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“Jazz, Jews, and African Americans” Tells The Story of the Relationships That Helped Grow, Develop Jazz

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(inset: IJS Executive Director Wayne Winborne)

Free exhibit from Oct. 15 – Dec. 13 at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey

In a remarkable alliance, the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, the John Cotton Dana Library of Rutgers University-Newark and several Newark cultural and community organizations are collaborating to chronicle the interactions between Jews and African Americans throughout the history of jazz, including today. Jazz, Jews, and African Americans: Cultural Intersections in Newark and Beyond will also focus on prominent Newark institutions, musicians and others who have made their mark in the jazz world. It opens with a reception 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18 at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, housed at Congregation Avahas Shalom, 145 Broadway, Newark, and concludes on Sunday, Dec. 13. The reception featuring jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein and his trio is free and open to the public.

Related events include:

• Sunday, Oct. 18, opening reception at the museum, 1-5 p.m., with jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein & Trio performing sets at 2 and 3:30. Free.

• Friday, Oct. 23, director Joel Katz, professor of media arts at New Jersey City University, hosts a 6 p.m. screening of Strange Fruit, his 2002 documentary about the poem that inspired Billie Holiday's groundbreaking recording of the same title, at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, Dana Library, 185 University Ave., fourth floor. Free. Registration must be made in advance at njpac.org/community.

• Sunday, Nov. 8, 2 p.m., screening of The Gig, a 1985 feature film about six Jewish amateur jazz musicians who recruit an African-American professional jazzman to help them fulfill a two-week engagement at a Catskills resort. At the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, 145 Broadway, Newark. Free.

• Sunday, Nov. 15, 2 p.m., The Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens at the Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, 151 Broadway, Newark; free.

• Sunday, Nov. 22, 2-5 p.m., Newark artist and photographer Mansa K. Mussa, conducts a workshop, “How to Make a Romare Bearden-Inspired Collage,” at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, 145 Broadway, Newark. No registration needed; free.

• Sunday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m., Wayne Winborne, executive director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark, moderates a panel discussion titled “Jazz, Jews, and African Americans: Cultural Intersections in Newark and Beyond,” co-presented by NJPAC and WBGO. Among the participants are NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber, a former longtime jazz producer, and Dan Morgenstern, former director of the Institute of Jazz Studies. In the sanctuary of Congregation Ahavas Sholom. Free but advance registration required at njpac.org/community.

• Dec. 13, 2 p.m., closing reception with pianist, author and sociologist Ben Sidran in “Jews, Music and the American Dream.” At the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, 145 Broadway, Newark. Free but advance registration required at njpac.org/community.

The exhibition is also open to visitors on Saturday, Oct. 17 for the Newark Celebration 350 Family Fun Festival in nearby Military Park, an afternoon of free events and activities to herald next year's 350th anniversary of the founding of the City of Newark.

Producers of the exhibit are the Institute of Jazz Studies, NJPAC, WBGO, and the Jewish Museum of New Jersey. Cultural partners in the project are Congregation Ahavas Shalom, the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church; Iglesia El Sembrador, First Mount Zion Baptist Church; Project New Life of New Jersey; and New Jersey City University.

The exhibit and associated programs coincide with the fourth annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC (Nov. 7-15)—the largest gathering of jazz talent in the Northeast—and is a stop on the Newark Arts Council’s Open Doors Citywide Arts Festival (Oct. 15-18).

Leading the effort on behalf of the Institute are archivist Tad Hershorn, who is curating and designing the exhibit; director of operations Vincent Pelote; and newly appointed executive director Wayne Winborne. “This has been a wonderful opportunity for the Institute of Jazz Studies to be a part of communities, which in many cases we have not been involved, and to hear different points of views on the topics,” said Hershorn. “It is through this exploration that I have been able to visually conceptualize the exhibit and accompanying text.”

The exhibit highlights the many roles that Jews have assumed in jazz: musicians; record company executives and producers; concert impresarios; managers; writers, critics and historians; photographers; composers and songwriters who helped build the Great American Song Book; and club owners, among others.

Newarkers to be profiled include:

• Wayne Shorter - saxophonist, composer and leader, whose 60-year career as a top jazz musician featured stints with Horace Silver, Miles Davis and Weather Report;

• Sarah Vaughan, one of jazz’s all-time iconic vocalists;

• Amiri Baraka, author, poet and firebrand cultural/political activist;

• Lorraine Gordon, whose first husband Alfred Lion founded Blue Note Records, followed by her second husband Max Gordon whom she succeeded as owner of the Village Vanguard;

• Rhoda Scott, organist who realized her greatest fame in Europe before returning to Newark several years ago;

• James Moody, alto saxophonist a longtime Newark resident and associate of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie;

• Stride pianists James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Donald Lambert;

• Grachan Moncur III, free jazz trombonist and composer;

• Teddy Reig, record producer who worked for Newark’s own Savoy Records (where he recorded some of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker’s early classic records) and later Roulette Records;

• Paul Bacon, designer best known for his work on dust jackets for such books as Portnoy’s Complaint and Catch 22, but also for designing covers for over 200 albums for the Blue Note and Riverside labels;

• Barbara Kukla, a writer whose devotion to Newark jazz history has resulted in two books and;

• Dan Morgenstern and Ed Berger, former director and associate director, respectively, of the Institute of Jazz Studies, and director of operations Vincent Pelote, who worked together for 34 years

The exhibit will also address longstanding and sensitive questions surrounding the contributions of non-African American groups -- including Jews -- making their mark in an African American art form. These issues take center stage with “blackface” traditions, in which white performers assumed a black identity to convey their music by obscuring their identities under a layer of burnt cork, most popularly recalled by Al Jolson’s performance in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer (which in reality had nothing to do with jazz). Equally controversial is the question of whether those non-African Americans were guilty of appropriating jazz to succeed in the entertainment business, leading African Americans to feel frustrated and resentful as others capitalized on their treasured musical legacy.

Also examined will be the vile degradation of Jews, African Americans and jazz through Nazi propaganda, which disparaged jazz as “degenerate art,” and the toxic anti-Semitic writings of automobile magnate Henry Ford.

Finally, another aspect of the Newark story will illuminate the state of jazz in the city today.

For further information, please contact Max Herman, president of the Jewish Museum of New Jersey at mherman2@njcu.edu, or Tad Hershorn at the Institute of Jazz Studies at hershorn@rulmail.rutgers.edu.

About The Institute of Jazz Studies
The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark is the world's foremost jazz archive and research facility. It was founded in 1952 by Marshall Stearns (1908-1966), a pioneer jazz scholar. In 1966, Rutgers was chosen as the collection's permanent academic home. IJS is part of the Rutgers University Libraries, and in 1994 moved to spacious new quarters on the fourth floor of the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers University-Newark. The Institute is used by students from Rutgers (especially those in the Master's Program in Jazz History and Research) and other institutions, teachers, scholars, authors, independent researchers, musicians, the media, record companies, libraries and other archives, and arts agencies. The Institute of Jazz Studies has been designated as “A Literary Landmark” by the New Jersey Center for the Book in the National Registry of the Library of Congress, October 2013.

About Rutgers University – Newark
Rutgers University - Newark is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. Approximately 12,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School-Newark, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the School of Law-Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration.

At a historical moment when our cities, our state, our nation, and our world desperately need higher education to fulfill its promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility. Rutgers University – Newark is exceptionally well positioned to fulfill that promise. It has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It has the right mix of disciplines and first-rate interdisciplinary centers and institutes to take on those questions and challenges. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world. Most importantly, Rutgers University - Newark brings an incredible diversity of people to this work—students, faculty, staff, and community partners—making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant for our time and the times ahead.

About The Jewish Museum of New Jersey
The Jewish Museum of New Jersey was founded in 2003. It is housed at Congregation Ahavas Sholom, a state and national landmark and the oldest continually active synagogue in Newark.

About WBGO Newark Public Radio
Within public radio, WBGO is regarded as a leader because of its ground-breaking work in community and volunteer involvement, special events, and the presentation of jazz (including collaboration with local artists). Founded in 1979, WBGO is a publicly-supported, cultural institution located in the heart of downtown Newark. WBGO is one of the original 12 New Jersey cultural organizations that has been designated a "Major Impact" arts organization by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and has been awarded this distinction for each of the past 20 years.