From Harlem to Harvard

On Sunday November 6th 2016 a special tribute was held to honor the late John Watusi Branch in Harlem at the National Black Theater on 5th Ave and 125th Street. It was a very moving dedication to the work and legacy of brother Branch, who had the foresight to establish the African Poetry Theater in Jamaica, Queens N.Y. Mr Branch also sponsored several excursions to West Africa where he took folks on tour and exposed them to the culture and greatness of African society.

I was truly blessed to partake on one of his trips to Senegal many years ago. The tribute for John was historical and profound. There were many famous guest speakers in attendance as well as performances by several musical groups. There was also an incredible dance presentation to honor the original Last Poets, who also performed two poems. Closing out the evening festivities was a duo performance dedicated to the memory of John by pianist Dr Randy Weston and myself on flute and saxophone. We performed two of Dr Weston’s original compositions The Healers and The Seventh Queen.

Last Wednesday November 9th 2016, I had the absolute pleasure, honor, and privilege to be part of a unique tribute honoring NEA Jazz Master Dr Randy Weston. Harvard University recently acquired Dr Weston’s complete achieves consisting of personal papers, letters, posters, photographs, manuscripts, film, video, audio and printed music, and an assortment of memorabilia chronicling the life of a such a legendary and iconic artist of the highest calibre. Harvard University invited Dr Weston to partake in a live onstage interview followed by a performance with his African Rhythms Quintet featuring: myself as the musical director, saxophone and flute; bassist Alex Blake; percussionist Neil Clarke; trombonist Robert Trowers; and of course the Maestro on piano.

The evening festivities began in the Agassiz Theater at Harvard with an onstage conversation between Dr Weston, moderated by the extraordinary writer and musical historian Robin D.G.Kelly, as well as Harvard’s Professor Ingrid Monson. The questions asked of Dr Weston were quite poignant, pertinent, and relevant, not only in conjunction with his musical upbringing, but also regarding the history of jazz and its protagonists. Dr Weston shed light on some of his seminal recordings which manifest the beauty and greatness of the African aesthetic, as well as proclaiming the liberation of African consciousness from colonial domination. His detailed explanation of the recording Uhuru Africa from 1960 is a prime example. Dr Weston also expounded on his many travels throughout the continent of Africa and the connections between people of the African Diaspora. He ended by explaining the impetus behind his latest recording project, which is a double CD entitled The African Nubian Suite. His explanation conveys this project as a myriad of musical vignettes featuring many great artists and it depicts the historical significance of African culture throughout the world. The emphasis here is on the world’s first great empire originating in Nubia, which later gave birth to the great Egyptian Dynasties. The African Nubia Suite features percussionist Candido Camera and poet Jayne Cortez and it is dedicated to the memory of Jayne, Senegalese historian Dr Cheikh Anta Diop, and Senegalese percussionist Doudou Ndiaye Rose. It is produced by Dr Weston, co-produced by Fatoumata Weston, and associate producer T.K.Blue.

The second half of the evening was a performance by Dr Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet. The songs performed were Blue Moses, The Shrine, African Sunrise, Berkshire Blues, The African Family (arranged by T.K.Blue), and Love, The Mystery Of. In attendance were many notable musicians and very important individuals: Dr Rudy Crew, President of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn; Dr Henry Louis Gates, historian, documentary film maker, and professor of African-American Studies at Harvard University; Grammy-Award winners and professors of jazz at Berklee–Danilo Perez and Terri Lyne Carrington; Eric Gould–professor and chair of jazz composition at Berklee; Donal Fox–professional jazz pianist and recording artist; Hankus Netsky – Professor of Music at New England Conservatory; Isaiah Johnson – my former student at LIU-Post and currently enrolled in New England Conservatory; Eric Jackson–jazz DJ host; Ron Scott–jazz critic and writer for the Amsterdam News; Pierre Thiam–famous Senegalese Chef; Thurston Brisco; and an assortment of incredible folks and family paying their respect to “Baba” Dr Randy Weston.

From Harlem to Harvard: you can’t experience anything better than that!!!! God Bless
–T.K.Blue

Photo courtesy: <a href=”@johnwestbigelow”>https://twitter.com/johnwestbigelow</a>

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Welcome to the NEW T.K. Blue website

Peace, Love, and blessings to all of you. I trust everyone is in great health going into the fall season, which is filled with a lot of incredible tributes, concerts, and new recordings. The last few weeks have found me in the final stages of preparing a new website (www.tkblue.com) as well as a new CD release entitled Amour.

My current website is over 15 years old and it is being renovated to fit into today’s mobile climate. I am very excited to have Christopher Mack reconstruct my new website and it will be up and running very soon, complete with new music, photos, updated biography, and schedule page.

Amour is my 11th recording as a leader and my most ambitious project to date. This recording features many great artists who are on the cutting edge in jazz performance and it features some new original music composed specifically for this date, as well as my original arrangements of choice jazz standards. This project reflects the wonderful years I lived in Paris, France and it’s dedicated to the memory of my dear departed mom Lois Marie Rhynie. My goal is for a March 2017 release promoted with various concert performances.

Speaking of recordings, I am extremely proud to be part of a new project led by NEA Jazz Master Pianist and Composer Dr. Randy Weston. Dr. Weston’s new double CD recording is entitled The African Nubian Suite, and I am truly blessed to be an associate producer for this masterpiece. It is slated for release on January 20, 2017. This suite intertwines music and poetry with narration, and takes us on a journey involving the history of African people and its Diaspora, from antiquity to the present. It is dedicated to three giants of the African and African-American community who have transitioned to become ancestors: historian Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, musician Doudou Ndiaye Rose, and poet Jayne Cortez.

I am equally proud to perform with vocalist Joan Belgrave, the widow of jazz master trumpeter/composer Marcus Belgrave. We have two concerts coming up on November 6th and December 9th at the Metropolitan Room 34 west 22nd St in NYC. We will perform one of Marcus’s most iconic compositions called All My Love.

Sunday November 6th is also the date for a tribute to Baba John Watusi Branch, the founder of the African Poetry Theater in Queens, N.Y. Many incredible musicians, renowned speakers, and famous poets will come out to pay their respect to brother Branch who made his transition to become an ancestor last year. All will take place at the National Black Theater 2031 5th Ave and 125th Street Sunday Nov 6th from 6pm to 10pm. I will perform in duo with Dr. Randy Weston.

Lastly Dr. Weston announced sometime ago that his complete personal achieves has been donated to Harvard University. To commemorate this outstanding acquisition, Harvard will honor Randy and his African Rhythms Quintet in concert on Wednesday Nov 9th at 7pm in the Horner Room, Agassiz House, 5 James Street in Cambridge, Mass. I am looking forward to being part of this joyous celebration, which is taking place during Dr. Weston 90th birthday year!

We will keep the spirit of paying tribute to Dr. Weston and his music at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Jazz At Lincoln Center Columbus Circle in NYC on December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th

Stayed tuned to my website www.tkblue.com for more news on upcoming events. May this fall be filled with positive energy and happiness for all of you!

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