To support its COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund, the Jazz Foundation of America is pulling out all the stops.
To be clear: #TheNewGig, an all-star benefit happening Thursday night, will not involve the usual convergence of artists on a concert stage. Instead, it’ll be a livestream experience, combining videos filmed in home quarantine with pre-taped highlights from past events, including the JFA’s marquee Great Night in Harlem gala, which usually takes place in the spring.
#TheNewGig features appearances by R&B icons Bettye LaVette and Verdine White; NEA Jazz Masters Wayne Shorter and Dee Dee Bridgewater; blues heroes Robert Cray and Shemekia Copland; rock polymaths Elvis Costello and Sheryl Crow; and far-ranging New Orleans artists Ivan Neville, Jon Batiste, Davell Crawford and the Hot 8 Brass Band. The archival highlights will include performances by Sonny Rollins, Brittany Howard, Herbie Hancock, Donald Fagen and Patti Smith. Stitching it all together, as musical director, is veteran drummer and producer Steve Jordan.
“Thankfully I’ve been doing television since I was a teenager, so I know all the types of shows that can be presented,” says Jordan, who serves with his wife, Meegan Voss, as co-artistic director of the Jazz Foundation of America. “This is what you would call a live-to-tape show.”
Jordan, speaking by phone from his home in Columbia County, N.Y., describes the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the music industry as a wholesale devastation. But he empathizes especially with musicians whose livelihoods are eked out gig-to-gig.
“I know, from when I was younger, what it means when you miss a gig,” he says. “Missing one gig, getting one gig canceled, can put you over the cliff. Now we have a whole community of people who don’t have that gig. That’s what this drive is all about.”
#TheNewGig is a specific benefit for the Foundation’s COVID-19 Musicians Emergency Fund. “All the money raised through this concert goes directly to helping people in need due to the pandemic,” Jordan says.
The JFA, which provides musicians’ aid year-round, relies on separate fundraisers for its general operations; this year’s Great Night in Harlem gala, which had originally been scheduled for April 14, has tentatively been postponed to the fall.
Meanwhile, the variety of acts lined up for Thursday’s benefit invites a question: what will the unifying thread be? Jordan’s answer: “Everything is good.” He laughs.
“That’s the common denominator. You’ll find something in everything — whether it tugs at your heart, or makes you smile, makes you dance, makes you sit back and go ‘whoa.’ And we’re going to have surprise guests doing public service announcements — people who really, really love the Jazz Foundation of America, and who have done us a solid by doing some pitching for us. You’d be surprised the breadth of this music, and what it does for people.”
For more events like #The NewGig, see our Livestream Hub.