As part of NY1's Jazz Lives Here coverage, Arts Reporter Stephanie Simon took a day-long tour of the world of jazz in New York City. Following is Part 6 of her six-part series.
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By Sunday afternoon, the previous night’s revelers may be taking it easy, but many jazz musicians are bringing jams into their own homes.
In Park Slope, Brooklyn, latin jazz great Arturo O'Farrill is leading a jam session with his two sons and their schoolmate.
O’Farrill’s children originally did not want to be musicians, but can now improvise and hold their own.
“I think I chose the drums because I figured it would be the most annoying, but I ended up really enjoying playing drums,” says Zak O’Farrill, Arturo’s son.
Another son, Adam O’Farrill, plays the trumpet.
“I just think it's the coolest instrument. It's better than every other instrument,” says Adam O’Farrill. “It just has a big sound. It's nice and shiny.”
Arturo O’Farrill encourages a little family harmony.
“I feel like jazz should be about family, and families should gather around the drum set and put a couple of logs on it. No offense Zak, please, I didn’t mean anything by that,” says Arturo O’Farrill.
The renowned leader of two orchestras contributes his own opinion on the best jazz instrument.
“Because they all think their instrument is the best, when we all know the piano is the Rolls Royce. That's the problem,” says Arturo O’Farrill. “The one who plays the bass, she thinks the bass is the bomb. The one playing the trumpet, ‘Oh, it's all shiny.’ The drummer's like, ‘yeah.’ No man, the piano gave birth to all of us. That’s the thing they don’t understand.”
While O’Farrill’s bands play on beautiful stages at Symphony Space and Birdland, what happens in his home is extra special.
“What goes on in this house is insane,” says Arturo O’Farrill. “Sometimes, it's like the mad conservatory. We have jam sessions going on this floor. On the first floor we have a trumpet lesson and the third floor, a piano lesson. Somebody might be composing somewhere in the corner.”
“To me, that's what jazz is about. Jazz is about those great virtues and values that keep us real,” continues O’Farrill. “It began as a very distinct and solid aesthetic, and so I think we need to protect that and love it. And that's why to me hearing young people play music is always the greatest feeling for me.”
Leaving the family to their impromptu concert, the crew heads to Queens to another jazz party at a famous musical house.
In Louis Armstrong's home in Queens, decades after the trumpeter’s death, people are still working to keep the music alive. On Sunday, "The Festival of New Trumpet Music" is paying tribute to Satchmo.
It’s a groove that Armstrong's longtime publicist Phoebe Jacobs could dig.
“It's exciting to hear three great trumpet players capture the spirit of Louis Armstrong and do completely different arrangement that he ever performed, making you realize that Louis is still alive,” says Jacobs, a member of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.
Festival founder Dave Douglass was also hearing plenty of high notes.
“Eddie Allan has written a whole new book of music that are rearrangements of Louis Armstrong’s music,” says Douglass. “So what he's decided to do is make a three-trumpet group with Cecil Bridgewater and James Zoler, and as you can hear in the background, it's being presented in Louis's garden, this beautiful program of music.”
The 24-hour jazz marathon ends at Berta Alloway's house party in Harlem.
Inside Alloway's, the music is in full groove. She does not sing or play, but the jazz promoter and booker is known from making music happen, and often brings her work home.
“Well, we have Sunday jams here, the people in the neighborhood come by and the musicians get together and do a Sunday jam from 4 to 8 o’clock, and it’s just great,” says Alloway. “I have chicken and cole slaw today.”
Alloway's been hosting such parties for years, and is credited with helping bring live music back to Harlem in the early- to mid-1990s by booking acts, coordinating jam sessions and attracting tourists and locals to clubs.
A regular performer at the clubs and Alloway’s roost is the booker’s own daughter, "Lady Cantrese."
“A great thing is that the musicians all love her so they'll all come here just on the strength of love,” says Lady Cantrese. “You know, the love for Berta because she is jazz, she brought jazz back to Harlem when Harlem music was dying. So this is where it’s at, always.”
At the 25th hour, the crew is enjoying it so much that they’re still at Alloway’s party.
Lady Cantrese understands, since this is the environment where she grew up and started singing.
“Growing up, my mom always had people had people at the house. We always had music, always hosting and celebrating something, celebrating life, and she loves the music,” says Lady Cantrese. “So if we can’t here it at the nightclub, you can hear it here.”
After 25 hours, New York City has proven to be both heart and home to the best of jazz. And when there's jazz playing, it always feels like home.