All That Jazz
Not so long ago I had a wonderful jazz encounter with The Jazz Room at the Stage Door Theater in Charlotte. The Jazz Room convenes monthly and is a production of Jazz Arts Initiative.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Lonnie and Ocie Davis, a dynamic couple from New Orleans who decided to make Charlotte their new home. Both Lonnie and Ocie are highly respected and accomplished Jazz musicians. Once in Charlotte it did not take long for them to attract support and establish the Jazz Arts Initiative.
I enjoy Jazz and especially a live performance. There is something special about being caught up in the moment of witnessing standards blended with on the spot orchestration and performance.
Bill Evans was the first to introduce me to The Jazz Room and it was Bill who invited me to the performance of Melissa Morgan sings Billie Holiday. When I arrived at the theater it was great to see Todd Albaum, a friend and current Chairman of the Board for Jazz Arts Initiative. I was soon honored to share his center stage table with his lovely wife. A perfect seat for an intimate jazz encounter.
If you know much about the history of Billie Holiday, you know that she was a person that expressed most if not all human emotions and drama. Her life was not easy, but her music was incredible. Her life was a powerful influence on many, Frank Sinatra said, “It is Billie Holiday…who has, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me”. It is said that when Holiday died Sinatra did not leave his penthouse for two days, he spent the time drinking, crying and playing her records.
Knowing a bit of this history, I listened closely to Melissa Morgan as she shared her remarkable rendition of Billie Holiday. At moments, I closed my eyes to feel the music and emotions of Holiday. In as much as one human can relate to the feelings of another, I believe Morgan brought a bit of Holiday to the Jazz Room.
After the show, I ask Morgan what she personally takes from singing Billie Holiday and she said. “She helps me deal with change…as I go through a time of change in my own life, she helps”.
I recall another visit to the Jazz Room when Andy Page played Django Reinhardt, it was a great night of Gypsy Jazz.
A few years ago, I was ask to host the Christmas special for this organization. It was a great night of Holiday entertainment! I recall that “among others” Chad Lawson played the piano and Snoopy made an appearance.
There was a time when Jazz was very popular and even in the Carolinas. I have enjoyed learning about the legendary Dizzy Gillespie from Cheraw SC. We do have a history and it’s well worth remembering.
It is great to see that the work of Lonnie and Ocie Davis have inspired a lot of people. With the support of many they have unleashed a growing appreciation for the spirit and sounds of jazz. It is exciting to see young and old alike celebrate and participate in a music and culture that has so much feeling.
I am glad the Davis family decided to make the Carolinas home and I’m glad Bill extended the invitation so that I would know about it.