Leonard Bernstein, whose music lit up everything from Broadway to symphony halls to the movies, and even America’s living rooms, will take center stage Friday night when Miami’s Jazz Roots series pays tribute to the composer in a Centennial celebration.
“Leonard Bernstein 100 and Beyond” at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, kicks off the jazz series’ 11th season. The program will feature Grammy award-winning vocalist Jon Secada, platinum-selling songwriter and award-winning singer Ann Hampton Callaway and acclaimed gospel saxophonist Kurt Whalum. In addition, the Frost Music School’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, and pianist Shelly Berg, the school’s dean and artistic director of the Jazz Roots series, is also on the bill.
Bernstein was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States to receive worldwide acclaim, his fame deriving from his long tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, with which he made more than half of his 400 recordings. He also conducted most of the world’s leading orchestras, and composed the music for movies including “West Side Story,” “Peter Pan,” “On the Town,” “Candide,” and more.
But perhaps his most lasting accomplishment was the indelible mark he left on younger generations; through the more than 50 Young People’s concert programs, which were broadcast on CBS TV from 1958-72. Callaway, who grew up in Chicago, recalls watching the programs with her mother Shirley, who was a singer, pianist and vocal coach, and her sister, Liz Callaway, who is also an award-winning singer. “I would watch every ‘Young People’s’ concert I could,” says Callaway, noting that Bernstein’s “passion, his intensity, his delivery--everything about him excited me about music.”
As Callaway grew up, she remained impressed not only with his music, but also his versatility, a quality for which she is also known. The Tony Award-nominee is credited with having a unique style whose blend of jazz and traditional pop has made her a mainstay in concert halls, theaters and jazz clubs.
Like Bernstein, she is also a composer as well, with songs that have been featured on seven Barbra Streisand releases, as well as for composing songs for other singers,such as Carole King, Rolf Lovland and Barbara Carroll, to name a few.
According to Berg, the program will feature iconic Bernstein music “performed and reimagined for today. Among the numbers Callaway will perform will be “I Feel Pretty,” from “West Side Story,” and “Lucky to be Me,” from “On the Town,” which she will perform to Berg’s piano accompaniment, she says.
She also plans to do some “scatting” on Whalum’s big band style rendition of America,” and, with Secada, she will be singing “Somewhere,” from "West Side Story."
The Havana-born Secada, who grew up in Miami, has won three Grammy awards, and sold 20 million albums in English and Spanish, is one of the first bilingual artists to have international crossover success, and is recognized today as an international superstar.
Beyond his own hits, Secada is widely recognized for his impeccable producing and songwriting skills, collaborating with Gloria Estefan and creating countless popular songs for superstars such as Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.
A 12-time Grammy nominee, Whalum is the recipient also of three Dove Award nominations, an NAACP Image Award nomination and two Stellar Awards - gospel music’s highest honor. Regarding Callaway, one of the things she loves to do most is to champion the great American Songbook, so it will be especially meaning for her to perform these Bernstein classics, she noted.
“Some of these songs may be more in a jazz style than what Leonard Bernstein wrote, but a lot of his Broadway songs were jazz tinged so I am looking forward to being able to put my take on them,” she added.:
“Leonard Bernstein 100 and Beyond,” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday April 9 at the Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Fla., 33132. Tickets $45-$125. Call 305-949-6722. www.arshtcenter.org.