Thelonious Monk Institute brings ‘peer-to-peer’ jazz program to Buffalo - The Buffalo News
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Thelonious Monk Institute brings ‘peer-to-peer’ jazz program to Buffalo

In my experience, when it comes to music, kids learn by doing. Yes, educational foundation is hugely important, but real experience tends to be the avenue by which young musicians form a genuine bond with music and the act of music making. This is true in all forms of music, but perhaps applies most significantly to jazz, where playing, listening and learning to interact in ensemble formats is paramount to a successful foray into the music.

The Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute – named for the groundbreaking, renegade pianist and composer – takes as its mission statement Monk’s philosophy, namely, that the best way to learn jazz is via exposure to a master of the form. A residency in Western New York this week – culminating in a public performance at 8 p.m. Friday in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) – will put this theory to the test.

For this week’s series of “informances,” five upper-level musicians from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts will be joined by saxophonist Antonio Hart (who has played with Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Dave Holland) and Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition winner Lisa Henry.

The Monk Institute ensemble will meet with and perform for students at City Honors High School today and at South Park High School on Friday.

Part of the educational aspect of these performance-workshops will be the discussion of the idea that a jazz ensemble represents a perfect democracy, and how the acts of listening, interacting and forcing one’s ego to bow before the greater good of the ensemble might be applied to life.

For Friday’s performance in the Tralf, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts will be joined by Hart, Henry and Buffalo’s Bobby Militello for a celebration of the democratic ideal of jazz in real-time. Tickets are $20 general admission, and $10 for students with ID (box office, Ticketmaster). This is an all-ages event, and young people are encouraged to attend.

The land of NOD

“We are a power trio (that) plays very energetic, improvisatory jazz fusion. We come on time, blow peoples’ minds, and leave.”

This is perhaps the finest, most fat-free band bio that has passed across my desk. And man, an awful lot of band bios have passed across my desk. NOD, the power trio in question, hails from Rochester, and does indeed offer a fiery brand of improvisational music that is suffused with barnstorming attitude, but also is full of nuance and sophistication. NOD will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Central Park Grill (2519 Main St.). Very appropriately, Buffalo duo Wazuri – drummer David “the Waz” Wasik and bassist Zuri Elise Appleby – will share the bill. Admission is free.

Love song to Buffalo

Peter McGennis’ film “Queen City” celebrates the rich history of Buffalo music and simultaneously displays our city in a flattering light, through its loving presentations of local architecture and an attention to detail that might be lost on anyone who hasn’t lived here and experienced the bittersweet civic pride our city can engender. The film features the likes of Susan Tedeschi, Sharon Jones and James Cotton, all of whom offer often startling and always visceral performances, many of them reprised during the after-party celebrating the film’s initial release. That party was held at the Tralf Music Hall last year - appropriately, since director McGennis counts among the deepest musical experiences of his youth nights spent at the same club with his parents, who were patrons of the regional musical arts. Now that “Queen City” is seeing release on DVD and Blu-ray, McGennis is throwing another party in the film’s honor, once again at the Tralf, this time hosted by the inimitable Lance Diamond. The party takes place at 7 tonight.Admission is free.


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