The Green Family Foundation Gets with Jazz Fest in a Very Big Way

Jazz Fest 2011April 29, 2011

From the Creole blood coursing through the veins of the great Jelly Roll Morton, through the big band stomp that led the way to Compas music, Haiti has always played a large part in the history of Jazz. Ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax knew this; that’s one of the reasons why he went to the island and captured its sound; and the folks at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival know this as well, which is why they’ve devoted an entire Pavilion to the music and art of Haiti.

That’s also why the good folks at Jazz Fest invited Miami’s Green Family Foundation (GFF) to both curate this year’s Haiti lecture series and to bring along the magic that Lomax recorded back in the ‘30s. That magic, which had long been languishing in the vaults of the Library of Congress, was refined and remastered by Grammy Award winner Warren Russell Smith of New York’s The Magic Shop at the behest of the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), the steward for all Lomax material, and GFF, who’s been at work in the culturally rich Caribbean nation for well over a decade.

GFF president Kimberly Green, who has spearheaded everything from watershed projects (alongside the likes of Earth Institute) to the post-earthquake “This is Haiti” PSA campaign (with Fisher Stevens, Naomi Watts, and Sting), also took the helm in presenting Lomax’s diverse collection of recordings. Upon its completion, the 10-disc set (commonly called “The Haiti Box”) would go on to garner two Grammy nominations, one for Best Historical Album and one for Best Album Notes, which were written by the noted Gage Averill.

Haiti & New Orleans: Cultural CrossroadsIn fact Averill will be among the many panelists to appear in this year’s “Haiti & New Orleans: Cultural Crossroads” lecture series. The scholar will be joined by Dr. Helen Regis, Yves Bien-Amié (of DJA Rara), and Richard Morse (of RAM), among many others.

In addition to the many panels scheduled to take place at this year’s Fest, GFF has also commissioned various Haitian artists to design and build three listening stations that will showcase the music (and films) Dr. Lomax recorded in ‘36 and ‘37. With the help of the Miami-based Haitian advocacy group Sant La, who has partnered with GFF as a fiscal sponsor and will be working hand-in-hand with the team to bring it to South Florida and cities around the world, and Haitian filmmaker and vSant La ideo artist Tatiana Magloire, who’s serving as curator, the exhibit will allow everyone to appreciate the historic works in an entirely new light.

One station, “Only in Haiti,” is comprised of several artists, including Emmanuel Desilor from Lachapelle, Artibonite, who has more than 17 years of experience in the craft of woodcarving. Desilor is what Haitians call a "mystic," which means his life is dedicated to the mystery of spirituality and faith. He made a manman and a boula drum, two very sacred items to Haitians. And he is joined by D'or (of gold), a trombone player who hails from Bel Air, Port-au-Prince, and who took the bamboo tradition of Haitian wind instruments and came up with a unique model of horn set covering each note of the solfège (sight sound scale).

The second station is a paper mache piece that was created in Jacmel by the artist Jean-Pierre Jules-Andre, who has more than 22 years of experience in the craft. The piece, “Papa Vensan,” was directly commissioned by Magloire, who was inspired by President Stenio Vincent's hefty presence during the American occupation, as well as his interaction with Lomax himself, and it keenly follows the paper mache tradition of biting social commentary and political satire.

The third station is called “Chita tande” (Sit and Listen), and it is a big brass looking drum created by the world-renowned Philippe Dodard. The eight workers Dodard recruited for this project shows both the beneficial effects of short term job creation and that it has capacity to employ many more in the near future.

Together the lecture series and the listening stations serve to further the work The Green Family Foundation has long been accomplishing in and outside of Haiti, and to ensure the world looks upon the country for the rich cultural heritage it continues to maintain. “Haiti is one of the most vibrant countries on earth,” said Kimberly Green. “And it’s an honor to share that vibrancy with the folks at New Orleans Jazz Fest.”