Pappy Martin Masten Jazz Festival celebrates women and seeks to strengthen musical heritage | Music
Buffalo is a jazz city.
But, as with any legacy, our city’s deep roots in the jazz tradition must be nurtured, especially if we want those roots to generate new growth.
Dawn Martin Berry-Walker, daughter of the late jazz bassist, community activist and educator Pappy Martin, has made it her mission to nurture those roots. As heir to her father’s legacy, Berry-Walker oversees the annual Pappy Martin Legacy Masten Jazz Festival – the 27th edition of which takes place on the side lawn of the Buffalo Museum of Science July 24-31 – as well as other events. including the annual John Coltrane Festival, to be held in September, and the Love Supreme School of Music.
“We have to capitalize and grow what we have in Buffalo,” Berry-Walker said. “When I arrived, in the 60s, there was music everywhere. We could walk from the Pine Grill at the Revilot to the Bon Ton at the Royal Arms any night of the week and listen to live music.
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“The music I heard and grew up with saved my life, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It provided joy and the balance needed to experience this duality as an African American. So I’m determined to make sure the next generation has that option available – to be able to turn to music to balance so many other things that we have to deal with, in this city and in this country.
This year, the Pappy Martin Legacy Masten Jazz Festival carries the imprimatur ‘Celebrating Women in Jazz’ and will feature a range of ensembles led by and featuring women, including the headliners of the Baylor Project , Curtis Lundy with Brianna Thomas, Endea Owens and the Cookout and the Shamie Royston Quartet, as well as regional artists George Caldwell with Curtis Lovell, Darcel Blue, Carol McLaughlin with Joyce Carolyn, Zhanna Reed and Charles Reedy with Sandra Gilliam.
For Berry-Walker, this celebration of female art has been a long time coming.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and we sporadically feature female artists. But this year, there had to be more,” she said, mentioning that the Betty Carter Festival, held on May 14 at the Antioch Baptist Church, was an impetus for produce more programs featuring female artists. By a tragic coincidence, this festival was the same day as the racist mass shooting at Jefferson Avenue Tops Markets.
“Women are underrepresented everywhere, in everything, including jazz. It’s part of a general societal and cultural downplaying of women and their strengths, talents and contributions,” she said. “Our summer festival features all bands led by women or featuring women. And our John Coltrane event in September will do the same.
Berry-Walker’s personal experience underscores the need to celebrate women, she said, especially at a time when women’s civil rights are being challenged following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v . Wade.
“I was a math teacher for 33 years in Buffalo public schools and in college,” she said. “And even when I was in high school, I was very discouraged from pursuing math. In my freshman year, they were like, ‘You should take some shorthand or typing. I had to bring my mother to insist that they allow me to pursue mathematics at a higher level.
“It starts out so simple, just like that, you know? This male-dominated sexist view. It’s in everything. And jazz is part of it all.
Berry-Walker is adamant about the need to preserve and celebrate Buffalo’s jazz tradition, but she is also keen to embrace the fact that jazz, by its very nature as an exploratory and improvisational medium, must pursue his evolution. In his view, embracing this duality highlights the power of music as a source of healing and soul-uplifting, especially in Buffalo, a community in dire need of both.
“Jazz is healing music. I recently read a study that found that listening to jazz can boost your immune levels. We want to present the authenticity of the music, highlight its healing powers, so we are very focused on traditional jazz, while welcoming and appreciating new forms of the genre. So we continued the Love Supreme School of Music, started by my father. It is a free music school, and we make a very conscious effort to ensure that young people, including many young girls, are exposed to the deep traditions of music. We want them to know it’s their music.”
To that end, Berry-Walker said it’s critical that Pappy Martin Masten Legacy Jazz Festivals stay in predominantly Black communities.
“You know, it was suggested that we move our festival to Canalside. But my dad felt it, and I followed him – we have to keep that in mind our neighborhood, because our children don’t hear this music,” she says.
“With us being at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, there are guys playing basketball right there, for example, and we’re preparing their ears to be able to appreciate the music, even if they don’t know about it. My little -girl – she’s 15 so she listens to what she listens to but now she recognizes things I’ve been playing to her for years – “Oh it’s Ella Fitzgerald.”
“So I think it really starts organically, just with exposure. If you’re exposed to this music, there’s no way you won’t like it.
Pappy Martin Legacy Masten Jazz Festival
2:00 p.m. July 24 and 31 outdoors on the lawn of the Buffalo Museum of Science, Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Free. Bring lawn chairs. With food and drink vendors. Below is the schedule.
2 p.m.: Charles Reedy Quartet with Sandra Gilliam
2:45 p.m.: George Caldwell with Curtis Lovell
4 p.m.: Shamie Royston with Mimi Jones
5:45 p.m.: Endea Owens and the barbecue
2:45 p.m.: Love Supreme School of Music students with faculty
4 p.m.: The Baylor Project
5:45 p.m.: Curtis Lundy and UMOJA with Brianna Thomas
7:20 p.m.: Carol McLaughlin with Joyce Carolyn