The title of “living legend” is never assigned lightly, but icon Wayne Shorter is certainly worthy of the highest praise within the Jazz community and beyond.

THE JAZZ ROOM, Jazz Arts Initiative’s monthly performance series, seeks to do just that the weekend of February 17, 2018.

Known for his success within groups, like Art Blakey and his “Jazz Messengers” and Miles Davis’ “Second Great Quintet”, Wayne Shorter has carved his place into music history with his own group “Weather Report”, and his own solo recordings.

Wayne Shorter’s efforts have earned him 10 Grammy awards, the most recent being presented in 2014. Shorter is the latest recipient of the Polar Music Prize, a Swedish international award founded in 1989 that has been awarded to the likes of Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, and B.B. King.

The Stig Anderson Music Award Foundation, the presenters of the Polar, had the following to say about Wayne Shorter:

“Wayne Shorter has written a number of the most enduring compositions in the history of jazz. Without the musical explorations of Wayne Shorter, modern music would not have drilled so deep."

Derek Douget, the featured artists in the Wayne Shorter Jazz Room performances, couldn’t agree more.

“Wayne played with ‘older cats’ and that had to have influenced his writing and playing, and that is the same for me. Every performance of his tunes is like a history lesson,” said Douget.

A two-time graduate of the University of New Orleans, Douget plays regularly with the famed Ellis Marsalis Quintet, and has been featured on Grammy winning albums with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. His continued time with that group has sent him to communities far and wide in efforts to present Jazz to diverse audiences.

Douget is passionate about the role that Jazz plays in defining himself, and the country.

“The fact that Jazz exists and is America’s music is fascinating to me… It is like the motto for all tings American. It’s simply a miracle,” he said.

Douget says the performances, on February 16 and 17, will include several classic Wayne Shorter tunes, in conjunction with some tucked away gems. He also notes that he will deliver pieces on both soprano and tenor saxophone.

“Wayne doesn’t have the same ideas and voices for soprano sax as he does tenor, and I am going to try to do the same… I just hope that audience members will feel the music is heartfelt and real, and an honest interpretation of (Shorter’s) music,” Douget said.

These performances will wrap up the tenth season of The Jazz Room.

Friday’s show times are 6:00 and 8:15 PM
Saturday’s show times are 7:00 and 9:15 PM

For tickets, visit carolinatix.org


Charlotte-based pianist Chad Lawson seeks to pay tribute to the great American composer George Gershwin in his unique style as we usher in 2018.

Jazz Arts Initiative welcomes the arrival of the New Year with the first show of its highly acclaimed monthly live music series – The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater. Renowned composer, performer and JAZZ ROOM favorite Chad Lawson returns to the Stage Door Theater to create an evening of classics by Gershwin, with a special ode to the jazz giant.

A Steinway performing artists and an educator that has served as a faculty member of the JazzArts Academy, Lawson was the first performer in The Jazz Room program back in 2013. This will be his third visit to the popular concert series

“He is a pillar of jazz… he bridged together works across several genres,” said Lawson of George Gershwin. “His simple melodies created dynamic works.”

Lawson, who’s some first piano transcriptions came from George Gershwin’s repertoire, seeks to combine Gershwin’s minimalist ideas with his own refined aesthetics.

“I try to be judicious in what I play, both in technique and in song. The space between the notes is like a garden where seeds are planted,” said Lawson.

George Gershwin’s composing methods have allowed his music to span across decades of performance, lasting from their original premieres in the early twentieth century onward into today.

“His music has stood the test of time because he wrote tunes that musicians loved… the music gave them a lot to improvise with,” said Jazz historian and emcee of The Jazz Room Curtis Davenport. “Gershwin was daring, melding classical forms to jazz styles such as ragtime, Cuban clave and the Charleston dance.”

No stranger to dipping into several different genres, Chad Lawson has experienced success at the top of classical and jazz charts.

Gershwin set the path for Leonard Bernstein and others who would come after him and be successful with the marriage of classical and jazz. Lawson is another artist strongly influenced by Gershwin’s timeless music, and hopes that audience members will share this joy with him.

“I hope everyone leaves more curious about Gershwin, wanting more of his music,” he said.

Featured on NPR’S “All Things Considered” as well as their “Performance Today”, Lawson holds certain sentiments for the piano in different and unique senses according to its particular musical purpose.

“The piano is like a symphony in a box,” he once said. “The jazz trio, however, is like one body…”  Lawson will perform with his trio for the upcoming show, but when asked of any other musicians, Lawson opted to keep those surprises under lock and key.

Showtimes for Chad Lawson’s Jazz Room tribute to George Gershwin are 6:00 PM and 8:15 PM on Friday, January 12, and 7:00 PM and 9:15 PM on Saturday, January 13.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.carolinatix.org  or by phone at 704-372-1000.

More information on Chad Lawson can be found on his website at www.chadlawson.com.

Victor "Red" Atkins on his upcoming JAZZ ROOM playing Horace Silver!

Victor “Red” Atkins is known for being a “powerful and unconventional” piano player. Victor is a native of Selma, Alabama and currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. Atkins had an early start with Jazz as his father loved Charlie Parker. At home he learned how to appreciate music and develop an ear for more complex music.

He began his professional career on Delfeayo Marsalis’ “Pontius Pilate’s Decision” record. After recording he moved on to be a professional pianist alongside many notable musicians such as Elvin Jones, Mark Whitfield, Nnenna Freelon, Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, and Leroy Jones. Subsequently he returned to school to finish his Masters at the Manhattan school of Music. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1998. Atkins is well-known for his work with Grammy-winning, New Orleans-based Los Hombres Calientes as well as his re-working of Duke Ellington's "Such Sweet Thunder," a tribute to William Shakespeare.

Not only is Victor Atkins a professional musician but also a tenured professor at the University of New Orleans, where he teaches theory, composition, jazz keyboard, and applied piano. He also works with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on compositions, and has played with them numerous times. Victor Atkins credits Donald Brown as his mentor. His studies with him had the largest impact, and it is when he developed a sincere appreciation for Jazz.

He currently says that Horace Silver is his favorite professional pianist. Victor Atkins says that he is looking forward to the JAZZ ROOM and playing Horace Silver. “He’s a recognized musician and arranger. Horace covered a lot of ground and came along at an important time in history and music. His writing was impeccable and his playing is recognizable; both of which draw from a very sincere place. He had a unique way of combining hard bop and soul…most people wouldn’t marry the two well... Horace Silver is an essential piece of American music history.”   While he is here he will concentrate on quintet arrangements, and says “it will be party.” Victor is looking forward to the JAZZ ROOM audience experiencing music he calls “accessible, but so incredibly melodic, sophisticated, and complex.”

Jazz Arts Initiative’s November edition of The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater will feature renowned drummer Kobie Watkins performing a tribute to drumming legend Philly Joe Jones.

A jazz drummer, educator, and conductor, Kobie Watkins leads the Triangle Youth Jazz Band in Durham between his teaching duties. Watkins has always admired the work played out before him from jazz pioneers like Philly Joe Jones.

“The drum is my voice. It was his voice…It was always about the music for Jones.”

Watkins has been manning drum sets since he was 8-years-old when he began playing the drums at his church. Further exposure to different kinds of music broadened his horizons.

“Whatever genre of music I could listen to or play, I did,"  said Watkins.

A resident of Durham, Watkins has had a remarkable career as a jazz drummer and educator across the Midwest and the Carolinas. After receiving multiple music degrees in Illinois, Kobie and his wife spent time in Idaho before moving south.

Kobie Watkins has always held Philly Joe Jones in high regard, from both a pedagogical standpoint as well as a humble fan.

“Jones’ rudimentary practices introduced me to methodical techniques that I had never heard,” he said. They just took me over.”

Philly Joe Jones’ incorporation of these rudiments into his playing, basic fundamentals behind most percussive music, has captured and inspired audience members and performers alike since his first appearances onstage.

Jones is perhaps most famous for playing with greats like Miles Davis, who employed the drummer full-time in his quintet and was known as Davis’ favorite drummer.

In the 1970’s, Philly Joe Joes led a fusion group, Le Grand Prix, toured with Bill Evans, recorded for Galaxy, and worked with Red Garland. In 1981, he led the group Dameronia.

Watkins is no stranger to performing with legends, as he has appeared alongside musicians such as Arturo Sandoval, Ira Sullivan, and Sonny Rollins.

The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theatre will include the hits that featured Philly Joe Jones, such as classics from the aforementioned artists.

Watkins hopes that audience members will gain an insight into the life of Jones, including his work as a civil rights activist, as well Jones’ R&B side that has influenced countless Jazz performers.

For more information about The Jazz Room shows on Friday, November 17 at 6 pm and 8:20 pm and Saturday, November 18 at 7 pm and 9:15 pm visit www.thejazzroom.org. 

For more information visit www.thejazzarts.org.

We had the chance to catch up with renowned jazz vocalist, Ms. Eileina Dennis last week as she prepares to grace the JAZZ ROOM with a tribute to the legendary, “divine” Sarah Vaughn (with strings).

Here is what we learned about the talented internationally renowned vocalist…..

When did you start singing? How have you learned to be a vocalist?

Eileina has a strong gospel music background, with much of her earlier experiences singing in church as a child. Several family members are musicians, including her father and siblings. Amazingly, Eileina is a self-taught professional artist. “The stage is my teacher” says Dennis, and “I learn on a daily basis” from being on the stage and performing. As a musician, she says her learning will never end.

Who are some of your most favorite musicians, and musical influences?

Eileina had a large list of those who influenced her music. Some of those notable musicians are “Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Stanley Turrentine, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Wynton Kelly, Roy Haynes, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Betty Carter .... There’s an endless list.  Each adds and brings a high level of creativity, excellence and depth to the art form of Jazz which I strongly admire and believe in.” From her own experience, she does not know who she is truly influenced by until performing on the stage.

What musical genres do you study? Are there any particular ways that you practice?

Eileina studies different musical genres, all while doing other daily tasks. (This would be considered her “practice regiment”.)  Dennis says, “this ranges from Brazilian, classical and of course Jazz.  At best, I go over tunes in my head so it’s more of a mental session, which can be done anywhere.   For example I do not walk around my place singing when I am not on stage. I do not know of any exercises, but I've heard some singers do this but I have no idea what that would entail.” Currently, Dennis does not coach or teach other vocalists, but has been parts of seminars world-wide, including workshops in Brazil, Italy and France.


What can we expect from you at the upcoming JAZZ ROOM show?

“I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with drummer Ocie Davis (which is how we met) and we discussed many times of doing a show together and now the opportunity has finally presented itself in the guise of this tribute.   All I can share is that I am an admirer of Sarah Vaughan... there will always and only ever be ONE Sarah.... I'm not in the business of emulating or trying to be ‘Sassy’ ... All I can do is to perform well, and to try to reach the bar of excellence which has been set.  You may or may not be able to pick out a few inflections but I'm looking forward to honoring this amazing American Jazz icon and hope to do justice to the performance.”