Monday, June 10, 2013

Pianist Cedar Walton and Barry Harris Pay Tribute to Mulgrew Miller in the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center

By Deardra Shuler
Jazz pianist Cedar Walton called into my show Topically Yours, at, Rainbow Soul, to talk about his upcoming concert in the Allen Room, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on 60th Street and Broadway in Manhattan.  Mr. Walton will be playing a 9 foot Steinway Concert Piano along with fellow pianist Barry Harris with whom he is sharing the bill, on Saturday, June 22.nd.  The two pianists will play two sets; a 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm set.  Accompanying the two NEA jazz masters will be the much admired drummer Willie Jones, III and famed bassist, Buster Williams.
Pianist Mulgrew Miller who was originally scheduled to perform on the program, suddenly died of a heart attack on May 29th.  Therefore Mark Morganelli through his organization Jazz Forum Arts via their Fifth JALC Jazz Piano Summit featuring Cedar Walton and Barry Harris, will pay tribute to Mulgrew Miller via this program.  Mr. Miller, who began his career with Betty Carter, and moved on to work with Billy Shaw and later Art Blakeley, was known for playing in the tradition of Oscar Peterson McCoy Tyner and Kenny Barron.
I was surprised by Mulgrew’s sudden death.  He was only 57.  I can remember when I first met him.  He was traveling with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the leadership of Mercer Ellington, Duke’s son.  Mulgrew came out of Mississippi and was always a very talented and capable musician.  We struck up a friendship that lasted until his recent death.  I am glad that the Jazz Form decided to pay tribute to Mulgrew via the concert, especially since Mulgrew was taken from us so early” remarked Walton.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Cedar began his sojourn into music very early.  “My mother was a pianist who taught piano privately. She was also a public school teacher.  Through her guidance I began to learn piano and knew that was what I wanted to do in life.  I don’t get the opportunity too often to play with other pianists, so that will make the gig at the Allen Room more special.  It will be a treat to play the 9 foot Steinway concert grand along with Barry Harris during our Jazz at Lincoln Center show” continued the pianist and composer, who spoke about the musicians who made an impact on his life.
“I am impressed by a number of artists; Nat King Cole for instance.  I did not know Nat personally but of course was very familiar with his music.  In the jazz world everyone knew that Nat began his career as a pianist.  I’m not sure who else knows that.  The story goes that Nat was playing in some club one night and it was suggested to him that he had a golden voice and should consider singing.  So Nat King Cole launched his singing career.  I also admire Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum.  Thelonious Monk was a contemporary who I had a healthy association with it.  I much admired his work” commented Cedar of Monk whose compositions consisted of “Ask Me Now,” “Bluehawk,” “Blue Monk,” “Bright Mississippi,” “Criss Cross” and Crepuscule with Nellie, to name a few.
A composer himself, Cedar Walton penned songs like Bolivia,” “Clockwise” and “Firm Roots,” which later began jazz standards.  “Everyone has their method of composing but I just sit at the keyboards and begin developing my pieces that way.  I haven’t quite decided yet what  numbers I will perform at the Allen room with Barry Harris, and the gifted drummer Willie Jones, and of course the talented bassist, Buster Williams, but I know whatever it will be, it will be designed to entertain. I hope the audience will enjoy it” stated the jazz great who worked formerly with Art Blakeley and the Jazz Messengers as well as with the late Abbey Lincoln.
Although it is often said that Cedar is a hard bob artist, he doesn’t want to take credit for the term stating instead that description was something the media tagged him.  “I suppose they use the term “hard bop” because that came from a certain era of jazz playing.  Personally, I play various forms of jazz but primarily over the years I have developed my own personal style.  I have performed in many countries, Japan and Europe and most recently returned from Brazil where the audiences’ reception was overwhelming.  We played a Bossa Nova piece in Brazil wherein the audience reacted with an extremely lengthy applause.  It was nice to see their appreciation,” claimed Cedar who was inducted as a member into the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters.
“I am looking forward to being a part of the Jazz Piano Summit presented by trumpeter Mark Morganelli, whom I am proud to know.  Mark started the Jazz Forum in a loft down on East Broadway years ago.  That led to his current position in the jazz production world.  He is a pleasure to work with as both a musician and producer.  So come out and see Barry and me on June 22nd.”
For tickets call CenterCharge at 212-721-6500, go in person to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office, located on Broadway at 60th street, Ground Floor, or go on line at  This is a featured event of the future NPR Broadcast on JazzSet produced by WBGO-FM and supported by the National Endowment of the Arts.
Mulgrew Miller

2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival to Premiere at The Film Society of Lincoln Center

By Deardra Shuler

The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the IFC Center are co-presenting the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Films will be shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, located at 144 West 65th St. in NYC and the IFC Center, located at 323 Sixth Ave. (at West 3rd St.). The Benefit Screening and Opening Night film will be shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, at 165 W. 65th St., NYC. The Festival runs from Thursday, June 13 thru Sunday, June 23, in NY.

I spoke with the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Andrea Holley, whose organization will be presenting 20 films. Born in Miami and raised in Texas, Andrea Holley has worked with Human Rights Watch Film Festival since 1999. She has worked in Africa, Eastern Europe, United Kingdom and the Middle East.

“People like me who become involved in the human rights movement do so due to personal experience or they live in a certain place that brought about some sort of awareness. For me personally, growing up in Texas made me highly aware of a number of different human rights situations. Also, I was able to travel abroad when I was relatively young and got a better understanding of the different frameworks that apply in different places around the world. Therefore, I became much more enlightened to the fact there are a number of different systems and ideologies out there. I came to understand that the human rights framework proved to be a lens which allowed me to see things in a perspective that is not always as politically charged as others. In Texas, for example, they still have the death penalty. This is relates somewhat to one of the films in the festival, “An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story.” Fortunately Mr. Morton did not face the death penalty but his case involved wrongful conviction. The conviction was eventually overturned due to DNA evidence and a series of investigations. But sadly wrongful convictions are not unusual,” remarked Andrea.

Human Rights Watch has a number of divisions. There is an Africa division, as well as a Europe and Central Asia division, etc., for the various global regions. These divisions handle children’s right, women’s rights, health and human rights and work collaboratively to cover a variety of issues. The film festival functions as an outreach tool wherein topics in the films generally correspond to aspects of the work Human Rights does. “Our role as staff is to find and select films. A big component of our festival is to have discussions after films to help folks process and reflect on what they have seen in order to gain more information. The Festival will showcase 20 films in NY covering a wide variety of themes and topics. Our key themes this year focus on traditional values in human rights, crisis and migration, human rights in the United States, and also focus on Asia,” explained Holley.

Films featured include: “Deepsouth,” regarding southern communities dealing with the HIV crisis. “Fatal Assistance,” a look at Haiti since the earthquake and the complexities resulting once humanitarian aid is dispersed. Also “The Act of Killing,” a documentary on Indonesia, regarding paramilitary responsible for a number of atrocities in Indonesia.” Anita (about Anita Hill); In the Shadow of the Sun, highlights the treatment of Albinos in Tanzania; The New Black depicts how the African American community deals with the marriage equality movement; Camera/Woman covers the lives of women in Morocco. For further scheduling and film info go to

The director of the film “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” Jeremy Teicher, also talked with me. Jeremy is a Student Academy Award nominated director whose first feature film “Tall as the Baobab Tree” was ranked in the top 20 out of 170 feature films in Rotterdam. “I traveled to Senegal when I was a 19 year old university student. What I knew about Africa back then were merely the images I had seen from media. While in Senegal, I met teens my age. They are the first people from their town to get an education. We quickly became friends. I was inspired by their determination and optimism. I was struck how different my experience in real life was from what I saw in the media. That discovery is what sparked all the filmmaking I’ve done. I’ve worked with the same students about 5 years now. We did a documentary film entitled “This is Us,” about their daily lives. We did all sorts of different topics” said Jeremy.

Tradition plays a major role within the African community. That is important to understand. “My film, ‘Tall as the Baobab Tree,” which features early marriage by young girls (age 10-14), is a traditional practice that no longer fits with modern society. This is not a black and white situation which might be seen as evil and needs to be stopped, it’s not that simple. Even though the students I work with are modern and seek to make changes, they too are part of a culture with traditions. I think change needs to be approached from a position of understanding and empathy rather than condemnation. That is the approach we took in the film,” explained Teicher.

“We shot the film in a real village. The film blends reality with fiction but is based on the students’ individual experiences. All the other roles are played by their family members who are basically the same person as the character they play but in a slightly fictional scenario. The film is an interesting blend. It allows folks to hold up a mirror to view and examine what is happening in their culture, which right now is at the crossroads of change,” said the young director.

For info on this film see For tickets to the 2013 Human Rights Watch Festival visit or see