One of RMI’s missions is to give people REAL access to the soul and beauty of jazz music. We say “real” access because often simply having a concert occur in a particular community isn’t enough (though it is certainly an important component). Jazz, and especially instrumental jazz, has a layer of abstraction that can initially be off-putting to some would-be listeners. BUT, we have found that this can often be overcome just by giving those folks a bit of understanding – what’s going on in the music, what’s the inspiration behind it and who are the real humans creating it? This is not an academically hoity-toity question of deeply understanding history and theory (though for those motivated accordingly those are exceptionally stimulating areas), this is a much simpler matter of giving people who have ears and emotions a few basic tools with which they can connect those things – to feel the depth of emotions evoked by these sounds.
This is the basis of the Jazz Up Close idea. The artists explain their process and inspiration and attendees get to engage in meaningful dialogue. If you have musical training, great. If you have none whatsoever, great. This access requires nothing more than attentiveness and curiosity.
The 2015 Jazz Up Close series at the Russell Library was supported by a generous grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts. 2015 guests included Freddie Bryant, Johnathan Blake, Nadje Noordhuis and Victor Lewis. The MCA also lent their support to “Spanning Generations,” the 2016 series, which featured the age-diverse roster of Caroline Davis, Monnette Sudler, Steve Wilson, and Godwin Louis. 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 addition to renewed MCA support, the 2017 series was made possible through 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.