The Apollo Theatre in Harlem played host on Monday (9/24) to the Jazz Foundation of America's special fundraising extravaganza benefiting its Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund. "A Great Night in Harlem" featured performances by jazz royalty including Randy Brecker, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Owens, Max Roach, Cassandra Wilson, Phil Woods and many others. Jazz patrons Bill Cosby and Gil Noble served as master of ceremonies.
Saxophonist Randy Brecker (center) is applauded by BMI's Charlie Feldman and Jean Banks
"There hasn't been an event like this since the 1950s," said JFA President Leo Corbie. JMEF Executive Director Wendy Atlas Oxenhorn, the originator of the event, added, "These jazz artists gave their lives to play. They are the pioneers of America's art form. They became survivors and still managed to keep the music alive. For most of them, help is not something they are used to getting, nor do they believe it is available, or pride prevents them from asking."
BMI's Charlie Feldman and Jean Banks stop to chat with jazz great Jon Faddis and Chesky Records President Norman Chesky
Special awards were also presented including the Billy Taylor Humanitarian Award to JFA Founder Herbert F. Storfer and the Medicine for Music Award to Dr. Frank Forte of Englewood Hospital and Dr. Robert Litwak of Mount Sinai Hospital, for giving free medical care to so many jazz artists.
Noted trumpet player Jimmy Owens (right), who also served as the evening's musical director, shares a laugh with BMI's Jean Banks
Since 1989, the JFA has helped hundreds of uninsured jazz musicians by providing free health services through partnerships with Englewood Hospital & Medical Center's Dizzie Gillespie Memorial Fund and Harlem Hospital. The JFA also assists in preventing evictions, paying rent arrears, providing emergency living expenses and helping with instrument-related problems. This year, the Jazz Foundation has even helped find employment for some of the many musicians they assist by arranging teaching/performances in the public schools, introducing jazz to thousands of children.
photos: Robbin Ahrold