When my dear friend Sue, whom I’ve known since first grade, invited me to a jazz show fundraiser I immediately said yes. As I’ve been studying Jack Kerouac, I’ve been reading a lot about how he frequented the jazz clubs of Harlem and wrote jazz reviews. I’m kind of a method writer, and I like to get out and experience what I’m writing about. And of course it’s great to be able to help others just by doing something you love — listening to music and eating great food. And when I say great food, I mean they had fried olives stuffed with blue cheese! Afterwards, I asked Sue if she’d be interested in doing a little write up, and she not only agreed but was so enthusiastic about it. Below she shares about this worthwhile fundraiser, the great music, and the cute moment we shared with people at our table:
Jack, Josie and I hurriedly rushed into the restaurant. We finally arrived at Lura Restaurant Lounge at 949 Columbus Avenue (Duke Ellington Blvd and 106th Street), way uptown. We were running late for the Jazz for Peace Event, the Global Alliance for Community Development’s (GACD) 2nd Anniversary Fundraiser. Jack serves on GACD’s Board of Directors, and the three of us work for the same company in midtown, where we were rushing in from. I was to meet my friends, Mike and Stephanie, at Lura by 7pm. I walked in and looked around. To my left, Steph sat alone at a table, dressed in black, buried deep in a book. Mike was off to my right at the bar, looking directly at me and smiling.
Josie and I gathered Mike and joined Steph at the table. I know them; they know of each other. The usual chatter ensued, and drinks and food were ordered. Lura has an exceptional menu, and we had a hard time deciding what to get. Everything looked (and was) scrumptious. As we settled in, David McCoy, Executive Director of GACD, stood up in front of the room and talked about the work they are doing and aspire to do and the results of their labor up to that point. One of the most inspiring initiatives that he described was the water programs GACD has designed in collecting and filtering rainwater for communities. It made one feel so proud to be a part of this great cause in some way and was an appropriate reminder of what was going on outside of the room. He turned our attention over to Rick DellaRatta and Jazz for Peace* and, appropriately for a late October evening, they opened up with “Autumn Leaves.”
I noticed that Josie was talking to an elderly couple at the next table. The man was keeping half-time with his hand on the table and on his knee, joking that the music was too fast for old people to dance to. Josie, who was sitting closest to the woman, was deep in conversation, probably partly due to the fact that one could hardly hear anyone unless he or she was right next to you. After a few moments, Josie revealed to us that this couple happened to be, in fact, the parents of the keyboardist and vocalist, Rick DellaRatta. The man, DellaRatta’s father, had been a musician in the War, and his wife, DellaRatta’s mother, was a pianist who had played with him. They’d been married for over 50 years. DellaRatta’s father displayed so much insight into the music being played, the technicalities of it, how each instrument contributed to the overall sound. The bassist plucked away, with all ten fingers at one point. The drummer, who looked like a teenager, blew everybody away with the seeming madness of his drumming. He paused and syncopated with so much force, yet absolute grace and control. The saxophonist, who stood in front, slightly to the right of the stage, whenever I looked over at him, would just be standing there, still, looking out at the audience. Every so often, you’d hear him first, the singing, soaring sounds of the sax, running up and down the octaves where his fingers, all of a sudden, were a blur, a complete contrast to his previous state of inertia. The energy emanating from the stage forced one to stop what one was doing, or even thinking about, and to just feel the music, to let the symphony flow through you and move you.
The next day at work, Jack and I agreed that the night was too short. Josie and I were anxious to see the pictures Mike had taken of us inside and outside the venue.
Please see links for more information on GACD and how you can help support them and their more-than-worthy cause to combat poverty. Hope to see you at GACD’s 3rd Anniversary Fundraiser!
Sue J. Chang lives in Manhattan, NY in Battery Park City and publishes mixes on 8tracks.com.
* Via: On September 25, 2002 Jazz pianist and vocalist Rick DellaRatta was invited to lead a band consisting of Israeli, Middle Eastern, European, Asian and American Jazz Musicians in a concert inside the United Nations for an International audience in what is now considered one of the significant cultural events of our time. Rick named this band JAZZ FOR PEACE™ and has since performed over 800 Benefit Concerts to raise funds, publicity and awareness for outstanding organizations in need worldwide. In addition Jazz for Peace performs educational programs bringing music and Jazz back into the schools and donates musical instruments to underprivileged children. Jazz for Peace concerts have featured Rick DellaRatta along with such notable jazz artists as Paquito D’Rivera, Victor Lewis, Lenny White, Eddie Gomez, Dave Valentin, Ray Mantilla, Rick Margitza and many others. Mr. DellaRatta’s Jazz influenced orchestral composition “Permutata” was recently recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. For more information please visit http://www.jazzforpeace.org