he will lead an Emerge Miami bike ride through Little Havana, culminating in a concert with his 7-tette and local musicians at MDC’s Koubek Center.

“The chance to not just come to a town, play a gig and leave, but to work with the local artists who are there is something I find really exciting,” Bynum explains. “I think it’s really important, because I think we are all guilty of looking to the visiting artist as the exciting ones, and I think all of us always take for granted the musicians that are in our own backyard. The same way there has been a sustainable and local food movement, the way people are aware of where their food has come from, and trying to eat locally, and source locally, or source sustainably, I think we have to think about that in our art consumption.”

Bynum’s time in Miami closes on Sunday, April 12, with a collaboration with O, Miami and Miami’s Peddling Poets in a 16-mile bike ride that begins and ends at New World Symphony’s Soundscape Park. “We are going to do a ride, visiting places that they each have written a site specific poem for, I’ll improvise. The experience of getting there becomes part of the poem.”

By reconfiguring the context in which his music is consumed, and through collaborative residencies like his bike tours, Bynum has found himself more in touch with the music he wants to create and the way he wants to create it. “You come up as a jazz musician with a certain set of expectations and definitions and contexts in which you perform. And then you get to a certain point: does the music that I make really fit into this limited definition of what jazz is in this culture? How can I expand that? And how can I expand the context in which I am being presented and performing? Ultimately, I feel like the smoky bar is not where I want to perform my music.

 “For me, it means I have a deeper relationship to the outdoors, or to just people I meet on the street…. This bike tour has been a real affirmation of the choices I’ve made in that direction.”

Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette performs Friday, April 10 at 8:00 p.m. at WDNA Jazz Gallery, 2921 Coral Way, Miami; tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door or call 305-662-8889.

Emerge Miami Bike Ride led by Taylor Ho Bynum, routing through Little Havana with stops at Domino Park, Los Pinarenos Fruteria and more, ending at the Koubek Center a performance, Douglas Metrorail Station, intersection of Douglas Road (S.W. 37th Ave) and South Dixie Highway (US-1), Saturday, April 11, 10:00 a.m.; free.

Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette in concert with some of Miami's leading new music performers, creating a 15-piece ensemble, at the Koubek Center Theater, 2705 S.W. 3rd St, Miami, Saturday, April 11, 12:30 p.m.; free.

Site-specific poetry and music with the Taylor Ho Bynum and the Peddling Poets, starting and ending at New World Symphony’s SoundScape Park, 500 17th St., Miami Beach, on Sunday, April 12, 3 p.m.; free.

 Performance by Taylor Ho Bynum and poetry by The Peddling Poets at O, Miami's Poetry in the Park celebration, New World Symphony’s SoundScape Park, 500 17th St., Miami Beach on Sunday, April 12,  6:15 p.m.; free.

 

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