The Beats of NYC: Jazz, Dance, Poetry, & Spoken Word @ Lincoln Center, 1/22-1/23/10

Photo Credit: Clay Patrick McBride

“All performing arts have some sort of relation to jazz,” said Lincoln Center Orchestra drummer, Ali Jackson on the inspiration for his showcase titled The Beats of NYC: Jazz, Dance, Poetry, & Spoken Word. “Music, dance, and poetry thrive with so much variety in New York City. I’ve learned that the ‘beat’ of my chosen instrument, the drum, serves as the core of all forms of expression. Whether it’s the ‘beat’ of someone’s voice or the ‘beat’ of a classical orchestral work, the impact that percussion has had on art, and artists alike, is undeniable.”

For two nights, The Beats of NYC brought together modern and tap dancers, a variety of musicians, spoken word artists. “It just made sense to put all of those art forms together to make a new kind of program that no one expected, not even Jazz at The Lincoln Center,” said Jackson.

Set to the visual staccato of street lights in Columbus Circle, sound, movement, and message formed the fuse ignited by Jackson’s compositions. Audience members were treated to musical pieces selected at random from 16 original works developed by Jackson over the past year. “Sideways Blues” demonstrated how a set of beats can be uniquely expressed through different styles of dance: the graceful movements of modern dance and the vibrant boom of tap. A mélange of beats designed for “Homage to Influence” shook the firmament as lyricist Shelell Freeman recited “Our Vision is Our Voice” by notable poet, Dr. Sonia Sanchez. Freeman followed her recitation with an inspired original work. The softness of Jackson’s brushes on the drums contrasted with the escalating roar of the tap dancers; aural support for Freeman’s fiery message. Soulful singing by Rev. David Jefferson Jr. in “Sermonette” transported the program beyond the typical by transforming the space into one of worship and inspiring a collective hand-clap.

The high level of production and the cohesive quality of the program belied the fact that the cast and crew of Beats had only two days of full rehearsal and one soundcheck run-thru. “I can only wonder at what we could’ve done if we had more time. It was hard to manage everyone’s professional schedules but we still put on a great show given the time we did have,” said Jackson. As for the future of The Beats of NYC, Jackson hopes to develop the program further and take it on tour, “It would be great to expose more people to the project so they can see how the arts are tied together.” Inspired by each other, the performers of The Beats of NYC treated the audience to a visual, aural, and spiritual feast.

Nicole Velasco

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