Jazz at Naz (Season 2)
Words by RQ
An optical prism is a transparent object that separates a singular light into a spectrum of colors.
In many ways this same approach is on full display with the depth and stylistic differences of the artists set to take the stage during this year’s second-annual Jazz at Naz Festival. Each presentation represents the broad and varied aspects of a rich musical tradition. The collective approaches are informed by a fertile past, while also drawing on the immediacy of contemporary influences.
This year the month-long festival opens with bassist and composer Christian McBride presenting his recent large-scale suite, “The Movement Revisited.” This piece draws inspiration from various leaders of the Civil Rights movement. From the sermonic speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the fanciful footwork and progressive activism of Muhammed Ali, McBride uses Jazz, spoken word, and vocal selections to draw parallels between the civil unrest of the 1960’s and today’s sociopolitical climate. It is a poignant message gracefully wrapped in a thought-provoking soundscape.
Also appearing on the mainstage will be Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. For the past 40 years, this dynamic ensemble has dedicated its repertoire to preserving and performing music of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Having contributed to countless soundtracks, film scores and television specials, their catalog pays musical homage to this unique period in America’s history. The audience can expect to experience anything from classic Broadway gems to the sounds that fueled the ballroom dance craze of the prohibition era. They will be joined by the equally eclectic vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Loudon Wainwright.
Building on the success of the inaugural season, The Soraya will again transform the stage into its Jazz Club—an intimate club setting for two special onstage performances. The first of which features the quartet of tenor saxophonist, Melissa Aldana. Originally from Santiago, Chile, her intense dedication to the beauty of her craft has garnered the attention of international supporters, mentors, and journalists alike. Her most recent recording, ”12 Stars” for Blue Note Records, addresses highly personal themes including self-love and the process of forgiveness. It was during the lockdown that her deep dive into understanding the signs and symbols of tarot provided the clarity to create these unique compositions.
Also appearing in the Jazz club setting is vibraphonist Joel Ross. The Chicago native has quickly established a reputation as one of the most in-demand voices emerging on the scene. With his expressive approach to the instrument, Ross has already gained comparisons to many of the most well-known and influential figures that have come before him. And still, his distinctiveness lies in his ability to balance blazing technique while also evocating the emotional subtlety of any piece. Ross will be presenting movements from his most recent Blue Note Records album, “The Parable of The Poet.”
Closing the festival is the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, featuring rising star vocalist Samara Joy. This exclusive pairing by The Soraya shows how this music can reach across generational lines to unite artists who have found a common language in Jazz — despite entering the scene decades apart. The perpetually swinging Orchestra is co-led by drummer Jeff Hamilton and arranger/bassist John Clayton. With Samara’s resplendent vocal tone supported by the best in the business, their collaboration promises to highlight groove, sophistication, and freewheeling improvisation with the highest levels of execution.