Jazz at Lincoln Center’s virtual concert season focuses on social justice

Jazz at Lincoln Center has announced a lineup of all-virtual presentations focused on the role of jazz in civil rights and social justice for its shortened spring concert season.

The performances will feature celebrations of Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone and John Coltrane, as well as collaborations with acclaimed activist Bryan Stevenson.

The first concert, called Legacies of Excellence, premieres on Feb. 20, with vocalist Catherine Russell exploring the music and legacies of jazz icons such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. The program supports Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Let Freedom Swing education initiative, which reaches more than 85,000 students annually.

Next, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and a roster of special guest vocalists — including Melanie Charles, Shenel Johns, and Ashley Pezzotti — will perform a program called Voices of Freedom, featuring songs by some of the most powerful performers and songwriters of the 20th century. Trombonist and vocalist Chris Crenshaw serves as musical director for this showcase of music by Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone.

On May 21, bassist Endea Owens and trumpeter Josh Evans join forces for Freedom, Justice and Hope, a compelling collaboration with the globally acclaimed racial-justice activist Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. The band will perform original works by both Owens and Evans; Owens will debut a suite inspired by the trailblazing Black journalist and civil-rights activist Ida B. Wells, while Evans presents a musical response to the Elaine massacre in Arkansas in 1919. Stevenson will join the band to recount the historical significance of the artists’ new musical works.

Finally, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will close out the season with Coltrane: A Love Supreme, a big-band rendition of John Coltrane’s seminal record from 1965, along with a number of other Coltrane classics focused on the theme of freedom. Special guest saxophonist and vocalist Camille Thurman joins the JLCO for this rare all-Coltrane performance.

Each of the shows will be available to stream on the Jazz at Lincoln Center website for a few days following its premiere. Tickets are $20 for each concert.


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