One Brooklyn Jazz Festival Returns, December 4 – 13
by Fern Gillespie
Improvisation is one of those “wonderful things” in the jazz world, and no one understands that better than the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium (CBJC).
The group puts that knowledge into action come December 4, when their annual One Brooklyn Jazz Festival, silenced by COVID last spring, is launched without any interruption of the fine, performances of the past 20 years.
Great jazz — accented by twists from Brooklyn’s great multitude of cultures, this year — sweeps the borough and beyond, for 10 days December 4th though the 13th . And the music menu has not changed: listeners, viewers and, through a stretch of CBJC›s imaginative Consortium, diners at some pretty cool (and safe!) eateries will experience a blend of in-person, livestream, and/or pre-recorded music performances at restaurants and cultural institutions spanning Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, East New York, Gowanus, and Lefferts Gardens. And at home. The events are free (but we suggest you may want to contribute to the cause). Donations are welcomed.
While tuning in from home is an option, CBJC, has enhanced its community-building mission by providing restaurants honoring socially distancing regulations, with ambient jazz to give their socially distanced customers a true dining experience.
Already restaurants and venues have signed on to participate: Connection Works, Fusion East, Nostrand Social, Prospect Lefferts Gardens Arts, Shape Shifter Lab, Sistas’ Place, Sugar Hill Supper Club and Williamsburg Music Center.
For 21 years, CBJC has been producing New York City’s longest continuously running grassroots festival dedicated to jazz with one key mission: to keep jazz alive, strong and evolving.
We hit a blue note last spring when CBJC spokesperson Bob Myers and member-friends like Bessie Edwards informed us the COVID-19 crisis had forced the shutdown of Brooklyn’s annual classic event — usually held in April. Little did we know that CBJC was going into hibernation with plans to comeback at some point when this coast was clear. After all, jazz is for all four seasons.
But COVID-19, not only changed the event’s dates, it also changed how the festival will be celebrated. We caught up with Myers last weekend to provide a topline on how CBJC made that pivot.
“Due to COVID-19, New York State Liquor Authority guidelines say that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible. Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.
“And if you are an indoor dining establishment and you have live music it must be incidental to the dining experience. By incidental that means people are coming to the restaurant to experience the dining cuisine,” explained Bob Myers, Director of Communications and Board Member of Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium. “It’s a sensitive edict, not a harsh one. All our restaurants are suffering. So, we saw this is an opportunity for us to help those restaurants that did have a live music policy to enhance their, well, menu, with an ambient soundtrack. Further, we are advertising or promoting the venue as offering a true dining experience.”
Myers explained the rules: According to the COVID-19 restrictions, musicians have to be at a 12-foot distance from the audience and temperatures will be taken. Attendees or diners are advised to make reservations through the venues. All personally attended programs must comply with existing social distancing guidelines.
And there’s more: Brooklyn is the borough of many cultures and languages. CBJC’s fest always has recognized jazz’s international appeal, and strong multicultural accents. Myers informed that the festival showcases musical voices of all jazz-loving ethnic groups within the borough.
“From Coney Island-Russian, Flatbush-Caribbean, Bay Ridge-various, and East NY; central Brooklyn-African American, the One Brooklyn Festival has branched out throughout the whole borough with presentations of jazz through the lenses of all ethnicities,” said Myers, a former jazz club owner. “It’s their interpretation of the music called jazz, but it’s all jazz.”
But what about the generations that came before we asked. Jazz is more than 100 years old if you’re going back to the time of Jelly Roll Morton and Bobby Bolden, both born in the late 19th century. Plus, the CBJC is formed by boomers who mostly still hold the drumsticks. Well, Myers and CBJC are well ahead on that count, too.
Myers response: “Young millennial and Gen Z musicians have their own interpretation of jazz. And you can see how that generation interprets the music called jazz through the lens of Hip Hop artists like Robert Glasper.
“As a young person, he used to play at my club back in the 1990s. He’s a Grammy award winner. His music comes through the sounds of his generation,” added Myers. “Each generation has a sound. The music of my parents was bebop like Dizzy Gillespie and such. Then, the music moved forward to hard bop, the music of Brooklyn in the sixties, people like Freddie Hubbard. The music changes with each generation, but it’s still recognized under that word jazz.”
“Universities are turning out the next generation of players,” he said. “To understand how the music is being played, you have to go to the clubs where you see them frequent. Mostly in the Village now, there are places where you see them coming in for the live stream. The kids are now into live streaming the music. They have a different experience than my generation. I’m an in-person jazz lover.”
Which brings us back to where we started. CBJC will deliver its in-person experience to fans and aficionados alike for 10 hi-flying days: December 4-13.
And we’re very happy about it. Thank you CBJC.
On December 13, Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame will honor Brooklynites Lena Horne, Max Roach, Randy Weston and Herbie Mann with a special virtual video documentary presentation with featuring performances.
For more info: www.cbjcjazz.org,
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718.773.2252 ext. 103.
(Bernice Elizabeth Green contributed to this article.)