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Destination....................................warwick/Greenwood Lake Celebrating 41 Years in Jazz: Steve Rubin's 60th Birthday Gig by Philip Ehrensaft

The musicians who made the 2012 edition of the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival a big success will reunite in Warwick on February 15, instruments in hand, to celebrate festival organizer Steve Rubin's 60th birthday. The venue is The Dautaj in Warwick, and the jam session begins, with Rubin on his drums, at 7:00pm. The general public is heartily invited to join in the festivities. At the same time, Rubin will formally announce the expanded scope of the upcoming 2013 edition of the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival in August. This expanded scope has three elements. First, Warwick will no longer be the singular location for festival events; concerts will also take place in other Hudson Valley towns Second, the festival's educational component will expand from jazz workshops to a jazz camp directed by Bob Rosen, a music educator at the Friends School in Manhattan, and the director of the Meeting House Orchestra. Third, Rubin indicates, wisely, that he does not want to be the judge of what is or is not jazz. If an ensemble plays what it relates to jazz, it's in as long as it reflects Duke Ellington's dictum, “if it sounds good, it IS good.” Back to Rubin's 60th birthday party and his 41 years in jazz: As a teenager, Rubin was involved in other kinds of music until chance elements drew him into jazz. That included an older brother who organized jazz concerts at Queens College. One of these concerts introduced him to the force-of-nature drummer Elvin Jones, who invited Rubin to come hear him at a gig in Manhattan. It's hard to imagine a better route for an aspirant teenaged drummer to get hooked on jazz. So, at the age of 19, Rubin started his jazz education at the very top of the hierarchy, with the legendary drummer Mel Lewis. He also began studying at Queens Community College, where his real major was being the music critic

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for the college newspaper. After two and a half years at QCC, Rubin headed for, in my view, the most effective schooling for an aspirant young jazz musician: playing as many gigs as he could get in the Big Apple's dense network of clubs, not only in jazz but in other genres as well. And getting mentored, in the process, by more experienced musicians. Reflecting on the pluses and minuses of getting mentored on stage vs today's college jazz departments, Rubin commented on the more difficult route facing young musicians, compared to his experiences in the 1970's, who want to get their education on stage. Quite simply, there are a lot more musicians vying for gigs in fewer venues. That supply and demand situation makes it much harder for a young musician to earn his or her bread while learning the trade. It's much harder, as well, for the senior musicians doing the mentoring to bring in good incomes. Rubin also commented on jazz producing nothing ground-breaking during the last three decades. That compares with the experiences of musicians and fans in his age cohort: when you went to the Village Vanguard to hear McCoy Tyner or Herby Hancock, there was the raw excitement of knowing that you were going to hear music that had never been heard before. I wonder whether the formalization of jazz education in conservatories and college departments, for all the technical prowess and

February 2013

employment of jazz musicians that it provides, might play a role in the routinization. Jazz has truly become America's classical music in the sense that it's now primarily a music based on interpretations of a standard repertoire. Rubin's on-stage musical education also included playing in a wide variety of popular music genres. That not only helped pay the rent, but also widened his musical ear, even playing disco. To Rubin, if a genre is played skillfully and seriously, it's a valid experience. But home base was jazz, especially hearing Weather Report for the first time at a concert organized by a friend at Stony Brook. Weather Report's fusion of composition and improvisation, and electric and acoustic, to use the most current expression of the times, blew Rubin's mind. Subsequent years saw Rubin moving in and

out of jazz in order to pay that rent. That included stints like owning a health food store and, later, a lighting business. But, Rubin underlines, his ears, mind, and heart were always in jazz. In 2005, Rubin was very pleasantly surprised to discover that a bucolic, beautiful town like Warwick could exist an hour's drive away from Manhattan, rather than way upstate. He and his actress wife Bettina Skye left the Big Apple that they knew so well for Warwick. So Rubin will celebrate his 60th birthday in a place he wants to be, and doing what he most wants to do on February 15 with fellow jazz musicians like John Arbo, Bob Rosen, Rick Savage, Dave Smith, Gabriele Tranchina, and Joe Vincent Tranchina. The Dautaj is located at 36 Oakland Avenue in Warwick. Phone 845-986-3666.

Greenwood Forest Farms Association, New York State’s first African-American resort community, offers a variety of events throughout the year, and this month it is offering two lectures on: Tuskegee Airmen: African Americans in Aviation, the US Army Air Corps program to train AfricanAmericans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The free programs will be presented on February 23 at the Greenwood Lake

Library (Noon with Lt. Col. Glendon Fraser) and at the Albert Wisner Library at (3:30pm with Derek Green). The guest speakers were commercial and government pilots. The Greenwood Lake Library is at 79 Waterstone Road. The Albert Wisner Library is at 1 McFarland Drive, Warwick. Reservations for both events can be made by calling 845-544-7264 or emailing wamj@aol.com. Photo courtesy of James G. Johnson

African Americans in Aviation

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