Al’s recent visits with young Jazzers

Jazz Vocal Competition at the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC. Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz—Organizers.

I wouldn’t have won. I’m thinking this must be my third time with the Monk Institute and Herbie Hancock, the Institute Chairman, doing programs at the Kennedy Center. The Monk Institute, in honor and memory of Thelonious himself, is an educational outreach to young Jazzers, actually providing scholarships for continuing studies. I was invited this year to judge the vocals competition with Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Diane Reeves, and Kurt Elling. We judges were all very impressed and reassured by what we heard.

The competition was international. Wonderful to open it up so broadly! One of the three finalists was French. The winner, however, was Cécile McLorin Salvant from Miami, Florida, who just knocked everybody out…Not so much with her scatting like Ella, Jon Hendricks, et al., but her own unique and personal warmth of voice and presentation that signaled ‘her own thing.’

These recent years have been anything but the Golden Era of Jazz in The United States of America. In fact, many think that it’s Europe and the rest of the world who have picked up the baton and are moving forward with the banner of Jazz. So we all look at the Monk Institute with pride, gratitude, and great respect for their bold stance and continuing efforts to hold onto this unique and especially American art form. I regret not having the opportunity to say to all the singers and the audience the message, “If you are here, you have already won. We’ll pick one final winner, but it just might be someone who did not make the final 3 who stays with it and keeps working and finds their own thumbprint and becomes the new Sarah, or Nat Cole.” And what all the singers have all found is this thing they do that has changed their lives and given them a joy that makes them special people to be around as friends and family and neighbors, as citizens of the world.

OK, enough said, thank you, T. Monk Institute for inviting me again—

Love, Al

Moving on, Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, CA

Amazing that in two weeks time, I should be not only at the Monk Institute, but now visiting with some young high school students who have found music and getting to be real accomplished at it. I was invited by Larry Handelman to join him at Hamilton and listen to some wonderful performances of these local high school students who represent an enormous group of kids across the country who have lost music in the schools. Uniquely, these students have found themselves at a charter school that is offering music and the arts. Larry and friends are looking at a unique way of attempting to reverse this trend of music programs being dropped, and have asked me to join them in saving music in our school systems. It goes without saying that all of the arts are included under this umbrella of thought.

We heard a classical chamber group. We heard a Jazz Combo with 2 horns, guitar, and rhythm section. We heard a Jazz choir that sang so close to a professional level that you wouldn’t be surprised if they were recording tomorrow… So in tune that I was envious. And they sang scat solos… real good.

It’s too early to announce what Larry and the guys are planning, but I hope it works and I hope I’m a part of it.

THANK YOU, HAMILTON HIGH SCHOOL! All of you were wonderful. By the way, I did get a chance to make the comment to these students that I regretted not being able to pass onto the Thelonious Monk competitors, about all being winners. Keep it up.

I can’t wait to tell you about going back to Milwaukee for a very special event and occasion.

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