Drop that mop and get your kids over to one or all of WBGO Jazz Radio 88.3FM free Saturday afternoon "Kids Jazz" programs this October. The 18-year-old series resumes Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Newark Symphony Hall and continues every Saturday this month at different locations in the city or its suburbs.
Jazz is America's premiere contribution to world culture and Newark based station WBGO is America's premiere jazz broadcaster. It's also a premiere cultural and civic institution with an art gallery, in studio live broadcasts, media sponsorships of area jazz festivals, and not incidentally, it has a crackerjack news department.
Behind much of this outreach is WBGO stalwart Dorthaan Kirk, the station's special events and programs coordinator, and a key player in the Newark cultural scene and at the station since the 1970s.
Kirk talked about the "WBGO Kids Jazz" series: "This program is designed to introduce young people to jazz," he said. "My main focus is not the big name jazz star; it's presenting a program young people can understand."
Each season — there is also a spring edition which starts in April 2012 — each of the one hour programs explore a given instrument, style or component of jazz. This season the main themes are the jazz organ, song, Latin jazz and expressing emotion in jazz.
This season, as with all the previous programs I have attended, count on your kids being totally involved and totally happy. You, too.
"People like to be involved," Kirk said. "I try to have diversity and always include one program of vocals; everybody relates to the human voice."
To that vocal end, jazz singer Allan Harris will present "Songs for Kids to Swing By," on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the University Height Charter School at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark. Harris and his trio have a program of jazz classics planned: "Take the A Train," "Sittin' and Rockin'," "Caravan," and "Straighten Up and Fly Right," among others. "Everyone is going to join in on 'What A Wonderful World' at the end," Kirk said.
Expect to hear and learn about scat, vocalized jazz improvisation, too.
Kirk likes to present artists from this side of the Hudson: If New York City is the jazz capital of the world, New Jersey's Essex County is home to scores of jazz musicians. (My resident jazz guitarist husband and I routinely run into his fellow players at the grocery, post office, farmer's market, buying pet food or just out for a walk.)
To that New Jersey end, the program begins with famed Newark native daughter organist Rhoda Scott, back home after years living and performing in Europe, and includes Maplewood's Marcus Printup and his group on Oct. 29.
Scott, here to study at Rutgers-Newark famed Jazz Institute, will look at the many personalities of the organ, from gospel, rock, jazz and — perfect timing for post season baseball — the ball park and the skating rink.
Note to grown up Rhoda Scott fans: There will be many opportunities to hear Rhoda later this fall with a live broadcast over WBGO on November 4, an organ jam at the home of the organ jam — Newark Symphony Hall on Nov. 5 and a program of sacred music at Bethany Baptist Church on Nov. 6.
As to trumpeter Printup, he will be at the Newark Museum on Saturday, Oct. 29 with "Jazz Is Feeling." The trumpet, along with guitar, is one of jazz's most expressive instruments; it's close to the human voice in timbre and emotive potential — think about how Louis Armstrong's singing and trumpet playing are really the same voice, calling and responding.
Printup will be asking kids to call out emotions and the musicians will respond instrumentally.
Jazz is all about multiple rhythms and cultural inclusion. Brothers Zaccai, piano, and Luques Curtis, bass, Grammy nominee and winner respectively, bring in the sounds and beats of Afro-Caribbean Latin Jazz on Oct. 22 at the Maplewood Middle School.
Parents, jazz is not a hootenanny — start practicing clapping on beats two and four instead of the downbeat.
More important, go to any or all of the concerts and try to arrive at each venue at noon; the free tickets are given out on a first come, first served basis, and seating can't be guaranteed. "It's really important to create a jazz audience for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," Kirk said. "It has to start some place and this is our contribution."
Admission to the WBGO "Kids Jazz" is free, but you must have a child with you to get in. The average kids age skews young, but the program works for all ages. For complete schedule and venue locations, see www.wbgo.org.