Art museum to repeat its jazzy fund-raiser

September 02, 1994|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

Whether you like your jazz hot or cool, swinging or soulful, tonight's four-hour festival is sure to get your feet moving and head bobbing.

"Jazz and All That Tap" will be presented by the Maryland Museum of African Art from 8 p.m. to midnight in historic Oakland in Columbia's Town Center.

The biannual fund-raiser, first presented in May, will showcase jazz and tap artists in continuous and simultaneous performances throughout Oakland's three stories and in a large tent behind the manor.

"Whatever we can do to bring people to the museum to interact with the culture we have, we will do with art," said Doris Ligon, founder and director of the Oakland-based museum. "You have to try different ways to attract people.

"Jazz has its roots in African-American music. A direct connection is there. So we said, 'Let's get the best jazz musicians we can afford to perform nonstop and put on a top-notch jazz festival.' "

The spring festival featured live entertainment, lectures on the history of jazz, a silent auction, catered food and a cash bar.

"The crowds were great, the food was great, and the entertainment was marvelous," said Ms. Ligon of Columbia.

"People said, 'I'll be back.' Some asked us to do it every month, but we decided to do it twice a year."

For tonight's festival, the museum committee voted against presenting the same program.

"We want to re-create that good feeling, but instead of a silent auction, we decided to bring in tap -- as long as they tap to jazz," Ms. Ligon said.

"That way we're keeping right in our theme. We have to keep focused on Africa and its art."

To keep track of the performances and attractions, visitors will be given timetables and maps of Oakland.

One of the rooms will be turned into a re-creation of the Cotton Club, the famous Harlem nightclub of 1920s New York. Paintings of jazz greats will line the room.

In the Oakland library, visitors will be able to talk to two of the artists who created some of the works. "It will be a jazz reflection room," Ms. Ligon said.

A Vintage Jazz Room will be designed around a huge old-fashioned radio playing tapes of jazz artists from the 1930s -- and 1940s.

"When you walk into that room, it will be like walking into an old living room," Ms. Ligon said.

Three groups, including Tappers With Attitude, a group of about eight professional teen-age dancers as young as 13, will tap dance in the tent.

Seven videos of classic jazz and tap artists will be shown continuously, and a "Jazz Giants Photo Exhibit" of artists such as Gene Krupa, Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton will be on display.

Headlining the live entertainment will be jazz stylist Ruby Glover.

"I add history and dialogue about Baltimore and jazz singers," said the 64-year-old Baltimorean, who will discuss "the heyday of Pennsylvania Avenue."

"It was the focal point of jazz in Baltimore," she said. "There were 35 to 40 jazz clubs right on that one street.

"Baltimore was like a little Harlem when you think of the types of jazz giants that were born here or resided here."

Ms. Glover, who has performed in clubs in Baltimore, Washington, Virginia, Atlanta, Canada and Jamaica, is an artist in education in Maryland public schools and performs and lectures at Hood, Bowie, Coppin State and Morgan State colleges.

"I try to keep focus on young emerging artists to help them stay inspired," she said.

Tonight, Ms. Glover said, she will perform "some Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and my own favorite tunes of Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart."

"But it could change once you're there. The mood and tone of the evening is set by the people and the interaction.

"A great deal depends on the feel of the audience. You enter the room and scope it to see how much of the party has begun. If the mood is intellectual and soft-spoken, you keep your pace at that," she said.

Ms. Glover said she also plans to "spontaneously jam with the jazz groups."

"But I always take time for a solo of a medley of tunes."

Disc jockey Gary Ellerbe, also known as "Mr. Primetime" on Morgan State University radio station WEAA-FM, will be the festival's master of ceremonies.

Musician John Tegler returns with the John Tegler Quartet. A pilot and the president of Wings Productions, Mr. Tegler is also a writer and broadcaster for the syndicated "Jazz Straight Ahead" on WEAA-FM and on the talk show "Capital Conversation" on WCBM-AM radio.

"The last show couldn't have been better," he said. "It was such a fun evening, so well done.

"The guests do whatever they want. They sit with a drink or stroll off to hear a different group. There's a constant flow of people all the time."

His quartet will perform jazz standards and some original songs by the group's pianist Ken Stier, who has played with Jackie Gleason and Bobby Hackett.

But, being jazz artists, the group's members will be prepared to improvise. "The audience will call a tune and we'll fall in," said the Anne Arundel resident, who also teaches and writes articles on jazz.

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