Koret Discover Jazz Series: The Latin Roots of Jazz Co-Presented by MoAD

The Latin Roots of Jazz
Six-class series co-presented by MoAD, YBGF, and SFJAZZ

Wednesdays, August 10 - September 14, 7PM - 9PM
Venue: Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) · 685 Mission St., SF
John Santos, Instructor
SFJAZZ/MoAD/YBGF Members: $15/class or $75/series
Public: $20/class or $100/series

Latin American music and musicians have played fundamental and innovative roles in the history and evolution of jazz. Jelly Roll, Louie, Duke and Diz are among the legions of jazz pioneers who acknowledged these facts. The Latin Roots of Jazz is the continuation of John Santos’ ongoing yearly series presented by the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and SFJAZZ, featuring live musical examples (in weeks one and six) in addition to selections from his legendary collection of audio and video recordings.

Koret Discover Jazz Series is generously supported by



Co-Presented by

Biographies

Nicole PaiementNicole Paiement (Conductor) has gained an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. Her numerous recordings include many world premiere works and she has toured extensively in the US and Asia. Paiement is an active Guest Conductor. She has recently been appointed Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera where she conducted the world premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest in 2015. Paiement was also the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Recently, she appeared as guest conductor with the Washington National Opera and the Saratoga Summer Festival. She will be conducting at Glimmerglass Opera this summer and at the Atlanta Opera in Fall 2016.

Brian StaufenbielBrian Staufenbiel (Director) is an active cross-disciplinary director and designer and has helmed the staging and design for Opera Parallèle since 2007. His adventurous stagecraft has won critical acclaim for the company’s productions. This past year, Staufenbiel designed and directed the World Premiere of Angel Heart, performed at Cal Performances in Berkeley, Carnegie Hall in New York City, and Festival del Sole. He shared a residency at Ban with composer Luna Pearl Woolf to create an original theater piece premiered in Montréal. Upcoming engagements include directing in both Minnesota Opera and the LA Opera.

Terence BlanchardTerence Blanchard (Composer/Trumpeter) is jazz’s foremost Renaissance man. A savvy bandleader, celebrated lm composer, brilliant jazz writer, and in uential educator, the GRAMMY-winning New Orleans native is a major creative force in the contemporary jazz scene. After an apprenticeship with jazz legend Art Blakey, Blanchard co-led a quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison during the height of the “young lion” era of the 1980s, releasing five acclaimed sessions, before striking out on his own as a solo artist. He has composed over 40 movie scores, including soundtracks for the majority of director Spike Lee’s work, making Blanchard the most prolific jazz artist working in lm. As an SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, he is able to present programs that express the diversity of his vision, including the West Coast premiere of his opera Champion: An Opera in Jazz.

Michael CristoferMichael Cristofer (Librettist) is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, filmmaker, and actor. He says of Champion, his first opera libretto, “For me, Emile’s story not only asks the question of what it means to be a man, it asks what it means to be a human being.”

Arthur WoodleyArthur Woodley (Bass, Emile Griffith) has been acclaimed for his performances in both opera and concert. He has appeared at the Seattle Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Also a distinguished concert singer, he has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, New World Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Houston Symphony, and The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Mr. Woodley created the role of Emile Griffith in the world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Champion at Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Kenneth KelloggKenneth Kellogg (Bass-Baritone, Young Emile Griffith) is an alum of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Emerging Artists Program. Kellogg’s roles in Washington have included Lord Rochefort in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Don Alfonso in Cosi Fan Tutte, Johann in Werther, and Angelotti in Tosca. He has made debuts with the Los Angeles Opera, Atlanta Opera, the Virginia Opera and Opera Tampa. Upcoming engagements include Sarastro in The Magic Flute at the Opéra de Lausanne, and a return to Washington in Carmen.

Karen SlackKaren Slack (Soprano, Emelda Griffith) made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Verdi’s Luisa Miller. She recently sang Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking with Madison Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera, Serena in Porgy and Bess with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, and Tosca with the New Philharmonic. Engagements for 2015 and beyond include Verdi’s Aïda with Austin Lyric Opera, her role debut as Alice Ford in Falsta with Arizona Opera, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the Lexington Philharmonic, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Back Bay Chorale.

Robert OrthRobert Orth (Baritone, Howie Albert) was named “Artist of the Year” by both New York City Opera and Seattle Opera. He has participated in the world premieres of Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick, Adams’ Nixon in China, Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, Blanchard’s Champion, Argento’s A Waterbird Talk, and created the title role in Wallace’s Harvey Milk. With Nicole Paiement, Orth has collaborated on Machover’s Death and the Powers, and twice on Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse when he returns in Opera Parallèle’s production in April at Z Space. Mr. Orth’s performance is partially sponsored by Bernice and John Lindstrom.

Champion Synopsis

Act I

Kenneth Kellogg Kenneth Kellog
©2015 Steve DiBartolomeo

Scene 1 begins in Emile’s apartment in Hempstead, Long Island. Emile Griffith is struggling to get dressed. Suffering from dementia, he is confused and haunted by his past. Luis, his adopted son and caretaker, reminds him to be ready for an important meeting with Benny Paret, Jr.

Late 1950’s, Emile is a young man again in St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands. He yearns to find his mother, Emelda, and make it big in America as a singer, a baseball player, and a designer of hats. Emile moves to New York. When he finds his mother, she is confused, not sure which of her seven abandoned children he is, but overjoyed. Hoping to find Emile a job, she takes him to meet Howie Albert, a hat manufacturer. Howie sees an opportunity: Emile is built like a boxer, not a hat-maker, and he sets his sights on training Emile as a fighter. Giving up his other dreams, Emile quickly develops into a talented welterweight. Lonely and confused by his success, Emile finds his way to a gay bar in Manhattan. Kathy Hagan, the owner, welcomes Emile to a world that frightens and attracts him. Emile confides in Kathy, revealing some demons from his past. As a boy, his cruel fundamentalist cousin Blanche forced him to hold cinderblocks above his head as punishment for having the devil inside him, a punishment that made him into a man of great physical strength.

1962, Emile encounters Benny Paret at a weigh-in for their upcoming fight. Kid Paret taunts the charismatic Emile, calling him “maricon,” a disparaging Spanish word for a homosexual. Alone with Howie, Emile tries to talk to him frankly about why this word hurt him so deeply, but for Howie this is something that no one in the fight business wants to talk about. Howie leaves him and Emile wonders what it means to be a man. Emile and Paret prepare for the big fight. Paret continues to taunt Emile, who ultimately delivers seventeen blows in less than seven seconds and knocks Paret into a coma.

Act II

A boxing scene from Champion: An Opera in Jazz Champion: An Opera in Jazz premiere
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
©2013 Ken Howard

Back in Emile’s bedroom in the present, Emile is haunted by the ghost of Kid Paret who still questions his old opponent.

Mid-to late 1960s, Emile is enjoying a strong winning streak all over the world. Titles, trophies, and money roll in, but he remains disturbed by the death of Kid Paret. He tries living it up, and, denying his own identity, he takes a young bride, Sadie, although everyone including his mother Emelda, who remembers her own childhood back in the Islands, warns him against it.

Early 1970s, after the wedding, Emile’s luck seems to have changed. He’s now on a long losing streak and starting to display signs of “boxer’s brain,” or trauma-related dementia. Howie realizes that Emile’s days are numbered and tries to console him, but Emile rejects Howie, as well as his wife and his mother. Instead, he looks for comfort back at Kathy’s bar. Outside in the street, he is taunted by a group of thugs. They beat him violently, exacerbating his brain injuries.

Back in the present, Emile relives the nightmare of the attack. Luis tries to comfort him. “That was long ago,” says Luis. In a New York City park, Emile asks for forgiveness from Benny Jr. Luis tells Benny that since that terrible evening Emile has struggled to find peace with what he’s done and who he truly is. Back at home, the voices and memories subside. Emile Griffith, the former welterweight champ, can now take life one day at a time.