Poster designed by Elizabeth Vogt
Milwaukee ain’t The Big Apple, nor is it The City of Big Shoulders. On its best days, the city shines, like the magnificent Santiago Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. On its worst days, it weeps a river of tears.
This is a struggling rust-belt city with more than its share of social and racial problems. That doesn’t mean it’s not a city of vibrant and meaningful culture, a city that can heal and grow by virtue of its diverse community, perseverance, and vision.
The Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, once the home of the storied Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, counts on that progress and is willing to celebrate it right now, with something called Jazz Now. It’s a special event that acknowledges the city’s special genius of jazz and the toil to survive and connect, singing the song of Milwaukee’s surprisingly vaunted musical past, its present and, most importantly, its future.
So I am especially proud of an invitation to be part of this celebration, which will happen on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7).
I will give a reading from my forthcoming book Voices in the River: The Jazz Message to Democracy, specifically parts of it which highlight the history of jazz here, especially in the halcyon days of the Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, in the 1970s-80s. I will be joined by trumpeter-bandleader-educator and jazz archivist Jamie Breiwick. He will briefly also explore the city’s musical pasts and present, especially as archived and documented in the valuable website Milwaukee Jazz Vision.
Special awards will be given in the name of perhaps the city’s greatest living jazz legend, guitarist Manty Ellis. The Manty Ellis award will honor persons for “exceptional support of jazz in Milwaukee” Ellis has exemplified decades of stellar musicianship and historic commitment to jazz education. He has also organized more recently The Jazz Foundation of Milwaukee. The organization is affiliated with the national Jazz Foundation of America, which will sponsor the event and cover it for their national newsletter.
Awards recipients will be announced at the event.
Manty Ellis (seated at center) will perform with his quartet at Jazz Now at The Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts on Sunday, August 12. Photo by Elizabeth Vogt.
Ellis and Breiwick will also perform at the event with a quartet and special guest performers.
Another award will be given in the name of Chuck LaPaglia, the founder and owner of the original Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, for persons providing “outstanding promotion of jazz in Milwaukee.”
Without his vision and dogged dedication, Milwaukee would’ve had a far poorer jazz scene and history.
But LaPaglia was there when we needed him, and now we are here in celebration.
Milwaukee Jazz Gallery founder-owner Chuck LaPaglia back in the day.
One more than one occasion, the center’s current manager Mark Lawson has said to me, “What this place really needs is an angel or two.”
The event will honor one angel who has finally delivered something and several other meaningful supporters of Milwaukee jazz, awards chosen by Manty Ellis.
Nevertheless, the venue could use another benefactor, to sustain general operations, including maintenance, booking and promotion. But that’s one reason to get the word out on this event, where we’ll measure and acknowledge the center’s great value to our city and to the music and the arts.
Come on down and let the good times roll.