The 2017 Jazz Up Close series at the Russell Library was supported by a generous grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts, as well as a generous grant from the Shoreline Arts Alliance with the assistance of the CT Office of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. The 2017 series, “Crossing Cultures,” was curated around four musicians who expertly meld jazz with music from other cultural reference points: Sunny Jain (Indian music), Meg Okura (music of Japan), Rogerio Boccato (Brazilian music), and Robby Ameen (Latin music).
In all cases, the guest artists represented what one might call a “bilingual” approach to “ethnic” jazz hybrids. Rather than simply collaborating with jazz musicians and adding “flavor” to what they do, each of them has an intricate and broad awareness of the various elements in their music and
each of them has a distinctively unique sound in pulling these elements together. Henry and I certainly had to do our homework in doing justice to music that at times went outside of our typical wheelhouses, yet the universality in these artists’ sounds made it an inviting and not off-putting task. We both enjoyed the pursuit of that balance between finding inherent common ground and doing the preparatory work needed to fit into a comparatively unfamiliar context, and the audiences loved each of these events.
-Noah Baerman, series curator