It’s not too late to experience one of the biggest jazz festivals in Wisconsin history

Broken Shadows, a new concept supergroup with (L-R) Reid Anderson, Tim Berne, Dave King and Chris Speed, will be a highlight of events surrounding the Isthmus Jazz Festival in Madison. The quartet plays on June 16th (details below) . Courtesy SF JAZZ Center

The 2018 Isthmus Jazz Festival in Madison is well underway but it has reimagined and reinvented itself into one of the largest jazz festival events in Wisconsin history. In collaboration with the Madison Jazz Consortium, the fest has done this by reclaiming and redistributing its resources into a vast, community-oriented event that also seems unique in the state’s history.

So even if you’re only a not-too-long-drive away, it’s promising to be a remarkably rich cultural experience.
The event has expanded to ten days, having begun on June 1 and running officially through this Sunday.

Plus, several major events extend beyond the official festival, further into June but adding up to an extraordinarily rich extension of the festival’s ambitious parameters.

The Isthmus Festival has both more free and richly diverse events, and more ticketed events than in the past. Among the notable events already passed are the Emerson Hunton Quintet with Greg Ward and Russ Johnson along with the former city poet laureate Fabu’s publication celebration for her book about Mary Lou Williams; the brilliant multi-instrumentalist and conceptualist Hanah Jon Taylor’s commissioned new work “Songs for the Emerging Man;” The New Breed Jam’s “Wayne Shorter Night;” and the ingenious Chicago flamenco jazz guitarist Goran Ivanovic.

AND TODAY, FRIDAY, the unique and popular Strollin’ State Street neighborhood series continues into the evening with events at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, on the UW-Madison campus mall, and Fair Trade Coffee, Nick’s Restaurant and Parthenon Gyros, all on State Street.

Among today’s most appealing events is The PLUGGED IN & SCRAP METAL HORNS at BEHIND THE BEAT JAZZ SERIES.  Madison’s newest eleven-piece band covers 60 years of jazz, R&B, and horn-rock.  Their repertoire includes Santana to St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Dusty Springfield, Ray LaMontagne, Chicago, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats 5-7pm. Friday. It’s free admission at  UW Memorial Union Terrace, 800 Langdon St.

Isthmus Festival Saturday events continue thusly:

And then, a number of notable and compelling events extend through the month, although not part of the official four-day event.
Among the events to mark on your calendar are:

June 17:  BROKEN SHADOWS at ARTS + LITERATURE LABORATORY.  Broken Shadows, a new project (named for an Ornette Coleman album) features four world-class musicians hailing from the urban northern half of America. Tim Berne (sax), Chris Speed (clarinet/sax), Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King (drums) have banded together to reinterpret the timeless sounds of great men from the rural South and heartland of the country: Ornette Coleman, Julius Hemphill, Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden. The group symbolically and culturally strives to bridge an historic divide that remains deep in America, between the South and North. 8pm. ALL, Arts + Literature Laboratory, 2021 Winnebago.  Tickets $20 advance; $25 at the door.

Another highlight should be:

Paal Nissen-Love’s Large Unit. Courtesy downtown music.net 

June 23:  PAAL NILSSEN-LOVE’S LARGE UNIT at WILMAR CENTER.  Presented

byArts + Literature Laboratory, Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit debuted at the Molde Jazz festival July 2013 and has since toured Norway and played festivals all over Europe.  Consisting of mostly younger Norwegian musicians, Large Unit manifests as “an intense powerhouse force on stage, but also veers into more subtle and textural passages.”  953 Jenifer St., 8pm. Tickets $20 advance; $25 at the door.

Also consider a band that reflects Madison growing tradition of Afro-Latin-oriented jazz:

6/24:  GOLPE TIERRA at ALLEN CENTENNIAL GARDEN.  The irresistible acoustic groove of Golpe Tierra will kick off the 2nd Summer Sunday concert series at ACG.  Nick Moran, Juan Tomas Martinez, Tony Barba, and Richard Hildner comprise this guerrilla-style ensemble, employing the traditional Afro-Peruvian guitar-bass-cajón set-up. The group embarks on a musical journey throughout Latin-America, encompassing blues, jazz, and shades of soul. Allen Centennial Garden, 620 Babcock Dr., 5pm.  Free admission & nearby parking.  Bring a chair for comfort.

But these are only selected highlights. For a complete schedule of this remarkable event visit: Isthmus Jazz Festival 2018

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A poignant but pointed memorial for a deadly Memorial Day in Riverwest

This small memorial was attached to a tree in Riverwest Milwaukee’s Kern Park, after a fatal shooting on Memorial Day. Photo by Kevin Lynch

 

I’ll get to the city’s latest national exposure for its most recent police brutality and no, it doesn’t have to do with Sterling Brown. But first, this blog strives to take a larger perspective on things like brutality in the big city. I would note a sad and tragic counterpoint to such nastiness, provided by a person who posted a trenchant memorial to a man fatally shot Monday during Memorial Day picnicking in Kern Park in Riverwest, the neighborhood where I live, and a few blocks away from where I type this post.

I truly do love the hip, diverse and gracefully lived-in Riverwest neighborhood, and have celebrated it on this blog. I have resided here for the majority of my adult years in Milwaukee. But I do not want to idealize the neighborhood, rather underscore that Riverwest is part of the real world.
This homicide, which remains an open case with no perpetrator yet caught, occurred in a park that I enjoy and partake of. I frequently go to Kern Park to take its walkways down to  scenic, meandering Milwaukee River pathways. I also sometimes enjoy shooting buckets at the basketball courts faintly visible a ways beyond the “memorial tree” (depicted at top).

Witnesses say they saw the victim, Juan Bernal, on the basketball courts –- when they heard gunfire at around 2 p.m. Monday, Memorial Day.

“Everybody disappeared from the basketball court. He came running across the park and that’s when he fell on the street,” said Janelle Bentson, a witness told Fox 6 news.

An officer and police dog investigate a fatal shooting near the basketball courts in Kern Park in Riverwest. Photo Courtesy Fox 6

Along with flowers, the anonymous memorializer attached – to a tree near where Bernal fell – a small piece of wood, dated “5/28/18” and bearing the handwritten comment: “Don’t worry about the cops killing us, we’re doing a good job.”

The sign appears to address the issue of so-called “black-on-black” violence, part of the larger urban social fabric in America that’s badly torn, and abused and exploited by the institutional racism of Wisconsin’s judicial and prison system. Statistics show that people of color are arrested, sentenced and imprisoned in this state at rates that far exceed the national norm.

Here’s a story that includes comments from the family of 21-year-old Juan Bernal, described as “a poet, a rapper, a teacher and a mentor,”: family speaks out

This haunting photo of the late Juan Bernal was posted on his Facebook page on May 30th, two days after his death. Courtesy Lance Allen

And this photo of Bernal is courtesy of Milwaukee musician Jay Anderson. Thanks Jay, for this beautiful image.

As a Wisconsin and Riverwest resident, my heart aches that the Kern Park incident provided another sort of memorial that expands the sober implications of the holiday, like a steady trickle of blood, that never seems to end.

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Is it too early to judge what prompted this police brutality in the video below? the Milwaukee Black Panther spokesman addresses the issue succinctly. The video does not show the black youth’s alleged attack on a police officer. You do see him punched twice by Wauwatosa police, and arrested.

“Call my mama, bro! Call my mama, bro!” the youth repeatedly calls out while on the ground and handcuffed behind his back. It hardly seems like the behavior of a person feeling guilty of something. The youth – who allegedly helped cause a disturbance at Mayfair Mall – was released a short time later. After internal investigation by the Wauwatosa police department, no officers involved in the mid-May incident were disciplined.

Unfortunately the disturbing incident again visited national television attention upon Milwaukee this morning on AM Joy on MSNBC.

“There are 18,000 police departments and no national standards for policing in America,” commented Paul Butler, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, also a former prosecutor and the author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men. “As President Obama says, many young men come into the job with a warrior mentality, rather than a guardian mentality.”

“And the president sanctions excessive force,” host Joy Reid noted, after showing a video clip of President Trump commenting on the issue.

Maya Wiley, Vice President for Social Justice at The New School, added that there are many good police officers who know how to handle such situations, “and feel that this is wrong policing, and we should be thankful for them. But they’re often silenced within the department, and made to feel afraid of speaking out about it. Police officers too often escalate a situation that leads to such excessive force, instead of talking it through calmly.”

And this blogger has posted a number of times previously here and on Facebook, decrying the problem of police brutality, particularly on unarmed black man, which evidently happened here yet again.

Given that this is a culture blog I would remind readers of Blood is at the Doorstep, one of the finest and most moving films I’ve seen in the last few years, which brilliantly and beautifully documents the tragic case of Dontre Hamilton’s death, by a hail of police bullets in downtown Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. 1

Milwaukee film brilliantly embraces the family of Dontre Hamilton – a search for justice

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1 At another level of police-race relations, it’s heartening that Starbucks Corporation closed down its hundreds of stores recently for a day of racial-bias sensitivity training after Starbucks employees called the police simply because to black men were in Starbucks coffee shop waiting for a friend. The two men were arrested, prompting outcry nationally and a realization of a problem amongst Starbucks leaders.