Jazz Foundation of America Honors Roy Haynes, Raises $475K at Annual Loft Party

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Drummer Roy Haynes (left) is presented with the Jazz Foundation of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award at CDFB Chelsea Studios in Manhattan during the nonprofit’s annual Loft Party on Oct. 19.

(Photo: Udo Salters)

High above the Hudson River, the Jazz Foundation of America hosted its 28th Annual Loft Party at CDFB Chelsea Studios in Manhattan on Oct. 19. Among bar stations and purple neon lights, attendees at “A Night for the Soul” moved from stage to stage, in and out of Black Woodstock Lounge and NOLA Room, taking in performances by a range of acts from the jazz world and beyond.

The evening drew $475,000 in donations—up from last year’s reported numbers—from about 750 attendees. Such critical donations have become JFA’s lifeblood, allowing the nonprofit to continue its mission of “saving blues, jazz and roots one musician at a time.”

“In this kind of roots-music arena, there’s no [other] place that touches the level of personal care and magnitude [that the Jazz Foundation does],” said Wendy Oxenhorn, founding director and vice chairperson of JFA, who told DownBeat the foundation handles up to 30 cases per day.

“If someone has cancer, and you have to pay their rent, you’re not going to be paying their rent for one month,” she said. “They’re going to undergo treatment probably three or four months, and they’re not going to be able to tour. You have to be prepared to not only pay the rent, but put food on the table. And that’s just one case.”

The party—hosted by a number of guests from film, TV and music—started early Saturday night as Bertha Hope’s quintet heated up the NOLA Room and Pharoah Sanders took the stage before an increasingly attentive crowd in the Jazz Lounge. Shushes echoed from in front of the bandstand to the back of the room as Sanders and his band stretched over multiple choruses on selections from Karma, his 1969 Impulse! set.

Over in the NOLA Room, listeners began carving out a dance floor among folding chairs and sprawling buffet tables during the New Orleans tribute sets honoring Dave Bartholomew, Art Neville and Dr. John that featured surprise guest Jon Batiste. At one point, Cyril Neville apologized to audience members for not having enough dance area, but none appeared to mind the squeeze. By the time the backbeat dropped on “Be My Lady,” half the audience was on its feet.

Back in the lounge, attendees closed in on the bandstand for the JFA Lifetime Achievement Award presentation, honoring drummer and NEA Jazz Master Roy Haynes. He accepted the award and, before delivering an extended solo performance to wild applause from JFA guests and artists who reflected multiple generations of drummers—including Billy Hart, Damion Reid and Malick Koly—Haynes led the crowd in a chorus of “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”

Steve Jordan, the event’s music director and JFA board member, later commented on Haynes’ artistic impact: “Roy Haynes is a symbol of everything that is beautiful and essential about the art form of jazz and its standing in the world order.”

Moments later, audience reaction shifted during Wallace Roney’s In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew performance that featured guitarist John Scofield and other Miles Davis alumni, including Lenny White, Darryl Jones and Bernard Wright, as well as poet and activist Felipe Luciano, who delivered stark spoken verse throughout the set. Clapping remained ebullient, but brief, between solos, suggesting no listener intended to miss what might be coming next.

“I feel we brought the revolutionary aspect and spirit of this music into our set,” Roney said later. “The spirituality, the consciousness, the freedom and the rhythm of the music was present, and these are all ideals which fuel the Jazz Foundation. And those principles, which define our music, also fuel and support humanity.”

Playing familiar hits, interdisciplinary artist and iconic producer Wyclef Jean closed out the evening to a rowdy, tightly packed crowd in the NOLA room. Among the event’s high-octane moments, several combusted for Oxenhorn, including a searing set from Sweet Georgia Brown and Melvin Taylor—whom Oxenhorn described as “what Hendrix would have sounded like at 60”—and a duo performance featuring Harlem guitarist Andy Story and David Imperioli, the son of EMMY award-winning actor and writer Michael Imperioli, who also was in attendance.

“To see this 18-year-old, David Imperioli, play with Andy Story and all his legend, you saw the blues being passed down,” Oxenhorn said. “You saw the blues being carried on by a whole new generation. And that’s what it’s all about.” DB




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April 2020
Gregory Porter
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