I collaborated as Musical Director (and performing artist) for JazzXchange: The House that America Built – Part II.
The House That America Built – Part II is a collaborative performance by the members of JazzXchange, an ensemble of dancers, musicians, choreographers, a spoken-word artist and a visual artist.
The historical journey of jazz music and dance embodies the chronology of the United States of America, but that is not the story this work tells: Rather, this work uses the notion of a “house” — a place of dwelling — and examines it in various ways that invite the audience in, to occupy the house directly and feel the impact of their presence on it, rather than just observe it from the outside. The house, like jazz itself, is a metaphor for change: Occupants come and go; its value goes up and down; there is wear and tear, rebuilding and even demolition taking place cyclically to maintain the local economy.
This Jazz House, built for and in spite of its 2017, inhabitants lays its foundation on what is actually a burial ground, with its own memory. The past is muffled, while the chaos of the international socio-political playground that surrounds the house’s 2017 inhabitants challenges their achievements, their values and, most curiously, their inalienable rights. However buttressed against the outside world’s entry, and no matter what kind of reinforcements were designed by or for the inhabitants, the unrelenting din, pollution and dissonance will inevitably penetrate the house. They affect all who dwell in it, because essential supplies from the outside are still required for life to continue within.
When the earthquake rumbles, do all houses fall? You be the judge. With a cast of nine dancers and five musicians and a poet, JazzXchange explores this House that only a nation like the USA could build. Come and dwell in it. Be present to see, hear, feel and imagine what is within its walls. Visual artist Dali Polivka collaborates with director Sheron Wray to create a visual language that speaks to the political landscape of this time, where a seemingly stable environment has, for some, suddenly turned into turmoil, while for others the turbulence merely continues.
The choreographers who inhabit this particular version of The House… are: Cyrian Reed, L.A.-based hip hop choreographer; Moncell Durden, master of African American vernacular dance; Irishia Hubbard, forging her path as a choreographer, and Sheron Wray, whose vision of jazz dance and music is realized through dynamic improvisation.
Adding further distinction to The House… are the commanding spoken word performance of Makeda Kumasi and the musical genius of the JazzXchange Band, an unusual ensemble of drums, bass, accordion, piano and computational sound led by Fabio Paolizzo. Kumasi, who has previously performed with JazzXchange, returns to The House… with new, original work.