The greats of folk music including Peter Yarrow and Tom Chapin are gathering together in a concert that both celebrates the eclectic American composer and performer David Amram on his 84th birthday, while at the same time paying tribute to the iconic Pete Seeger.
On November 20, 2014 at 7pm, Producer Jason Samel of Movement Music Records in association with Love Revolution and Gold Coast Arts Center presents “David Amram’s 84th Birthday Concert: Remembering Pete Seeger” at The Hillwood Recital Hall at Tilles Center on the LIU-CW Post Campus, 720 Northern Blvd, Brookville.
In what is being billed “the greatest folk concert Long Island has seen in decades,” the evening’s performers will include David Amram and his quintet (David Amram, Kevin Twigg, Rene Hart, Robbie Winterhawk and Adam Amram, Elliot Pepper) as well as friends he shared with the late Pete Seeger including Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary), Tom Chapin, Holly Near, Guy Davis, Garland Jeffreys, Kim & Reggie Harris, Joel Rafael, The Amigos, The Chapin Sisters, Bethany & Rufus and the Connecticut State Troubadour Kristen Graves.
The concert is being organized by Samel, a Great Neck resident, to benefit the Gold Coast Arts Center, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach, based in Great Neck.
David Amram is an American composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist, and author and a master of many musical genres, making each accessible to a broader audience.
As a classical composer and performer, his integration of jazz (including being one of the first to improvise jazz on the French horn), folkloric and world music has led him to work with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Willie Nelson, Langston Hughes, Charles Mingus, Pepper Adams, Leonard Bernstein, Sir James Galway, Tito Puente, Mary Lou Williams, Joseph Papp, Arthur Miller, Arturo Sandoval, Stan Getz, Pete Seeger, Elia Kazan, Christopher Plummer, Ingrid Bergman, Odetta, Lord Buckley, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Allen, Machito, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Allen Ginsberg, Nina Simone, Gregory Corso, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins, T.S. Monk, Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Levon Helm, Betty Carter and Jack Kerouac.
In the early 1950s, Amram was encouraged by an unusual mix of mentors including Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, the New York Philharmonic’s conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, Miles Davis, Aaron Copland, Gunther Schuller, and visual artists Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Today, as he has for over 70 years, Amram continues to compose music while traveling the world as a conductor, soloist, bandleader, visiting scholar, and narrator in five languages.
On a recent Brian Lehrer show on NPR, Oct. 17, no less than the beloved Raffi gave a shout out to David Amram, saying, “He breaks down the walls between contemporary and classical.” (There’s a photo at the site showing Raffi Cavaoukian singing in 2012 with Pete Seeger & David Amram at Clearwater Music Festival).
But it struck me as a bit odd that an 84th birthday celebration of David Amram, a musician known for classical and jazz, celebrates the life of Pete Seeger, who used folk music in the service of political activism.
So I asked Samel, who responded by email:
“In years past. these musicians would regularly be found sharing the stage with Pete. They continue to share the stage with him through remembrance and acknowledgement of his spirit’s presence in all their music and activism. We credit Pete as a great organizer and musician who blazed a path for so many by indelibly linking his music and activism. We thank him for bringing songs like ‘Guantanamera’ and ‘Wimoweh’ to the United States, for turning the traditional song ‘I Will Overcome’ to ‘We Shall Overcome’ and teaching it to Dr. Martin Luther King. Pete Seeger brought American Folk music into the homes of millions of Americans and those in countless countries around the world. As we remember Pete we equally acknowledge Toshi, Pete’s wife of 70 years who passed six months before him. Their devotion to each other and to their work was larger than life and lives on in across the globe in many ways.”
He added that while Amram is known in so many genres, “David Amram was very close friends with Pete Seeger, which is the reason we wanted to tie this into his birthday concert. David has a long history in folk music, classical, jazz, blues, as well as music of the American Indians. David has been a mainstay at the Clearwater Festival for as long as it has existed. If you ever go to a concert with David you will find that through his music he tells stories of his many travels, society, the environment and so many other issues. He is in fact one of the most respected folk musicians in the country, as well as in so many other genres of music. Every artist on the bill has played with David and Pete, as it was a requirement for an artist to be able to play in this concert. Also, much of Amrams music will be played at the concert, as it is a tribute to both him, and Pete.”
Still, I was not satisfied. So I asked where have all the folk musicians activists gone, long time passing?
If anything, Samel, a Great Neck resident, is carrying on the protest music tradition of Pete Seeger, producing the music score for Occupy Wall Street (“Occupy This”) and climate change (“Buy This Fracking Album”). Samel is on the vanguard of a new form of activist folk music he calls Movement Music.
“I appreciate the notion that I am carrying on Seeger’s tradition,” he wrote in response to my email. “Pete was a great man, who inspired so many folks like myself to continue to carry on his torch of music activism. I have worked very hard over the past 3 years in doing so by producing many concerts, a massive music festival dedicated to Pete Seeger, and a couple of albums (see links below). David and Pete are 2 of my idols who I will forever work myself to the bone in following the path they laid out for us.
But where is this music heard? Pete Seeger was like a Pied Piper whose music brought people out into the streets.
“Protest music of the past was traditionally Folk Music. Folk music is still heard throughout the world, from the elder musicians who began its revival as well as the thousands of new generation of folk musicians who have followed in their steps. You still hear plenty about the Newport Folk Fest, Philadelphia Folk Fest, as well as many others across the globe every year. Folk music after Pete/Woody, is alive, well, and growing. Tom Morello, Indigo Girls, Dar Williams, Lucinda Williams, James Maddock, Jack Johnson, the The Lone Bellow, Dawes, Avett Brothers, and too many more to mention…
“However, 3 years ago I coined a new genre of music, Movement Music. Movement Music is music which is conscious to the realities of our world, which talks about the people, the environment, and the many social issues we face. The musicians who I have worked with in developing this new stream of music come from every genre of music under the sun. The concerts, music festival, and albums which I produce always looks to include music with as many sounds as possible from Hip Hop, to traditional Folk Music, Jam Bands, Reggae, Blues, Jazz, Classical, Heavy Metal, Punk, etc. Every type of musician has important things to say, but not every musician has the guts to say it as many are too concerned with their reputations than they are in making a difference with their music. I work with artists who believe that music is a tool to reach the masses about important issues that most hold dear.
“The artists I work with have the guts to talk about these issues in their music. The reason you have the question below as to “WHERE” is all of this music as we had in the 60’s is simple: Corporatism. Unless you are listening to NPR, or local college stations, you are simply not going to hear any of it. The stations won’t play it, as they are too concerned about their advertisers. If they dared play a song about Occupy, or fracking, or police brutality, gun violence, or corporatism, their advertisers would disappear. Even a station like WFUV which often has many folk artists on their statio, and likes to be involved in conscious idealism (which I love) usually will not allow much music on with any political controversy to it as they too are afraid to lose underwriting.
“It’s folks like: Amanda Palmer, or Hip Hop artists like Immortal Technique, Common, Rebel Diaz, Punk artists like Anti Flag, blues artists like Guy Davis, jam artists like DJ Logic, Warren Haynes, Marco Benevento, new folk musicians like James Maddock,Tom Morello, Mike and Ruthy, Matt Pless, Reggae/Rock artists like Michael Franti, John Butler Trio, Toots and The Maytals, Taj Weekes, Rootz Underground, as well as Jazz and folk artists like David Amram, Tom Chapin, Peter Yarrow and many more; who continuously speak as loud as possible in their music and otherwise about the many issues our society faces. They do it in their songs, they post about it, they go to protests, they participate in benefit concerts and albums to raise awareness about it. These folks don’t care if a record label doesn’t want to sign them because of it, or that radio won’t play their music, they only care that the message gets out to the people that they want to reach.
“But unless good folks like yourself write about it, or stations like WUSB, WCWP, WBAI play the music nobody will ever hear about it unless one makes it their business to follow everything these artists do through social media and otherwise (I do this, it’s hard to keep up).
“This socially conscious music is everywhere the press all too often isn’t. You just have to search it out. When you do, you will be pleasantly amazed by some of the world’s best musicians, with powerful messages.”
Samel became a music activist after visiting Occupy Wall Street’s camp on the second day of protests in September 2011, as Dan Glaun reported in the Great Neck News in 2012.
His experience that day in Zuccotti Park led him to create “Occupy This Album,” a compilation record featuring musicians ranging from country music icon Willie Nelson to hip hop legend Immortal Technique and local performers he met through Occupy Wall Street.
Concert tickets are $55 in advance and can be purchased at www.movementmusicrecords.com
There is also a VIP meet and greet with the performers available for an additional $45.
For more information about the Gold Coast Arts Center, visit www.goldcoastarts.org or call 516-829-2570.