Jazz Lives At Duke Ellington's Resting Place See young jazz musicians honor their departed elders at a cemetery that's more like a hall of fame.

Each June 21, the one-day Make Music New York festival (MMNY) celebrates not just sound but community. It's a summer solstice gathering of the tribes for music makers and music lovers alike, with more than 1200 outdoor concerts across the five boroughs running from morning till night.

For the 2015 edition, the festival's organizers invited musicians to six different burial grounds across the city to riff on the idea of "exquisite corpse," a surrealist parlor game popularized by artists and poets in the 1920s. In the game, someone writes a phrase (or draws part of a figure or scene), folds that part of the page over, and then passes it to the next player, who then does the same. The game ends when everyone has had a turn. That game is a natural bridge to the art of improvisation, and to jazz.

The idea of community was very much on the mind of a group of musicians who play regularly at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, one of the venues within Jazz at Lincoln Center, when they gathered at Woodlawn Cemetery for this year's edition of MMNY for their own spin on the exquisite corpse idea.

Woodlawn Cemetery is a mecca for the jazz world — it's the final resting ground of royalty like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and many others, including Ornette Coleman now as well. So as a tribute to their musical forerunners, the group — singers Michael Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe, trumpeters Alphonso Horne and Bruce Harris, saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Evan Sherman and tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman — took as their point of departure W.C. Handy's 1914 tune "St. Louis Blues," a tune essential to jazz's DNA. But they made it their own via surprising and turns that saunter through many textures, colors and rhythms.

Handy himself is buried at Woodlawn. This community remembers its roots, and continues to thrive — on this summer afternoon under the shade of Ellington's adopted tree.

Set List

  • "St. Louis Blues" (Handy)

Credits

Producers: Colin Marshall, Anastasia Tsioulcas; Videographers: Colin Marshall, Chris Parks, Adam Wolffbrandt; Audio Engineers: Brian Jarboe, Drew Sher; Audio Mix: Neil Tevault; Special Thanks: Jazz at Lincoln Center, Make Music New York, Woodlawn Conservancy; Funded in part by: The Argus Fund, Doris Duke Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Wyncote Foundation; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Miles and Betty Davis in color in Miles' New York westside brownstone, 1969 Baron Wolman hide caption

toggle caption Baron Wolman

Miles Davis Goes Electric: Celebrating The 50th Anniversary

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis going electric for Bitches Brew — part controversial, part revolutionary and as a whole, historic.

Electric Miles: Behind The 'Brew'

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/751422609/751477610" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cannonball Adderley sits with his saxophone. JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley left a monumental legacy during his two decades in the spotlight. Revisit his music with old bandmates and Patrick Bartley Jr.'s young New York band.

'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/745324110/745476669" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Masego plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 8, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Masego

The spirit of Cab Calloway lives on in Masego, the singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who surprised NPR's Tiny Desk audience with a zany sense of showmanship.

Jacob Collier plays a Tiny Desk Concert on May 16, 2019. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Jacob Collier

As the NPR staff gathered to watch his performance, Jacob Collier sprinted full bore down the hallway for his set, hardly able to contain his creative energy or enthusiasm.

Mark Guiliana Justin Bettman/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Justin Bettman/Courtesy of the artist

The Artistic Duality Of Drummer Mark Guiliana

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Explore two sides of Mark Guiliana's creative brain, with two different sounding bands, from two hemispheres of the globe: The Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet from Amsterdam and Beat Music from Brooklyn.

Host Christian McBride and Saxophonist Lou Donaldson in Florida. Katie Simon/WBGO hide caption

toggle caption Katie Simon/WBGO

Good Gracious! Words Of Wisdom And Soulful Reflection From 'Sweet Papa' Lou Donaldson

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Host Christian McBride sits down with saxophonist Lou Donaldson to talk about Lou's life as a performer, his thoughts on jazz today and how hip-hop brought new ears to his music.

Good Gracious! Words Of Wisdom And Soulful Reflection From 'Sweet Papa' Lou Donaldson

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/733992956/734463789" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Turtle Island String Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Watch Carry Me Home, a program from Turtle Island, the hardest working string quartet in jazz, and their latest collaborator, pianist Cyrus Chestnut.

Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/729918599/730429366" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top