Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebrate the History of Jazz

It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms... It has calmed us with its rich harmonies. The musician returns to the roots to affirm that which is stirring within the soul...and creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument. Jazz is exported to the world from America...This is triumphant music.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Join us at the Central Library on Wednesday, February 24 at 6:30 PM as the African American Museum of Iowa presents jazz musician Ray Blue. Blue has been described as a natural connector - a conduit, a channel, a bridge and as an intuitive communicator who speaks eloquently, in and through his music. With a brilliant balance between passion and precision, Ray Blue swoops and soars through a melody then launches into a spirited solo, engaging a soulful communication that leaps off the bandstand and speaks deeply to the audience. Blue has shared the stage with a host of world-renowned musicians, including Steve Turre, Eddie Henderson, Gary Bartz, T.K. Blue, Blues Legend Bob Gaddy, Wycliff Gordon, Benny Powell, Sun Ra Arkestra and The Cotton Club All-Stars. He currently holds a chair with the Spirit of Life Ensemble, and tours annually with The Ray Charles Show.

Early on, Ray Blue's Junior High School music teacher introduced his class to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, proclaiming, "This is your music". That simple statement set his whole program into motion, ensuring that "passing it on" would always play a large part of Ray's program.

As passionate about passing on the legacy of jazz to young musicians as he is about letting loose on stage, he is one of the art form's most inspiring mentors. An educator/clinician, Mr. Blue consults at colleges, universities, schools and communities around the world. Since 2002, Mr. Blue's Pro-Am Ensemble, which grants student musicians the opportunity to prepare, rehearse and perform with professional musicians has been conducted in a workshop setting, and presented in the U.S., Germany, Finland, South Africa, Gabon and China.

Ray Blue is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Wm. Penn University, which annually presents The Ray Blue Jazz Award to a graduating senior. In addition, Wm. Penn University hosts the annual Ray Blue Jazz Education Festival for High School and College musicians.

Blue's roaming spirit led him to forge a European alliance in 2000. His frequent tours through Europe led him to establish dual residences in Berlin and NYC, with his wife Riitta, who hails from Finland. With a long-held desire to establish a connection in Africa, in 2003 Mr. Blue made his first trek to South Africa. While performing with South African musicians, conducting jazz and educational workshops, a unique synthesis of musical language began to unfold, resulting in a fantastic fusion of American and African cultures, rhythms and melodies. People listened, danced, and profoundly resonated. For Ray this was like coming back home. Ray returns to Africa each year to perform, study and conduct workshops. This experience has led to Cross-Continental Spirit (Afro-Jazz Project).

Blue regularly performs on numerous world stages with musicians from many different cultures, throughout Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. As a leader, he has conducted U.S. State Department tours to Zambia, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Gabon. His festival performances as leader and featured artist include: Zanzibar International Film Festival, Zanzibar, Tanzania; North Sea Jazz Festival-Cape Town, South Africa; Macufe Festival-Bloemfontain, South Africa; European Union Annex Festival-Dublin, Ireland; Audi Jazz Festival-Brussels, Belgium; Macao Jazz Festival, China; The Newport in New York Festival, New York, NY; New York State Black Arts Festival-Albany, New York; Koepenick Jazz Festival-Berlin, Germany; Midi Music Festival-Beijing, China; Pori Jazz Festival, Finland; Foix Jazz Festival, France; Bayonne Jazz Festival, France and many others.

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