2012 Harlem Jazz Shrine Festival Showcases Historic Music Scene

Nick Obourn
May 03, 2012

As it grew from a local sound to a worldwide movement, the jazz scene in Harlem was home to legendary music figures whose influence continues to haunt and ignite the local community. From May 7-13, these sounds of jazz will fill Harlem’s historic music venues for the second annual Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival.

This year’s festival—presented by The Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage, Jazzmobile and Columbia University—features concerts, panel talks, education programs, and film screenings, with icons such as Wycliffe Gordon, Savion Glover, Stanley Crouch, and Amiri Baraka.

“It is a great honor for Columbia to be a part of the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival,” said Marcia Sells, associate dean in the office of Community Outreach, Columbia University School of the Arts and associate vice president in the office of Government and Community Affairs. “The Festival offers Columbia a chance to deepen our relationship with Harlem and collaborate with other local partners.”

As a nod to jazz tradition, late night jam sessions, starting at midnight, will be held at Marcus Samuelson’s restaurant Red Rooster. The literary and musical history of the Lenox Lounge will also be celebrated with performances that remember a time when James Baldwin and Langston Hughes rubbed elbows with the likes of Billie Holiday and Miles Davis in the Lounge’s famous Zebra Room.

“The Harlem Jazz Shrine Festival is not just highlighting jazz history but presenting the next generation and showing their connections to those early jazz innovators,” said Sells.

Columbia faculty presenters at the festival include a talk by assistant professor of religion Josef Sorett on the history of black music, from spirituals and blues through jazz and hip hop; and a film screening of the documentary “The Savoy King.” Co-executive produced by Columbia School of the Arts film program professor Jamal Joseph and Harlem Arts Alliance chairman Voza Rivers, “The Savoy King” tells the story of the legendary dance venue where Ella Fitzgerald frequently performed and where house band drummer Chick Webb held court.

The 2012 Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival is the latest example of efforts on the part of upper Manhattan organizations to present the rich history of Harlem through art and scholarly discussion. In 2006, Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies partnered with Harlem Stage, the Harlem Arts Alliance, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Community Works, and the New Heritage Theatre Group to organize the Columbia/Harlem Jazz Project, a series of concerts made possible by a $300,000 grant from the New York State Music Fund. Building on the success of those concerts, in 2007 Columbia, Jazzmobile and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone collaborated to host the first ever Columbia/Harlem Festival of Global Jazz, ten days of concerts, film screenings, symposia and community events focused on the art of jazz and its Harlem home.

“All of these programs allow Columbia to contribute to the rich cultural landscape here in Harlem and Upper Manhattan,” said Sells.

For ticket information and the full schedule of events, please visit the 2012 Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival website.