National PBS Series Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis
LRSmedia and WTTW National Productions are set to launch a new television series, Legends of Jazz, hosted by Ramsey Lewis. This national PBS series will debut on June 16, 2005 with a one-hour special, showcasing winners of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award. The 13 weekly 30-minute episodes will debut in Fall 2005, marking the first time in 40 years that jazz has been the focus of a national network weekly series highlighting jazz performance.
Produced in state-of-the-art HDTV and Dolby Surround 5.1 audio, the series is unique in combining live performance, intimate conversation and archival material to provide a fascinating and entertaining first-hand accounting of some of the most memorable moments in jazz – perhaps the most purely American art form, often referred to as "America's classical music."
Pictured (left to right): NEA Jazz Masters Paquito D’Rivera (saxophone/clarinet), Jon Hendricks (vocal), James Moody (saxophone), Nancy Wilson (vocal) and George Wein (founder of the Newport Jazz Festival), teen jazz vocal sensation Renee
The PBS series premieres with Legends of Jazz: The Jazz Masters, sponsored by Verizon and the National Endowment for the Arts. The historic hour-long special spotlights five recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts' NEA Jazz Masters award, the highest national honor in this art form, presented annually since 1982. The celebrated guests are vocalist Nancy Wilson (NEA Jazz Master 2004); saxophonist James Moody (1998); vocalist Jon Hendricks (1993); Latin jazz artist Paquito D'Rivera (2005); and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein (2005). In addition, teen jazz vocal sensation Renee Olstead, who made her major label debut in 2004, appears as a special guest, providing a fascinating counterpoint to the established jazz superstars on the program.
"One of the most important reasons for me doing this series – aside from the pure entertainment value -- is to document and archive this incredible wealth of experience," says Mr. Lewis, a three-time Grammy Award winner and host of the popular Legends of Jazz nationally syndicated radio program, heard by more than 5 million listeners each week. "It's an incredible feeling listening to great artists like Nancy, Moody, Jon, Paquito and so many others as they recount their memories and speak about their influences. These people, and those legends who came before them, are jazz, and so it really is like being treated to an oral history of the genre."
2004 NEA Jazz Master and 2005 GRAMMY Award-winner for Best Jazz
States Larry Rosen, co-chairman of LRSmedia, co-founder of GRP Records, and Creator and Executive Producer of Legends of Jazz: "This series not only serves to pay homage to the established legends of jazz, but also provides a national platform for audiences to be exposed to new, exciting young artists who are building upon the legacy of these greats. Now, for the first time in nearly 40 years, we are bringing jazz back to U.S. network television, and we are doing it with state-of-the-art HDTV and 5.1 Surround production technology."
"Creating national programming that makes great music accessible to a wide and diverse audience is at the heart of WTTW's mission. The revival of Soundstage and the production of dozens of local Chicago music programs has become part of our 50-year heritage. We are especially proud to co-produce Legends of Jazz with a Chicago legend, Ramsey Lewis," said Randy King, Executive Vice President for Television at WTTW National Productions.
"Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Masters program has honored many jazz greats. We are delighted that this series, which will reach millions of viewers across the country, will begin with a tribute to the music's true legends," said Dana Gioia, NEA chairman.
Legends of Jazz is co-produced by LRSmedia and WTTW National Productions, the award-winning PBS affiliate in Chicago, IL. Hosted by Mr. Lewis, each weekly episode features a guest star performing several numbers with Ramsey and his trio. In between these informal performances, Ramsey and his guest artist chat casually about topics related to the show's theme. Weekly episodes will focus on a single instrument, style or element of jazz. The feel is loose and improvisational, not dry or academic. All guest stars are world-class musicians known for their artistic gifts, their passion for music and the legends who came before them, and, of course, for their larger-than-life personalities, humor, fascinating stories, and riveting performances.
Woodwind virtuoso and 2005 NEA Jazz Master Paquito D'Rivera accompanied by bassist Oscar Stagnaro.
The series, conceived by veteran music producer Larry Rosen, and legendary jazz artist Ramsey Lewis, provides a unique business model for profit-nonprofit partnership, combining the expertise of LRSmedia. and the International Association for Jazz Education. LRSmedia is an independent music entertainment company that creates and produces branded entertainment properties for distribution across broadcast, live and recorded media. IAJE is a non-profit organization with 10,000 members in 40 countries. In this spirit, a portion of the broadcast revenue will be directed back to the jazz community through the education and outreach programs of IAJE.
There is nothing on television like Legends of Jazz. Designed to serve as both oral history and pure entertainment, the series offers viewers live performances, highly personal anecdotes, remembrances, opinions, and thoughts on the most renowned names in jazz. Contemporary and legendary figures from the genre's "golden age" converse with Grammy-winning pianist and jazz giant Ramsey Lewis.
LRSmedia LLC, founded by music industry veterans Ramsey Lewis, Larry Rosen and Lee Rosenberg, develops adult-oriented music brands and products, which it markets through company-produced HDTV, radio, Internet and live-performance tours. LRSmedia produces content in the form of CDs, DVDs and new entertainment products such as hybrid DVDs. By creating music brands and leveraging interrelated programming to market artists and music under the brand umbrellas, LRSmedia reaches more consumers in a more compelling manner than traditional music companies. At present, LRSmedia has three brands in production – "Legends of Jazz," "Musical Stars of the Future," and "Soundstage: The Archives" -- with more in development. For more information visit www.legendsofjazz.net and www.lrsmedia.net
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts has taken a leadership role in supporting jazz artists and organizations since 1970, providing millions of dollars in grants and awards. The Arts Endowment is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts--both new and established--bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. The NEA Jazz Masters Initiative is sponsored by Verizon.
For more information on the NEA Jazz Masters program, the public is invited to visit www.neajazzmasters.org.
About WTTW National Productions
The most watched public television station in America, Chicago's WTTW11, has four million monthly viewers and serves a four-state area. For 50 years, viewers have turned to WTTW11 for distinctive programming that informs, inspires, educates and entertains. Recognized for its renowned local and national productions, WTTW11 is committed to presenting the very best in cultural, nature, science, public affairs and children's programming. Award-winning children's series presented by WTTW National Productions have included Lamb Chop's Play Along and Kidsongs. In addition to Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, WTTW National Productions has produced or presented such national shows as SOUNDSTAGE®, The McLaughlin Group, Mexico: One Plate At A Time, CEO Exchange, Handy Ma'am® and Mini-Med School TV.
With more than $71 billion in annual revenues, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon has a diverse work force of more than 210,000 in four business units: Domestic Telecom serves customers based in 29 states with wireline telecommunications services, including broadband, nationwide long-distance and other services. Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 43.8 million voice and data customers across the United States. Information Services operates directory publishing businesses and provides electronic commerce services. International includes wireline and wireless operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.
About the International Association of Jazz Education
With a mission to insure the worldwide growth and development of jazz through education and outreach, the International Association for Jazz Education represents thousands of educators, artists, students, and industry members around the world. In addition to publishing a magazine (the Jazz Education Journal), IAJE distributes scholarships and administers talent recognition, teacher training and composer commissioning programs. The next IAJE International Conference, acknowledged as the largest annual gathering of the global jazz community, will be held January 11-14, 2006, in New York City.
For information on the Legends Of Jazz TV series, contact:
For information on the NEA Jazz Masters, contact:
National Endowment for the Arts
The Kreisberg Group
For information on WTTW National Productions, contact:
WTTW National Productions
All photos by nOBu Sakagami
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