CULE Festivals and Guest Artist History: 1992-2000 (Dr. Karlton E. Hester, Director)


- BIOGRAPHIES: Phil Bowler, Donald ByrdMamadou Diabate, Wendell Harrison, Randy Weston
- ARTICLES: Cornell Chronicle - 4/22/1999
- PROGRAM NOTES: By Karlton E. Hester, Ph.D. (Director of "Jazz" Studies at Cornell University and CULE)

Swing Dance Event

April 3
- Concert: Annual Swing Dance with Special Guest trumpeter Dr. Donald Byrd and dance instructor Bill Borgida
Dr. Karlton E. Hester, director.
10PM - 1AM - Willard Straight Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

8th Annual Cornell University "Jazz" Festival

April 23
- Lecture Demonstration: Pianist/composer Randy Weston
2PM - Barnes Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.
- Afro-Cuban Dance and Music Worskshop: Dancer Danis Perez Prades and percussionist Francisco Mora
4PM - Barnes Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

April 24
- Concert: Randy Weston and "African Rhythms" performance with the Cornell University Lab Ensembles
Dr. Karlton E. Hester, director.
8PM - Barnes Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

April 25
- Concert / Dance Performance: Hesterian Musicism with the Cornell University Experimental Lab Ensemble; Latin "jazz" with guest performers and the Uhuru Kuumbwa Dance Company
Danis Perez Prades, choreography and instruction; Francisco Mora, percussion.
Dr. Karlton E. Hester, director.
8PM - Barnes Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

Fall Events

August 28
- Opening Reception: A performance by Dr. Donald Byrd (trumpet), Phil Bowler (bass) and Dr. Karlton E. Hester (flute) followed by a gallery talk by Dr. Byrd as part of the art exhibition "Voyage of Discovery - African American Art from the Collection of Dr. Donald Byrd" (H. F. Johnson Museum of Art - August 28 - October 31, 1999)
Sean Ulmer (HFJMA), curator.
4PM - H. F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

CULE Co-Sponsors...

- Lecture Demonstration: Vibraphonist Gary Burton
Barnes Hall, Cornell University

More Fall Events

September 30
- Panel Discussion: Dr. Donald Byrd (trumpet), Tony Williams (saxophone), and Don Wilson (piano)
"Defining 'Jazz' Music Through Primary Sources Within African American Culture"
Dr. Karlton E. Hester, moderator.
5:30PM - Africana Studies & Research Center, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

October 1
- Concert: Hesterian Musicism with guest artists Dr. Donald Byrd (trumpet) and Mamadou Diabate (kora, Mali).
"The Music of Coltrane, Byrd and Hester"
Dr. Karlton E. Hester, director.
8PM - Barnes Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

December 1
- Guest Lecture: Saxophonist / clarinetist / composer Wendell Harrison
Invited to AS&RC 100 - The Black Experience in Writing - Issues in African American Music, Dr. Karlton E. Hester)
White Hall, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.

December 2
- Concert: Guest Artist Wendell Harrison performs with the Cornell University Lab Ensembles and members of the CU Wind Ensemble.
Dr. Karlton E. Hester, director.
8PM - Barnes Hall, Cornell University.


Phil Bowler

Phil Bowler's unique approach to the double bass is firmly rooted in the history and tradition of both African American and European art musics. His recording credits include releases with Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Karlton
Hester, Ralph Peterson, Terence Blanchard, and Donald Harrison. He has toured with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Wynton Marsalis, Max Roach, Slide Hampton, Horace Silver, Roy Haynes, and various others. He is currently leading his own quartet Pocket Jungle and working with renowned saxophonist Jackie Mclean. Phil also hosts "Jazz Adventures", a music and interview radio show on WPKN-FM in Bridgeport, which was selected by VARIETY magazine as 1989's best jazz program and Phil as the best radio personality.

Donald Byrd

BYRD, Donald. trumpet. B. Detroit, Mich., 1932. One of the most polished of the new Detroiters, a trumpeter of large skills and originality. Byrd has been a major influence on "jazz" music for nearly half a century. He made a significant contribution to the hard bop style of the late 1950s and 60s during his days at Blue Note. His album Black Byrd was one of Byrd’s most widely sold recording. His work with "jazz" fusion of the 1970s demonstrated both his flexibility and his interest in keeping his music accessible to the African-American community. In the 1990s he has released albums like Getting Down To Business that confirm his roots in mainstream tradition while also touring and recording with Guru to inspire the younger generation of artists who have been forgotten by a large portion of our society.

Dr. Byrd is also an active scholar who recently gave wonderful lectures while visiting Cornell as a guest artist with our Lab Ensembles. He started "jazz" programs at a number of universities including Rutgers, Howard, Oberlin, and North Carolina. He is involved with video projects with BET, writing articles, and continues to experiment with a multiplicity of artistic elements. He is currently completing a book about African music. Not least of all, he is now manufacturing his own trumpet.

(Source - Hester, Karlton E.: From Africa to Afrocentric Innovations Some Call "Jazz" - Vol. 4. Ithaca, NY: Hesteria Records & Publishing Co., 2000)

Mamadou Diabate

Mamadou Diabate is descended from a long line of Manding musician-storytellers, the jeli, sometimes referred to by the French term griot; the traditional oral historians. A member of the famous Diabate family of Kita, Mamadou was taught by his father, who played the kora in the Instrumental Ensemble of Mali. When Mamadou moved to Bamako, he received additional help and encouragement from his cousin, Toumani Diabate. It was Toumani who gave Mamadou his nickname: djelika djan, which means "tall jeli."

Mamadou’s style has developed from many years of listening to kora players and other musicians from many different countries. Although his performance is based in the keita tradition, Mamadou always strives to bring something fresh, unique and contemporary to his music, making it a bridge between the past and the future.

Since 1996, Mamadou has been living in the United States and has collaborated with American artists such as jazz musician Randy Weston, blues performer Guy Davis, and Irish singer Susan McKeown. On his first album, "Tunga", Mamadou is accompanied by Famoro Diabate (Guinea) on balafon, a wooden xylophone, Fuseini Kouyate (Mali) on ngoni, a four or five stringed lute, Cheick Barry (Guinea) on electric bass, and by acoustic bass player Ira Coleman. On two tracks Mamadou is joined by Abdoulaye Diabate, perhaps the finest jeli singer currently living in the US. Mamadou tours with either a three or four-piece band, the fourth member being singer Abdoulaye Diabate.

Tunga means "adventure." This stunning debut album from world traveler and master kora player Mamadou Diabate infuses traditional Malian music with an array of innovative elements such as American blues, Bambara music, and the fast, Gambian style of kora playing. "Tunga" is a true adventure for the heart and ears from one of Mali’s rising stars.

Wendell Harrison

During the 1960s Wendell Harrison (b. 1943) lived in New York and performed with the Joe Henderson-Kenny Dorham Big Band, Betty Carter, Charles Tolliver, Jimmy Owens, Art Pepper, with Jack McDuff and others on the "organ grinder circuit" (Harlem, Newark, Patterson). He played the saxophone much of the time, but eventually fell in love with the clarinet. Harrison performed and recorded with his clarinet ensemble (composed of a variety of soprano, alto, and bass clarinets, with rhythm section). His latest recordings are available on his Wenha label.

In the early 1970s the vibrant Detroit club life of earlier days declined with the downward spiral of the city’s industrial base. Detroit musicians soon countered, forming informal collectives and developing community-rooted forums for the presentation of their music. Wendell Harrison was an entrepreneur and "cultural activist" who advanced alternatives to the nightclub circuit and conventional music business channels.

Harrison formed an interdisciplinary organization called Tribe. Tribe began as a performing ensemble with Belgrave, Moore, Harrison, bassist Will Austin, and trombonist Phil Ranelin among its members. It eventually emerged to include a highly topical magazine with a focus on "jazz;" an independent record label; an advertising agency; and a graphic design company. Today Harrison and his wife, Pamela Wise, run Rebirth Inc., which produces concerts featuring Ellis Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Jerry Gonzalez, Karlton Hester, Hank Jones, Don Byron, and other artists. Some Rebirth guest artists perform on WDET Radio in Detroit, on the radio show "Destination Out," hosted by Kim Heron.

(Source - Hester, Karlton E.: From Africa to Afrocentric Innovations Some Call "Jazz" - Vol. 4. Ithaca, NY: Hesteria Records & Publishing Co., 2000)

(For a more extensive biography of Wendell Harrison, please refer to the CU "Jazz" Festival page of 1996)

Randy Weston

After conducting nearly four decades of musical direction encompassing the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa, Randy Weston’s global creations continue to inform and inspire.  "Weston has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk, as well as the richest and most inventive beat," states critic Stanley Crouch of The Village Voice, "but his art is more than projection and time; it's the result of a studious and inspired intelligence... an intelligence that is creating a fresh synthesis of African elements with jazz technique."

Weston’s personal story began in his birthplace of Brooklyn, NY in 1926.  His musical story began in the 1950s when he started performing professionally along with Cecil Payne, Ray Copeland and Kenny Dorham.  The African chapter emerged in the 1960s, during which time he joined forces with long time collaborator Melba Liston to record Uhuru Afrika in 1960.

A riveting soloist and a dynamic leader of small groups and large, Randy Weston continues to elicit the most enthusiastic response of Audiences and critics alike. Called "a one-man band pianist who plays naturally as a melodist, a rhythmist, a harmonist and even a percussionist on the keys" (Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner), Weston is hailed for his solo performances and recordings. But he also possesses a great collaborative spirit and is as comfortable in a duo, trio or quartet as he is leading a band of 8 to 15 musicians or playing with a symphony orchestra. Through his work with the brilliant arranger Melba Listen, Weston is able to translate his great sound to many musical settings. His accompaniment ranges from a single bass player or drummer to the lush complement of strings, horns, oboes and trombones.  His versatility is rarely matched.

Weston’s music embraces the great rhythmic heritage of Africa, from Ins solo and ensemble compositions, which synthesize traditional rhythms, to actual performances with African musicians.  Since his first visit to Africa in 1961 for a three-month, 14-country tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Weston has traveled, performed and lived on the continent of his ancestors.  There he has found an infinite source of music inspiration.

Weston has been acclaimed for his collaborations with the Gnawa the traditional Black musicians of Morocco, who were brought there hundreds of years ago from Sub-Saharan Africa; and the Jilala, Morocco's Sufis who originated from Persia.  He has lived with the Gnawa and participated in their cultural traditions for more than 20 years.  Of his experience, Weston recalls: "For me, the most compelling aspect of African culture is its music, magnificent in its power and diversity, with drums - African rhythms - always at the heart. The music of no other civilization can rival that of Africa in the complexity and subtlety of its rhythms.  All modern music jazz, gospel, Latin, rock, bossa-nova, calypso, samba, soul, the blues, even the music of the avant-garde - is in debt to African rhythms."

Randy Weston has made more than 50 recordings, among them such celebrated discs as African Cookbook, Little Niles, Blue Moses, Tanjah, Berkshire Blues and Uhuru Africa.  His 1974 live recording, Carnaval, from the Montreaux Festival, and another big band recording, Tanjah, made in 1973, won him Grammy nominations for "Best jazz Performance by a Big Band." A prolific composer, Weston’s compositions are highly individualistic, filled with melody and rhythmic flair.  "Hi-Fly", "Little Niles" and other Weston classics continue to be recorded by top artists of the day such as Max Roach, Monty Alexander, Berry Carter, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Burrell, Abbey Lincoln, Mel  Torme, Bobby Hutchinson, Jon Hendricks, Carly Simon, Lionel Hampton and Cannonball Adderley.

Among his highly eclectic recording projects were a trilogy of "Portrait" albums depicting Ellington, Monk and himself, an ambitious two-CD work rooted in African music called The Spirits of Our Ancestors, a blues album, and a collaboration with the Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco. Though he does tend now and then to recycle material written up to nearly half a century before, Weston in his 70s remains an unpredictable, unusually enterprising musician, issuing Khepera in 1998, Sprits! the Power of Music in 2000.

In 1999, Weston was elected "Composer of the Year" by Downbeat magazine.



Cornell Chronicle - 04-22-1999

Pianist Randy Weston featured at 1999 Jazz Festival April 23-25

The Department of Music presents its eighth annual Cornell Jazz Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 23-25. This festival of seven events features Randy Weston and "African Rhythms" and is directed by Karlton Hester, the Herbert Gussman Director of Jazz Studies at Cornell.

Randy Weston is a riveting jazz pianist who has been performing and composing since the 1950s, when he was named "New Star Pianist" by the Down Beat International Critic's Poll. Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner called Weston "a one-man-band pianist who plays naturally as a melodist, a rhythmist, a harmonist and even a percussionist on the keys."

Weston, who is as comfortable with big bands as he is as a soloist, has traveled, performed and lived in Africa and his music embraces that continent's great rhythmic heritage. He has made more than 30 recordings, among them such celebrated discs as Tanjah, which won him Grammy nominations for best jazz performance by a big band. His compositions also continue to be recorded by top artists of the day such as Max Roach, Lionel Hampton and Cannonball Adderly.

Weston and "African Rhythms," with the Cornell University Lab Ensembles under the direction of Hester, will perform on Saturday, April 24, at the Statler Auditorium at 8 p.m. Tickets, which may be purchased in advance from Lincoln Hall box office or at the door, are $6, general; $4, students. Weston will also give a free lecture and demonstration Friday, April 23, at 2
p.m. in Barnes Hall.

Program Notes:

By Karlton E. Hester, Ph.D.
(Director of "Jazz" Studies, Cornell University and CULE)

Duke Ellington (4/29/99 - 5/24/74) is a titan of the twentieth century, yet he never received a Pulitzer Prize and was never invited to join the faculty of an Ivy League university or American conservatory as a distinguished professor. Louis Armstrong received some of his most prestigious academic honors posthumously. Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and others will probably never receive honorary doctorates. Contemporary African American innovators are probably rarely consulted as specialists when "jazz" educators are reviewed for tenure. Since social equanimity still evades American society, the consistent levels of disrespect shown African American artists comes as no surprise. Inaccessibility to regions beyond the glass ceilings attached to "affirmative action hires", social alienation, and economic repression, is undeniable and commonplace in America.

Innovative African American music is perpetually spiritual. Our current guest, Randy Weston, always emphasizes the African origins of his music. African Americans could never name their music "Dixieland" or "jazz", given the derogatory origins of those terms. Ellington warned that if African Americans did not stop referring to their music a "jazz", "we are going to lose our music." My current position in the Cornell music department terminates with this year’s festival; therefore, a survey of the hypocrisy, segregation, and bigotry under which African American music continues to evolve is once again immediate and clear. Quick glances at local demographics reveal unconvincing change in the attitudes that emerged during the European slave era. Since Ellington’s death a quarter of a century ago it seems inevitable that, in order to provide a permanent place for African American music within the American university curriculum, a prerequisite must always demand that its proper name be transmogrified into a euphemism (such as "jazz"). Its history, theory and performance must also be presented strictly from a Eurocentric perspective.

Jaki Byard (6/15/22 - 2/11/99) was our first guest artist at the Cornell "Jazz" Festival. Byard asked me why the musical groups were referred to as "jazz" ensembles at Cornell. He said the modern progenitors of Afrocentric music considered the term racist and derogatory. Another guest artist, Dr. Makanda Ken McIntyre, asked for the location of the country "Jazz" from where "Jazz" people apparently emerged. The category African American music should not be a polemic issue, yet it exposes a reluctance within American society to acknowledge that African American music innovators have contributed something wonderful to world culture; an American art form of Afrocentric origins. Just as enslaved Africans in America refused to surrender their cultural identity despite the removal of their families, languages, musical instruments, and freedom, some African American innovators cannot be intimidated to the point of surrendering the powerful force of their cultural legacy. No other music is forced to constantly defend its identity  (including "Latin" Jazz!). The Afrocentric origins of "jazz" do not conflict with its inherent capacity for symbiosis. African American music, like European and other world music, should be loved and engaged by all people. It is disappointing and discouraging to discover that so many people at Cornell find it difficult to admit they admire, perform, and love African American music. Instead some claim they "hate jazz" while others want to play more arrangements by "White" musicians, perhaps because of psychological discomfort experienced while exploring music from an Afrocentric perspective. I doubt that Eurocentric orchestras, bands, and choirs confront similar dilemma.

The history of musical innovations that form the "jazz" evolution involve experiments by those who held Afrocentric musical tradition in high regard while refusing to conform to the popular demands and sociocultural status quo. The evolution of the Cornell University Lab Ensembles reflects a related tendency. If, for some, "jazz" evolution is virtually limited to a set of music created between 1930 and 1959, then it merely reflects the musical limitations of those incapable of moving further or unwilling to engage its true essence. As Dr. Donald Byrd says, "’Jazz’ has never been about playing forty or fifty-year-old music." The exploration of new territory requires experimentation that, in turn, continually exposes new frontiers. Problems involving unconventional instrumentation or new musical vocabulary and approaches need not be avoided merely because of inherent musical difficulties. We learn and grow from conquering such equations. The Experimental Ensemble grapples with solving a wide range of musical problems. Not all personalities are prone towards experimental music, and the Traditional Ensemble serves those interested in the perpetuation of "jazz" from earlier periods. Together the history and nature of African American music are represented.  An emphasis on improvisation and spontaneous composition must remain at the root of such a process if it is to remain a living art form. Despite rhetoric, the future of African American music at Cornell will certainly reflect the degree to which we have traveled from the racist bigotry and oppressive society in which "jazz" and other Afrocentric music initially emerged.

Karlton E. Hester, Gussman Director of "Jazz" Studies

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Compiled: September 2001
Last Update: 08/22/2002

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