The second “Journey Through The Legacy of Black Culture” Revive Big Band Performance was held earlier this month on August 7. Special guests included Nicholas Payton, Esperanza Spalding, as well as Bilal. “The general inspiration behind the show is just life,” Revive Big Band leader Igmar Thomas stated during an interview with Boiler Room. Okayplayer family contributor Elijah Watson was on the ground at Central Park on August 7 and recapped the event recently in his post “The Entire History of Black Music In One Summer’s Day.”
Accompanied by the Revive Big Band, Thomas took audience members through the past and present of black American music at Central Park’s SummerStage this past Sunday.
Beginning with a selection from the 1800s, Revive guitarist Marvin Sewell played a blues arrangement that set off the evening’s festivities. Through his melancholy guitar strums, Sewell slowly created a sonic narrative for those in attendance. You could imagine a black blues singer crooning underneath a night sky, his only catharsis his guitar and his voice. For a moment, he turns his troubles into melodies, escaping the harsh realities of the world through the blue notes played.
This is what he looks most forward to every day: this moment that gives him the strength to rise another day.
From there the Revive Big Band went into a gospel selection sung by Taharqa Patterson, transforming the SummerStage into a Sunday morning church service. Following that was a dixieland jazz arrangement honoring the “jazz ambassador of the world” Louis Armstrong, with trumpeter Nicholas Payton leading the Revive Big Band.
Payton served as an integral part to the creation of “A Journey Through The Legacy Of Black Culture,” not only performing alongside the Revive Big Band but having inspired Igmar to explore the idea of black American music in the first place. “There is no such thing as a ‘jazz’ anything,” Payton wrote in a response post to a previous piece he had written titled “On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore.” “What the above listed share in common is that they are Black Americans, not jazz musicians, and their music is indicative of the Black experience — which is multidimensional.”
Personal opinions of what jazz is and isn’t aside, Payton is right in that the artists he references in the piece (Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson) are black, and therefore are brought together through their respective black experience. Sure, a genre might be used to categorize them from one another, but they all come from the same place.
Following the dixieland jazz arrangement was “Infant Eyes,” a song inspired by iconic jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Special guest Esperanza Spalding took the stage to perform the ballad alongside one of the band’s saxophonists, the two taking melodic cues from each other to create one of the more memorable performances of the night.
Get the full scoop on Okayplayer’s recap of the show — including photographs and videos — here.