It’s hard to overstate the immeasurable legacy left behind by Nina Simone, one of jazz music’s most inventive and resilient icons. Born on this day, February 21, in 1933, Simone quietly produced an output of almost two dozen albums spanning classical, blues and early R&B, while channeling bold social commentary and civil rights activism through her work. While she only received two GRAMMY Award nominations in her lifetime (and two posthumously), Simone’s artistry continues to earn newfound meaning through the music of countless contemporary artists, documentaries and books. Today, as part of our ongoing celebration of Black History Month, we’re taking a look at why Nina Simone’s contributions to music are cemented in history.
“Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these. This is triumphant music.”
Last month we celebrated the legacy of Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a courageous African American visionary who challenged our nation to allow all citizens, regardless of skin color, to have the opportunity to reach their potential—as promised in the U.S. Constitution. He is one of the many African Americans who persisted in spite of tremendous adversity to help secure the civil liberties we enjoy today. His story is one of many. African Americans have made important contributions to all areas of American life. And this month, Black History Month, is an annual celebration of those contributions. As a funder of projects that build and strengthen communities through music, today we’re turning the spotlight on three African American jazz musicians who’ve used their talents to do just that. Continue reading →
Barbara Morrison performing at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena in 2014
This month, we’re listening to wailing saxophones, mesmerizing piano arpeggios and groovy drum rhythms. That’s right—we’ve got jazz on our minds and in our ears as Jazz Appreciation Month kicks off! Influenced by blues music and other musical styles originating in African American communities, the jazz genre started permeating dance clubs and bars in the early 20th century, and with the venues’ increased popularity during the prohibition era, the Jazz Age of the 1920s was born. Since then, the original swinging form of jazz has expanded into numerous subgenres, from bebop to Latin Jazz, tapping into the improvisational talents of musicians of all kinds.
Levitt venues have seen many a jazz artist grace their stages, each with a unique take on this rich genre. Some of these acts have even performed alongside jazz’s most influential musicians and are major players in their own right, having made significant contributions to the genre. While it’s impossible to choose our favorite jazz acts, here are four to start with—all of whom played Levitt stages over the years! Continue reading →
It’s an early midsummer evening, just cool enough for a light sweater or jacket. You might not bring one at all. After all, the sun doesn’t set until after nine these nights.
There’s a light breeze as you walk over to the park in the center of town. When you arrive, you find the perfect spot for your folding chairs, snacks and good conversation. There’s jazz on tonight—it might be legendary jazz vocalist Barbara Morrison, pianist Yuko Mabuchi or GRAMMY-winning Ernie Watts Quartet. Whatever it is, it’s always great, and it’s always free, the way it has been for the past eleven years.