The Most Fun, but Most Challenging Genre in Music:
An Interview with Lon Ivey at the AirTrain Jazz Festival
Last Thursday, the Airbar at the JFK AirTrain terminal offered an escape from the LIRR station’s typical chaos. Travelers and businessmen slowed their rushing steps to stop and listen to the sounds of Lon Ivey’s 4th Millennium Band. The third annual AirTrain Jazz Festival hosts jazz artists on Thursday every week through May. Lon Ivey’s band is made up of musicians who have lead groups of their own and performed with top artists spanning the entire globe. Our World on Sutphin had the opportunity to interview the talented band leader Lon Ivey.
Vocalist, drummer, and band leader, Lon Ivey, has been practicing his art for about thirty years, getting his start in music by singing and playing piano at a young age. His passion for percussion blossomed when his father took him to a concert where a man named Max Roach was banging the drums. The 13-year-old Lon Ivey was inspired by this fantastic drummer who was “one of the guys who changed the whole dialogue in music” according to Ivey. After the concert, Lon Ivey describes telling his father to “get rid of this piano and clarinet, and get me some drums!” He finds truth in the notion that “we stand on the shoulders of giants,” and Max Roach was one of them for Ivey. Other influential figures for Lon Ivey were his teachers like Tony Williams, Roy Brooks, Walter “Baby Sweets” Perkins. He says “you also have got to love Buddy Rich, Bobby Mason, Steve Gadd—there’s so many great musicians, and I’m considered one of the best in my field.” His lively performance on the drums and vocals was evidence of his experience and standing in the world of music. Lon Ivey now has students of his own and teaches them about the deep roots of jazz music which stretch back into the blues rhythms that originated from West Africa.
Though the AirTrain Festival centers on Jazz, Lon Ivey takes pleasure in playing many different styles of music, including R&B, Hip Hop, Funk, Metal and Classic Rock. He’s also been playing contemporary gospel as a drummer at the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove (attended by Grammy award-winning singer, Ashanti) for five years. Despite his love for playing everything, his opinion on jazz is that it’s “the most fun, because it’s the most creative.” Apart from it being the most fun, he mentions that it’s the most difficult kind of music to master. His explanation is that “jazz is a discipline. There are some definite ensembles you play together in a group, but its variations on a theme. You take a core theme and you improvise around that core, central idea. That’s really what makes it so great, and so challenging. You almost have to sculpt air. When you play pop music, or heavy metal, you play a repetitive form. The difference in jazz is that it allows you to completely deconstruct and reconstruct the piece of music. No other style of music does that.”
With hit movies like “La La Land” bringing up the discussion of jazz music’s relevance in our society, it spurs the question: Is jazz dying? Does it need to be saved? Lon Ivey’s response is “I don’t think so,” and continues to explain, “Jazz has always traditionally had a smaller audience, but a very loyal audience. Most of the major universities have jazz pedagogies. I teach at a school called mind builders in the Bronx, affiliated with Julliard and JALC. So jazz is not dying—we would like to see more outlets for it, of course, and we play a lot of it.” Another factor that may contribute to the difficulty of being a jazz musician and the perception that the craft is dying is that it isn’t as easy to earn a living by playing jazz music. Even when a musician plays as much jazz as they do R&B, funk, or gospel, a greater reward is usually offered to those who play the latter.
Lon Ivey’s 4th millennium band will be playing events all over the city. They often play festivals like the AirTrain Jazz Festival and the past eight Fort Green Jazz festivals in a row. He plays with four other groups as well, and you can catch him playing venues such as Cleopatra’s Needle in the city, and other locations in the outer boroughs. There’s an open mic Jazz series at Rustik on 478 Dekalb Avenue every first Tuesday of the month where Eric Fraizer, who was on the conga drums with Lon Ivey’s band at the AirTrain Festival, has played with Eric Fraizer’s Trio for 12 years.
These are only a few of the wonderful jazz events you can attend when you’re in need of a little relaxation after a long day. Mark your calendars, because the next AirTrain Jazz Festival will take place from 6pm to 7pm on Thursday October, 19th, and it’s an event you won’t want to miss.
DAMIAN MARLEY FOR GROOVIN’ IN THE PARK
Reggae’s most sought after superstar Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley will bring the curtain down on the highly anticipated Groovin In The Park festival that takes place on Sunday, June 24 inside Roy Wilkins Park in New York. The tremendously popular decision to add Marley to the lineup was confirmed earlier.
The success of ‘Road To Zion,’ the 2nd US single from the ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ album inspired his 2010 Distant Relatives project, a collaborative album with Nas. The album’s title reflected not only the bond between the artists, but the connection to their African ancestry.
THE 2018 AMERICAN BLACK FILM FESTIVAL HONORS WAS A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
LOS ANGELES, February 26, 2018 — Last night, ABFF Ventures hosted its annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Honors at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The ceremony, hosted by actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer, honored director Ava DuVernay with the Industry Visionary Award, legendary actor Billy Dee Williams with the Hollywood Legacy Award, comedian Tiffany Haddish with the Rising Star Award, actor Omari Hardwick with the Distinguished ABFF Alumni Award and the writer and cast of “Martin” (Martin Lawrence, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Carl Payne II, Bentley Kyle Evans) received the Classic Television Award.
Regina Hall, Lena Waithe, Armie Hammer and Snoop Dogg made special presentations to the honorees and Harrison Ford made a surprise video tribute to Billy Dee Williams.
Black-ish (ABC) and Insecure (HBO) were announced as winners of the Television Show of the Year (Comedy) category, presented by actor and comedian Lil Rel Howery. Tracee Ellis Ross, Deon Cole, Issa Rae, Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji accepted their awards on behalf of their show, cast and crew.
For the second year in a row, Queen Sugar (OWN) took home the coveted Television Show of the Year (Drama) award. Ava DuVernay, along with the cast (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Dondre Whitfield, Tina Lifford, Bianca Lawson, Timon Kyle Durrett) accepted their award.
Additional winners of the night included Get Out (Universal Pictures), for Movie of the Year. Jordan Peele, Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson accepted the award.
“Some of you know that I did not enter this industry as an artist. I came into this business as an advertiser with a profound love for art, and the ABFF became my canvas, says Jeff Friday, ABFF Ventures CEO. “It has allowed me to show my love of “all things Black,” by curating experiences that promote our culture and support young creative people who are now changing the world,” Jeff continues.
“It is a privilege and honor to be granted a seat at the table to watch my collegiate friends’ stellar organization (The American Black Film Festival) grow and consistently groom, honor and recognize creative black genius,”
said Dawn Kelly, Howard University graduate, co-owner of Metropolis Group/Global Connect and CEO of The Nourish Spot, located in Jamaica , Queens, NYC.