Although not a specialist jazz venue, TPAC features three regular programs dedicated to the music. The longest-running of these is Lost Jazz Shrines, which is about to enter its 11th season. Its aim is to remember the city's vintage club lore through misted lenses, recalling the old scenes of The Five Spot, The Village Gate, Jazz Forum, Jazzmania and, next year, Bradley's, which closed down in 1996.
The Jazz In Progress--Monk in Motion sequence looks to fresher talent, beginning four years ago by showcasing winners of the International Jazz Competition organized by the Thelonious Monk Institute. TPAC decided to approach the Institute formally, forging a partnership to present its three winners in concert each season. This month's concerts feature the three saxophonist champions of the latest contest: Jon Irabagon, Tim Green and Quamon Fowler.
Jack Kleinsinger's Highlights In Jazz has been in action for much longer, of course (35 years!), but only took up residency at TPAC in the last four years. Indeed, it's the longest-running jazz series operating in New York, having enjoyed many homes over the decades. The biggest Highlights gig of 2008 was a sold-out showing by Dave Brubeck, but another recent standout came in the shape of an exquisite three-guitar conversation between Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola and James Chirillo. The fact that this performance was half of a shared bill with the equally excellent Cyrus Chestnut Trio is a prime example of the scale at which Kleinsinger operates and usually at a competitive ticket price. The only concern -- and he admits this himself--is that the particular brand of mainstream jazz that he presents makes it difficult to attract youngsters within what is a predominantly senior crowd. However, this could be due to the ‘brand loyalty' of the veteran Highlights attendees. Kleinsinger himself radiates an avuncular charm that convinces the audience to trust his choices. Even though he was New York State's Assistant Attorney General until retirement in 1991, he's harbored a secret hankering after a second career as a stand-up comedian. Each show resonates with an old-fashioned sense of curatorial presence. Kleinsinger's December presentation will be an evening dedicated to the bassist and singer Jay Leonhart, another typical night that uses a basic theme to open up the evening to a guest-studded lineup.
Highlights In Jazz is always held in the main 913-seat Proscenium Theater, even though players such as George Russell, Randy Weston and Steve Turre have been presented in this same space as part of Lost Jazz Shrines, which is usually housed within the smaller 260-seater space.
Despite three well-established features, Herring is not about to stand still, but she admits that she may be faced with problems. My hope, before this economic climate, was to include a day of humanities activities, beyond the panel discussions, interviews of owners and artists and film retrospectives that we currently have. The series would include scholars, musicians and individuals from the industry, but this may now have to wait a couple of seasons.