A full house at the University of New Orleans Performing Arts Center Recital Hall reveled in the performance of special holiday concert by the New Orleans Ladies of Jazz; Stephanie Jordan, Germaine Bazzle, and Leah Chase in collaboration with the Music Alive Ensemble String Octet and Jazz Quintet on Sunday, November 28, 2010. Primarily sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation and under the direction of violinist Rachel Jordan, as promised the concert delivered on its commitment to provide music lovers an opportunity to enjoy some of New Orleans' most renowned jazz divas performing some of their favorite holiday tunes.
Bazzle, Chase, and Jordan opened the show with their individual interpretation of "I Saw Three Ship Come Sailing In" as each took turns belting out notes in their respective signature sound backed by the ensemble. That was followed by two jazz standards with Bazzle singing Duke Ellington's "In A Mellowtone" while Jordan sang Lionel Hampton's "The Midnight Sun." Leah then provided the audience with a little humor and a well received surprise as she joked of an "out of body experience" as she performed a "jazzy hip-hop version" of "Let It Snow" as she traded barbs with trumpeter Marlon Jordan. Marlon took the bait and used the opportunity to explore the upper range of his custom-built Monette trumpet, back and forth they went playing off each other in the tradition of call-and-response technique of earlier generations. The crowd went wild.
Continuing along the holiday theme, Germaine slowed the pace with Hugh Martin's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" before the three ladies closed out the first half of the show with Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song."
Kent Jordan's arrangement of Frank Looesser's "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" was absolutely stunning and Germaine's delivery left you wanting for toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate (or even something a little stronger). In keeping with the Gulf Coast's first cool breeze of the fall season, it was most appropriate that Leah followed with Irvin Berlin's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" and Bazzle ended that session with "It's Alright With Me" by Cole Porter. Judging for the crowd's reaction, it was alright with them as well.
Next it was Rachel Jordan and the Music Alive Ensemble String Octet turn to show their mantle, and they did not disappoint. Taking command of the Recital Hall with Christopher Crump's arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion," one sensed the audiences' urge to get up and dance the tango. The performance incorporated elements from jazz and classical music, with reference to love, passion, and elegance. And one truly understands why Rachel has dubbed the series 'Jazz Meets Classical'. The audience responded with a roaring standing ovation.
Increasing the tempo once more, Stephanie returned to the stage with an upbeat version of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now." Attorney Regina Bartholomew help set the scene for the rest of the evening with a reading of "The Christmas Story According to St. Luke." The readings served as an introduction of the String Quartet's interpretation of "Silent Night" which led directly into Stephanie Jordan's awe inspiring performance of the Christmas classic "The Little Drummer Boy." Stephanie's authoritative satin-like voice enveloped the audience with each 'pa rum pum pum pum' tugging at their hearts while placing them in a time warp as the percussion created a sense of actual presence at the manger. As the story goes, "the lyrics tell of a poor young boy who, unable to afford a gift for the infant Jesus, plays his drum for the newborn with the Virgin Mary's approval. The newborn seems to understand and smiles at the boy in gratitude." The ecstatic gathering of music lovers erupted with overwhelming approval.
Rachel's arrangement of Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone's composition is yet another version which is destined for acclaim.
The show ended with Bazzle, Chase, and Jordan leading the ensemble in an arrangement of local Emmy-award pianist Mike Esneault of "My Favorite Things;" a tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The Sound of Music." To a person, all now have a new meaning of their most favorite thing — one being that this concert becomes an annual event.
Founded in 2002, the Music Alive Ensemble is a blend of professional classical and jazz musicians, composers, arrangers and educators living in Louisiana dedicated to the ideal that music as art communicates the breadth, passion and intellect of society. Through concerts, artist demonstrations, and teaching workshops Music Alive Ensemble provides musicians, composers and arrangers a platform for artistic expression. Music Alive Ensemble perpetuates cultural diversity and finds common ground through classical and jazz artistic collaboration.
Germaine Bazzle is often referred to as one of New Orleans' important jazz vocalists. After graduation from Xavier University of Louisiana, Germaine began a teaching career and entertaining in the same year, teaching during the day and playing bass in a local traditional jazz band at night. After 12 years as a teacher, she left the classroom and began singing with various bands in New Orleans. Three years later, she returned to the classroom, but continued to perform with such jazz greats as Alvin "Red" Tyler, Peter "Chuck" Badie, Victor Goines, bassist/vocalist, George French, pianist Ellis Marsalis, Emile Vinnette, Larry Siebert, David Torkanowsky and many more. Germaine can be heard on her CD entitled "Standing Ovation."
Leah Chase is the product of a very fertile creative environment. Her maternal namesake, Leah Sr., is an engaging dynamo of activity and chief chef at "Dooky Chase" Restaurant. Her father Edgar "Dooky" Chase was the leader of the "Dooky Chase Orchestra". Leah Chase graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans with a degree in Vocal Performance. She completed one year of graduate study at The Juilliard School in New York, before leaving to pursue her true love: jazz. Leah can be heard on her CD entitled "At Last" and also on the Matt Lemmier CD "Portraits of Wonder." Leah is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and Loyola University.
Stephanie Jordan performed the national anthem alongside Grammy Award winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis and guitarist Jonathan Dubose at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. She has appeared live on NPR "Talk of the Nation," Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Marians Jazzroom in Bern Switzerland, St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest, Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge, Duke Ellington Festival, Washington D.C., Chicago JazzFest Heritage, Glenwood Springs, Co., the New Orleans Ladies of Jazz, Adagio's Jazz Club in Savannah, Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, Sweet Lorraine's in New Orleans and is a regular at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Stephanie has been inducted as a member of the New Orleans Magazine All-Stars and has served as a 'Jazz Ambassadors' for the U.S. Department of State.
Rachel Jordan, a Professor of Violin at Jackson State University has served as adjunct faculty at Xavier University, Southern University, and Dillard University. She was a member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans. Ms. Jordan received both her Bachelor of Music and her Master of Music from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland where she studied with the great Berl Sernofsky. She is currently a member of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, Texas.
Founded in 2002, the Music Alive Ensemble is a blend of professional classical and jazz musicians, composers, arrangers and educators living in Louisiana. "Our goal is to bring families into artistic venues in hopes that the experience will educate and encourage burgeoning artists and develop a supportive listening base for future generations of musicians," adds Rachel.
The String Quartet included Rachel Jordan, Violin; Amy Thiaville, Violin; Marjorie Garnier, Viola; and Gary Geslin, Cello while the Jazz Ensemble comprised of Mike Esneault, Piano; Chris Severin, Bass, John Jones, Drums; Jonathan Bloom, Percussion; Kent Jordan, Flute and Marlon Jordan, Trumpet.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization was set up to be the nonprofit owner of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — Jazz Fest (www.nojazzfest.com) — with a mission to sow the seeds of our unique culture for generations to come. Its goal is to make sure that the festival's proceeds would be redistributed into the local community. The foundation's mission is "To promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, arts, culture and heritage of communities in Louisiana through festivals, programs and other cultural, educational, civic and economic activities."
To that end, the foundation has developed numerous programs and assets and is the prime sponsor of this event. Other sponsors include the University of New Orleans, Kidd Jordan Institute of Jazz and Modern Music, Metro Disposal Inc., The Law Office of Chip Forstall, Sylvain Solutions, and Zawadi Giving Circle.
For more information, visit www.musicaliveno.com.
Vincent Sylvain is the publisher of the New Orleans Agenda.com newsletter; the leading local alternative for information on News, Arts, Culture & Entertainment in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region. He may be reached by email via Vincent@SylvainSolutions.com.
Photos by Vincent Sylvain.
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