Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Jazz Legends for Disability Pride NYC Benefit Concert, Winter Jazzfest NYC 2015

January 8th, 2015,
Quaker Friends Meeting Hall, NYC

By E. Joyce Glasgow,

Winter Jazzfest NYC 2015 began with a jazz benefit concert for Disability Pride NYC.

Disability Pride is  “a movement to increase awareness about and establish the civil rights of the disabled, both nationally and internationally. Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities around the world already have a parade, but not New York City. Disability Pride NYC was formed out of the desire to launch the first NYC parade to support the rights of the disabled, set for July 2015, as a way to highlight the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA). This concert and the eventual parade will champion people with disabilities and those that support them. It is a celebration of a diverse and beautiful aspect of our humanity.”

The concert was hosted by jazz pianist/organist and President/CEO of Disability Pride NYC, Mike LeDonne, who himself is the father of a 10 year old daughter with a disability.

A who’s who of jazz came together in support to perform. The musicians played in small groups, each combo performing two pieces, mostly jazz standards.

Renee Rosnes (piano) played  “Another You” in a trio with Ron Carter (bass) and Russell Malone (guitar).

Benny Golson (tenor sax) played with Jimmy Cobb (drums), Buster Williams (bass), Eddie Henderson (trumpet) and Mike LaDonne (piano). To introduce one of his personal compositions, Golson shared a wonderful, funny anecdote about the old Birdland, where, playing as a young, naive musician, he was impressed by the wealthy looking patrons who made grand entrances in fancy suits, with smiling, glamorous women on each arm. They inspired him to write his iconic song “Killer Joe”, which he composed in ten hours and started out with two chords. He eventually got hip to the fact that these sharp looking gentlemen were pimps!

Jimmy Cobb stayed on stage with his group “Cobb’s Mob”, with Peter Bernstein (guitar), John Webber (bass) and Brad Mehldau (piano), for “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” and “Love Walked In”.

The Bill Charlap Trio, featuring Bill Charlap (piano), Kenny Washington (drums) and David Wong (bass) played an elegant “I’ll Remember April” and a pensive, dreamy Vernon Duke/Ogden Nash ballad, “Round About”.

To close out the evening, a quintet, representing three generations of jazz musicians took the stage, including George Coleman (tenor sax), Harold Mabern Jr. (piano), Bob Crenshaw (bass), Eric Alexander (tenor sax) and George Coleman Jr. (drums). They performed “Green Dolphin Street” and the ballad, “You’ve Changed”.

Following is a brief history of the Disability Rights movement from Disability Pride NYC:

Americans with disabilities are a group of approximately 50 million people that today lead independent, self-affirming lives and who define themselves according to their personhood – their ideas, beliefs, hopes and dreams – above and beyond their disability. Since the mid 1900s, people with disabilities have pushed for the recognition of disability as an aspect of identity that influences the experiences of an individual, not as the sole-defining feature of a person.
People with disabilities have had to battle against centuries of biased assumptions, harmful stereotypes, and irrational fears. The stigmatization of disability resulted in the social and economic marginalization of generations of Americans with disabilities, and like many other oppressed minorities, left people with disabilities in a severe state of impoverishment for centuries.
In the 1800s, people with disabilities were considered meager, tragic, pitiful individuals unfit and unable to contribute to society, except to serve as ridiculed objects of entertainment in circuses and exhibitions. They were assumed to be abnormal and feeble-minded, and numerous persons were forced to undergo sterilization. People with disabilities were also forced to enter institutions and asylums, where many spent their entire lives. The “purification” and segregation of persons with disability were considered merciful actions, but ultimately served to keep people with disabilities invisible and hidden from a fearful and biased society.
The marginalization of people with disabilities continued until World War I when veterans with disabilities expected that the US government provide rehabilitation in exchange for their service to the nation. In the 1930s the United States saw the introduction of many new advancements in technology as well as in government assistance, contributing to the self-reliance and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first president with a disability, was a great advocate for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, but still operated under the notion that a disability was an abnormal, shameful condition, and should be medically cured or fixed.
In the 1940s and 1950s, disabled World War II veterans placed increasing pressure on government to provide them with rehabilitation and vocational training. World War II veterans made disability issues more visible to a country of thankful citizens who were concerned for the long-term welfare of young men who sacrificed their lives to secure the safety of the United States.
Despite these initial advancements made towards independence and self-reliance, people with disabilities still did not have access to public transportation, telephones, bathrooms and stores. Office buildings and worksites with stairs offered no entry for people with disabilities who sought employment, and employer attitudes created even worse barriers. Otherwise talented and eligible people with disabilities were locked out of opportunities for meaningful work.
By the 1960s, the civil rights movement began to take shape, and disability advocates saw the opportunity to join forces alongside other minority groups to demand equal treatment, equal access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. The struggle for disability rights has followed a similar pattern to many other civil rights movements – challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes, rallying for political and institutional change, and lobbying for the self-determination of a minority community.
Disability rights activists mobilized on the local level demanding national initiatives to address the physical and social barriers facing the disability community. Parent advocates were at the forefront, demanding that their children be taken out of institutions and asylums, and placed into schools where their children could have the opportunity to engage in society just like children who were not disabled.
In the 1970s, disability rights activists lobbied Congress and marched on Washington to include civil rights language for people with disabilities into the 1972 Rehabilitation Act. In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was passed, and for the first time in history, civil rights of people with disabilities were protected by law.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) provided equal opportunity for employment within the federal government and in federally funded programs, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of either physical or mental disability. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also established the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, mandating equal access to public services (such as public housing and public transportation services) to people with disabilities, and the allocation of money for vocational training.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed to guarantee equal access to public education for children with disabilities. This act of legislation specified that every child had a right to education, and mandated the full inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education classes, unless a satisfactory level of education could not be achieved due to the nature of the child’s disability.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was renamed in 1990 to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which further elaborated on the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classes, but also focused on the rights of parents to be involved in the educational decisions affecting their children. IDEA required that an Individual Education Plan be designed with parental approval to meet the educational needs of a child with a disability.
In the 1980s, disability activists began to lobby for a consolidation of various pieces of legislation under one broad civil rights statute that would protect the rights of people with disabilities, much like the 1964 Civil Rights Act had achieved for Black Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or gender, but people with disabilities were not included under such protection.
After decades of campaigning and lobbying, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, and ensured the equal treatment and equal access of people with disabilities to employment opportunities and to public accommodations. The ADA intended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in: employment, services rendered by state and local governments, places of public accommodation, transportation, and telecommunications services.
Under the ADA, businesses were mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities (such as restructuring jobs or modifying work equipment), public services could no longer deny services to people with disabilities (such as public transportation systems), all public accommodations were expected to have modifications made to be accessible to people with disabilities, and all telecommunications services were mandated to offer adaptive services to people with disabilities. With this piece of legislation, the US government identified the full participation, inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in all levels of society.
While the signing of the ADA placed immediate legislative demands to ensure equal access and equal treatment of people with disabilities, deep-rooted assumptions and stereotypical biases were not instantly transformed with the stroke of a pen. People with disabilities still face prejudice and bias with the stereotypical portrayal of people with disabilities in the movies and in the media, physical barriers to schools, housing and to voting stations, and lack of affordable health care. The promise of the ADA is yet to be fully realized, but the disability rights movement continues to make great strides towards the empowerment and self-determination of Americans with disabilities.

Advocate: a person that argues for a cause, a supporter or defender.
Allocation: to set apart for a special purpose, to distribute according to a plan.
Marginalization: to confine to a lower social standing.
Mobilize: to assemble, prepare, or put into operation for a purpose.
Rehabilitation: to restore to good condition, health, and capacity.
Self-determination: freedom of people to determine their own status and independence.
Sterilization: the act of making a person infertile, or unable to conceive a child.
Stigmatization: to characterize as disgraceful.
Vocational training: training for a job.

  • Disabled Rights: American Policy and the Fight for Equality by Jacqueline Vaughn Switzer (Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Press, 2003).
  • The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation by Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001).

To learn more about Disability Pride NYC visit:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Broadway Unplugged Gives Rare Chance to Hear Beautiful Singing Voices Without the Distortion of Amplification

Broadway Unplugged, Monday, January 26th, 2015, The Town Hall, NYC. 

An amazing and rare event where you can hear Broadway showtunes sung, unadulterated by distorting microphones and with the pure natural beauty of the human voice. This experience is very immediate, intimate and special, the way things were done in long time past!

 It's happening tomorrow night (Monday) at 8 PM - Stars of Side Show, Tony Winners Chuck Cooper & Tonya Pinkins, Tony Nominees Josh Young, Mary Testa, and stars galore: Elizabeth Stanley, William Michals, Jeff McCarthy, Kyle Scatliffe, Karen Mason, and Ashley Brown! All singing without microphones the way the great Broadway stars did it in the past! 13th Annual concert. Great seats still available!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Taylor Mac

Taylor Mac: Just Brilliant

A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music: 1900’s-1950’s
Taylor Mac

June 13th-25th, 2015
New York Live Arts
221 W. 19th St., N.Y., N.Y.
(212) 691-6500

By E. Joyce Glasgow,

Multifaceted artist, Taylor Mac, wears many hats, figuratively and literally, and each is more glittery and outlandishly creative than the last. He is an accomplished actor, singer, performance artist, playwright, director, Obie Award winner, truth–teller and brilliant, compassionate, observant social commentator, both pragmatic and whimsical.

Mac is what I would consider to be an American Griot. A Griot, in African traditions, is an individual whose life work is to pass down the history of their particular culture through verbal storytelling and song.

 “ A 24 Decade History of Popular Music: 1900’s- 1950’s” is Taylor Mac’s current performance piece, which is part of a larger, epic 24 hour marathon, being planned for 2016, that will cover American popular song from 1776- 2016. The current performances are separated into two segments of three hours each, from the 1900’s- 1920’s and from 1930’s-1950’s, and are being presented at New York Live Arts, in conjunction with the Public Theatre’s “Under the Radar” festival.

 Mac portrays American history through the popular songs of the eras, and while admitting to taking artistic license with history, his use of song and audience participation illuminates our history uniquely, incorporating contemporary cultural references, bringing our past alive and into a three dimensional present.

In the 1900’s-1920’s segment, Mac explores music popular in the Jewish Tenements of the 1900’s, the coming World War I years of the 1910’s and the flapper/Great Depression years of the 1920’s. There are thirty-four songs in all, including “Shine On Harvest Moon”, “A Bird In A Gilded Cage”, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”, “Danny Boy”, Tiptoe Through The Tulips” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain”.

Mac persuasively orchestrates the audience, disarmingly, with charm, humor and heart. Throughout the performance, audience members are constantly participating, moving, changing their placement in the theatre, singing, physically gesturing and feeling the sense of community that Mac is trying to create and he considers the audience his “collaborators”.

Émigrés from “Eastern Europe” (the audience seats) slowly crowd the stage floor, until almost the whole audience sits cross-legged, hip-to-hip, packed as if in a Lower East Side tenement, complete with babies crying and mothers yelling. Suddenly, a theatrical reenactment of an experience of our history not known to most people living in 2015 comes a little bit alive, enhanced by the songs of the day, including “Where Is The Street?”

Later on, Mac refers to the time leading up to the war as a time of the birth of irony in America, as one’s future is harshly undeterminable. Mac asks all the men in the audience between their teens and their forties to come down and sit in the trenches of World War I, passing around their two tablespoon ration of hard liquor and having their wounds administered to by nurses, again, women from the audience and we are witness to a picture of what would be the tearing away of a huge population of able-bodied men, to be sent off into unknown territory, many of whom would never return to their wives and families. At one point the audience squares off into two opposing halves, one half chanting the words to “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier” to the other half chanting the words to “It’s Time For Every Boy To Be A Soldier”. As pro war sentiment increases, as it did at the time, the anti war chant is reduced to two, lone women in the audience, countered loudly by all the rest. Art imitates life. At another moment, all the women in the audience are asked to sing the wistful, somewhat melancholy, “Keep The Home Fires Burning”.

The world was ravaged by the deaths of sixteen and one half million people killed during World War I and the subsequent grief and trauma experienced by the living.  In the 1920’s segment, Mac speculates on people’s coping mechanisms from the extraordinary traumas of the war. He creates a fictional scenario between two gay, male partners, who respond in completely different ways to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. One stifles his trauma, trying to compensate and be happy and party in the desperate reveling of the good time Flapper years while his partner is embraced by the trauma, sinking into a deep depression, which takes him ten years to emerge from. He takes that ten years also to finish James Joyce’s Ulysses, and finally comes up for air and reconciles with his partner. “Happy Days Are Here Again” and  “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” are part of this section. “Singin’ In The Rain” takes on a tone of tentative optimism and healing.

Throughout, songs like “K-K-K-Katy”, “Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning” and the usually very upbeat, “When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along”, take on an unexpectedly poignant tone due to Mac’s smart and thoughtful narrative thread.

A very special moment is when Mac asks the audience for all people over fifty to raise their hands and then makes the painful and true observation that people over fifty become invisible in our society. In the particular performance that I attended, he invited a man in his eighties to come to the stage and asked for a person under twenty to come forward. He then asked the elder man to teach the young man how to dance and asked older audience members to pair up with younger ones and teach them to dance. This action in waking up the generations to each other and raising consciousness is part of the unique heart that Taylor Mac shares with the public and I loved it!

Taylor Mac’s three sparkling, extravagant costumes were created by wildly imaginative designer and installation artist, Machine Dazzle (Matthew Flower). One of Mac’s headdresses is cleverly constructed from a World War I military gas mask.  Machine Dazzle has also turned the theatre lobby into a flamboyant, attractive environment filled with multi- colored balloons, sports trophies and naked mannequins, wearing only pasties, exaggerated facial makeup and large, white wigs, along with a Pie In The Face sculpture, repetitive Gerber baby images and three Statue of Liberty mannequins in the theatre’s front window.

Mac has a wonderful band accompanying him, including: Matt Ray (Music Director/Piano/Backing Vocals), Bernice Boom Boom Brooks (Drums), Danton Boller (Bass), Greg Glassman (Trumpet), Amber Gray (Backing Vocals) and Yair Evnine (Cello/Guitar).

Taylor Mac conceived, wrote and co-directed the piece. Niegel Smith is the co-director. The lighting designer is John Torres.

This is an amazing and very distinctive show, which should not be missed. All shows are sold out, but a waiting list will be available for the remaining performances.