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April 10, 2018 > Grammy-winning drummer headlines Cal State Jazz Fest

Grammy-winning drummer headlines Cal State Jazz Fest

By Victor Carvellas

This month, Cal State East Bay will present its annual Jazz Festival with special guest artist, three-time Grammy-winning percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington. The festival features an evening concert with Carrington and the East Bay Jazz Orchestra Friday, April 13 and two stages on Saturday, April 14 where a variety of talented middle school, high school, and college jazz bands will perform for the public while being adjudicated. Carrington will also perform on Saturday.

The festival format is a late development in the history of jazz. This uniquely American music, largely the result of experimentation and sophisticated innovation by African-American musicians, has spent much of its life in small clubs, bars, and other intimate settings. Not because this was where the musicians preferred to play, but because thatÕs where the jobs were, where jazz formed the soundtrack to drinking, dining, and dancing. The great jazz districts of the past, such as Fillmore Street in San Francisco, Central Avenue in Los Angeles, and Greenwich Village in New York City, all attest to the fact. Concert settings, such as auditoriums, theaters, and concert houses werenÕt as available to jazz musicians, most often because of the color of their skin.

One of the great breakthrough moments in jazz history, therefore, was the establishment of the Newport Jazz Festival, first held in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1954. The early popularity of the event underlined jazzÕs acceptance across racial boundaries. Even though the white socialite environment of Newport offered a degree of resistance to the influx of the younger audience that jazz attracted, subsequent years saw the festival changing venues multiple times because annually increasing numbers of concertgoers put a strain on existing facilities.

Newport became the model for many famous subsequent festivals across the country. The Monterey Jazz festival debuted in October of 1958, the first Playboy Jazz Festival happened in 1959, and in 1967, the famous Montreaux Jazz Festival arrived on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

The Cal State Jazz Festival is somewhat unique because the adjudicative aspect of the event focuses attention on jazz education, a topic important to headliner Carrington, an instructor and ensemble leader at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Carrington, the first female artist to win a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, has been in the music business more than 40 years, first having made a name for herself as a whiz kid prodigy, who at age 10 was the youngest musician in Boston to ever get a union card. Magazines featured her, and TV shows employed her. Icons in the jazz world have played with her, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, David Sanborn, Woody Shaw, Cassandra Wilson, and countless others.

In 2005, Carrington returned to her hometown where her alma mater conferred an honorary doctorate and appointed her a professor. She holds the position of Zildjian Chair in Performance in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. She is also the Artistic Director for both the Beantown Jazz Festival and Berklee Summer Jazz Workshop, and Co-Artistic Director of The Carr Center of Detroit.

Reviewers have acclaimed all eight of CarringtonÕs albums. Her 2015 release, ÒThe Mosaic Project: Love and Soul,Ó featured an exclusive cast of female singers and musicians. Said James Reed of the Boston Globe, the album Òis so good that the performances and the caliber of musicianship overshadow any distinctions based on gender or even genre. It doesnÕt need to come with an ingenious backstory; it just needs to be heard.Ó

As an educator Carrington realizes the difficulty of teaching the unteachable essence of improvisation; however, she also says, ÒI think education creates a solid foundation for people that really want to learn the music, but itÕs just a foundation. You have to do a lot more work to become a great player or a great writer or whatever youÕre trying to do É Just because you [get the foundation], that doesnÕt automatically put you in the jazz community. I tell my students that is a process of self-discovery. ThereÕs a lot of work to do after the foundation is laid but it gives you a head start.Ó

As a female in the jazz world for four decades, Carrington has had time now to consider the relationship between women and jazz. ÒAt this stage of my career,Ó says Carrington, ÒI find myself speaking more about gender and equity, issues weÕve faced with this music all along.

ÒIÕve had a great career, but thatÕs not good enough; itÕs not about the exceptions, itÕs not about being accepted into a boyÕs club, itÕs about changing the environment to be more welcoming to women. I take ownership of this music, itÕs my music, and a lot of women donÕt get to that point.Ó

Jazz as it stands today embodies a simultaneous acceptance of all the developments that have made it what it is. The blues, traditional jazz, bebop, fusion, free jazz, Afro-Cuban, and more all find their way into todayÕs recordings. ÒI think this is a really exceptional time,Ó says Carrington, Òbecause so many people have had permission to merge indigenous music based on their cultural background, traditional musicÑif thatÕs where their heart isÑas well as the things they grew up listening to, be it indie rock, or R&B. This kind of genre merging is very exciting.Ó

Concertgoers to the East Bay Jazz Festival are sure to encounter a variety of styles, but if anything is true about the music, in the words of Terri Lyne Carrington: ÒOnce you get bitten by the jazz bug, youÕre there forever.Ó

Visit for schedules.

Cal State East Bay Jazz Festival
Friday, Apr 13
7:30 p.m.
University Theater
Tickets: $10

Saturday, Apr 14
8:15 a.m. Ð 5:00 p.m.
University Theater (Stage A)
Studio Theater (Stage B)
12:15 p.m.: Guest artist performance
University Theater

Cal State East Bay
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd, Hayward
(510) 885-3000

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