The Light is meant to serve as a symbol of truth, love … and hope. Hope that even in a dark season we may begin to see the world “Bending Towards the Light”
First, a little history:
New York City, 1985 I, Anne Phillips, got a surprise call from John Garcia Gensel , the “Jazz Priest” at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. He had suggested me as the writer of “The Jazz Nativity” to be used as a benefit at the church. “Why me???” I thought! Then I began to picture the lights going out and the sound of a solo tenor saxophone gently playing Silent Night in the darkness and I was off and running.
BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT … A JAZZ NATIVITY was born.As Howard Reich wrote in the Chicago Tribune:“The Christmas story told in thoroughly American terms” “A new New York tradition," New York Magazine“As always, The Jazz Nativity is a major event” Wall Street Journal“a spiritual classic”“None of the classics is half so giddy, nor so utterly entertaining as The Jazz Nativity that burst onto the stage of Orchestra Hall…”
A light, that symbol of hope in so many religions and philosophies, would represent the Christ. The Kings, dressed in glorious costumes, would come from the rear of the hall and present their gifts … not gold and frankincense and myrrh, but the gift of their talent!
Year after year, the greats of the world of jazz … Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Al Grey, Jon Faddis, Phil Woods, Jon Hendrix, Paquito D'Rivera, Candido, Maurice Chestnut, Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, the tap-dancing Kings, Honey Coles, Harold Nicholas, Jimmy Slyde, have performed at Avery Fisher Hall, The Lambs Theater, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Birdland, BBKing’s and even The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue!
Directors Beth and Tad Jones have staged Bending Towards the Light like an opera, a jazz opera, that everybody loves. Photo: Judy KirtleyJazz aficionados, children, people who think they don’t like jazz come back year after year. Its been called the “Peter and The Wolf” of jazz!.
Charles Kuralt, our host for many years, wrote “This is a very spiritual story and jazz is a very spiritual music. What you will hear tonight comes straight from the heart.” Starting with that haunting "Silent Night" played by my husband and co-producer, tenor saxophonist BobKindred,the joy and love on the stage spills off the stage building an excited and often new jazz audience! The CD of the show with all these great stars is available to hear and buy on CDBaby
In 2012 we took a big step. We translated the show into Spanish!
The Jazz Nativity 2012 welcomes:
Three Kings:•trombonist Steve Turre•dancer Max “Rumba tap” Pollak•trumpeter Ray VegaWith:•New York’s “singing policeman” Daniel Rodriguez•jazz singer Claudia Acuña•soprano Brenda Feliciano•singer Mauricio Trejo•singer Jorge Ocasio•saxophonist David deJesus•singer Franshees RicardoSpecial guests:•percussionist Candido•percussionist Chembo Corniel•percussionist Bobby Sanabria•trumpeter Enrique Sanchez•pianist Alex BrownThe vocal group: Shadia Almasri, Elise Hernandez, Bert Dovo and Edwin David VargasThe band:Michael Mossman, Jon Gordon,Bob Kindred, Art Baron, Adam Asarnow, Dean Johnson, and Tim HornerWritten by Anne PhillipsDirected by Beth and Tad JonesMusical Director Bob KindredKings photo: Barbara GalatiVideo cover Photo: Dave RubinOther photos: Judy Kirtley, Peter SerlingPromo video & web: Susanne JoshuaPerformance materials, including solo and choral arrangements, available: Wyomissing Music170 West End AvenueNY, NY 10023
The audience was captivated from the first note as Daniel Rodriguez, New York's "Singing Policeman" who became so well known after performing at the 9/11 memorials, sang the title song.
Latin Jazz greats, Bobby Sanabria, Ray Vega, Chembo Carniel, Arturo O'Farrill, Steve Turre, Max "Rumba Tap" Pollak and of course two regulars, Paquito D'Rivera and Candido played as the all Latino cast sang it in Spanish. Each person on stage brought such beautiful passion and rhythm to this new born Nativity.
Tony Bennett greets Candido and cast backstage 2012
So now we have “Bending Towards the Light … A Jazz Nativity” and “Inclinando Hacia la Luz … La Natividad en Jazz.” It is hard to explain the power of the show. Unless you have seen it, felt the joy, admiration and love for each other and for the music that pours out from the musicians and singers on the stage into the hearts of the people there, you can’t know what it is. It is a continuing surprise to me.Dr. Billy Taylor on CBS Sunday Morning said, “By the end of 'The Jazz Nativity' you know you’ve been through something wonderful!” In recent years I have often served as host. Every year as I repeat those beautiful words Charles Kuralt wrote, “hope … that even in a dark season, we may begin to see the world "Bending Towards the Light” I have to fight back the tears because every year the world seems darker.
We are an extremely small non-profit with extremely big goals!!!
We have kept the show alive on a shoestring. All the star performers have worked for scale because they love it. We have never been able to get major corporate sponsorship (what are your demographics? … jazz is a niche market … uh-uh, not like this!) There is never enough money for advertising. We’ve taken some financial hits… a couple of blizzards, the NYC transportation strike … ouch! But we haven’t let it die. Some Jazz Nativity fans have helped with support each year so we have been able to keep ticket prices in a reasonable range. It is such a wonderful family event and a great jazz audience builder! Our Jazz Nativity Children’s Project even led us to starting Children’s Jazz Choirs, giving inner city children the opportunity to experience the show and then to learn and perform the songs of our Great American Songbook and jazz heritage. Unexpectedly, it has turned out to be a great asset in developing their reading skills!
And we've got a lot to look forward to! Two great Spanish filmmakers, Fernando Trueba (Calle 54, Chico and Rita, The Artist and the Model) and Carlos Carcas, (Old Man Bebo) love it and want to see both shows filmed for international television distribution. The show is performed every year in other cities. We hope to bring it to the world.
"And so we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, we who are bound together by the spirit of Love. And when we go out into the world we become the doors and windows through which the presence of that Love is revealed. Like a radiant light it shines from our eyes, our works, our acts.”Jazz Nativity Epilogue, Vicki Verploegen Vandergrift