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The Mini-Global Mashups continue through December 2022!
Join us on Sunday, December 18th, as we welcome the following artists for our final mashup performance of 2022:
Lucy Blanco’s career as a jazz vocalist happened almost by chance. Now, years later, she is co-founder and lead singer of the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble in New York City, simultaneously recording her own debut album with international pianist Warren Byrd and the debut album for the ensemble. The Garifuna are an indigenous ethnic group of mixed African and native Caribbean ancestry originally from St Vincent and the Grenadines who were displaced to Central America in 1795; they have retained a strong oral culture which is transmitted through music. In 2001 UNESCO proclaimed Garifuna culture a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage to humanity”. Lucy sees her both her solo work and collaborative efforts as integral parts of her musical identity and a beautiful opportunity to share her unique culture. She says, “My goal is to make music that speaks to the love I have for jazz and Latin music and reflects the Garifuna, Afro-Latina heritage I am proud to have.”
The journey began in 1964 when Lucy’s parents who are of Garifuna descent, left their tiny fishing village of Santa Rosa de Aguan on the coast of Honduras, to seek out a better life in the United States. Lucy was born in the Bronx, a stronghold for Garifuna immigrants; she grew up immersed in Garifuna traditions but also deeply influenced by the rich and vibrant jazz culture of New York City. However, it would be some years before she felt the call to seek music and after graduating from college, Lucy moved to Los Angeles with dreams of working in the fashion industry, but as fate would have it, life had other plans. Not long after embarking on a career in fashion Lucy fell in love, got married and had a baby. She soon realized that working long hours far from home was not conducive to family life and she slowed down here hectic schedule order to have more time with her husband and daughter. It was within this space that she began to explore a growing desire to sing. She sought out a musical theatre company where the musical director, impressed with the resonant, smoky quality of her voice, suggested she pursue a singing career.
Lucy soon became consumed by her passion for singing and invested herself in learning jazz; though she had no formal training in music she quickly excelled, honing her performance skills at the World Stage jazz events in Leimert Park. She later joined the vocal jazz group, Radiant Voices, interpreting jazz standards under the direction of Dr. Barry Harris; she remained there for nearly three years. During that time Lucy was invited to participate in an Artist in Residence program in Amsterdam, connecting with musicians from all over the world whose only common language was music. The experience was powerful and marked her significantly. It gave her an understanding of how music transcends culture and language and she longed to explore the musical heritage of the Garifuna people. Lucy sought out mentors, Michael Andrews, a renowned pianist, and Dahl Scott-McDuff a well respected jazz vocalist and contemporary of Ella Fitzgerald. She recalls that Ms. Scott-McDuff taught her “all the things about being a jazz singer that aren’t taught in books.” and under her guidance Lucy blossomed as a musician.
As the desire to connect with her roots became intense Lucy sought ways to combine traditional Garifuna rhythms with jazz. This experimentation culminated in her first recorded piece, an interpretation of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil”, with her then musical director, Michael Andrews. She realized, however that to truly connect with her roots she would need to move back to the East Coast where her family is based. Her first stop was Hartford Connecticut and shortly after arriving there, Lucy began making a name for herself as a vocalist. Her first ever solo performance which took place at Trinity on Main, a landmark venue, garnered praise from, Maurice D. Robertson, music critic of the Hartford Jazz Society. She went on to do several collaborations with international jazz pianist, Warren Byrd, travelling back and forth to her native New York where she frequently sat in on improvised sessions. She also performed at the Lady Got Chops Jazz Festival where she garnered enthusiastic reviews. It became increasingly clear that to pursue jazz full time she would need to permanently relocate to New York City, the “Mecca of Jazz”. It was there that she met Garifuna musician-composer, James Lovell with whom she founded the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble. The Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble is the first project of its kind; an innovative genre-bending project that blends Garifuna language, instruments and traditional rhythms such as Punta, Paranda and Hungu Hungu, with jazz arrangements. In their words, it is “jazz interpreted from a Garifuna perspective.” The concept was born of a performance in Greenwich Village during Garifuna Heritage Month and fueled with the desire to bring awareness to the endangered language of the Garifuna people and offer a platform through which the history and language of the Garifuna will be safeguarded through music. As one of the few female Garifuna artists and only Garifuna jazz vocalist, Lucy is grateful for the opportunities to continue this work.
Hilliard (Hill) Greene - Bassist
Hilliard Greene has been performing music internationally for more than 30 years and has been playing professionally for over forty years. Greene studied at the University of Northern Iowa, Berklee College of Music and graduated from Empire College. He has performed/recorded/toured with Jimmy Scott, serving as his bassist/Musical Director and with Cecil Taylor where he was Concert Master for his large ensemble “Phtongos”. He is a former staff bassist at Minton’s in Harlem a.k.a. Minton’s Playhouse and is a 2020 recipient of the Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO Award (Bronx Recognizes Its Own).
Lisa y Josué
Many who were raised in Latin America hold a special place in their hearts for the guitar. The music of Lisa y Josué offers that personal experience to new audiences, while encouraging those who are nostalgic for it to rekindle that passion. Audiences will experience the pulse of the guitar almost as if is coming from within themselves. Musical selections may be from Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia or Spain, but are not chosen by nationality, but for a beautiful melody, unusual texture or intriguing rhythm which can be given a new interpretation through the natural voice of the guitar. This is what drives the compositions of Josué Pérez, what Lisa y Josué have named "Guitarrazón" (the way or reason of the guitar).
Lisa and Josué began performing as a flamenco duo in the ‘80's at Teatro Rincón Taino. This was followed by a stretch of long-standing Manhattan gigs at The Ballroom, Charmant, Mesa de España, Kavehaz and Xunta.
While both are accomplished soloists, they each bring additional strengths as artists: Josué as a composer and improviser, Lisa as a classical guitarist and flamenco dancer. Live and on their five CD recordings, the duo offers a captivating array of Latin music, flamenco and original pieces. They have performed at many notable events and venues, including the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Newport Music Festival Gala, Neuberger Museum at SUNY Purchase, El Museo del Barrio, The Whitney, MOMA, Paso Fino Grand Nationals, and Equitana USA. Return concert engagements include the RISD Museum, First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum, Vista on the Hill Music Series, Hamilton Park Hispanic Heritage Month Concerts, Wakefield Music Company, and the Rubin Museum.
Lisa y Josué’s concert series, Noche de guitarras, was featured on New York City’s Channel 13 City Arts, with live performances at Cami Hall, Abrons Arts Center, Julia de Burgos Theater, The Aurora Gallery and others. Media appearances include HBO en Español, Univisión, WADO and WPAT Radio. The duo often performs in community outreach settings, parks, libraries, and schools.
Lisa began her guitar career as a child at the Henry St. Settlement Music School. She studied with Robert Paul Sullivan of the New England Conservatory, and in master classes with Oscar Ghiglia, Lagoya and Paco Peña. A graduate of Brown University with an M.A. in Music Performance from NYU, Lisa has received MCAF awards for her projects New Works for Guitar...by Old Friends 2008 and 18 originales 2019. She is active as a teaching artist through Carnegie Hall’s LinkUp! program, NYC Parks Dept., NYC Public Libraries, Su Casa, and Lifetime Arts.
Concerts include BAM, National Opera Center, Bargemusic, the Spanish Institute, and Temple E'manuel in Staten Is. Festival performances include DanceNow NYC, with Nydia Ocasio and Tito Sandoval, and 1992 Istanbul Sephardic Music Festival with Daisy Sadaka Braverman. Dance collaborations include Asturias at Second Stage with flamenco dancer Manolo Rivera, Danzules with Regina Quintero in Mexico City, and original music set to modern dance choreographed by Mariko Tanabe, Jolea Maffei, and Jen Dev in NYC.
: Josué Pérez
will no longer be performing at this event as of December 12, 2022. Instead, Percussionist Tito Ocasio
will be joining Lisa Spraragen
on stage for the performance.
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This program is generously sponsored by the Center for Cultural Vibrancy.