When the greatest jazz bass player of all-time takes the stage on Thursday night, May 20th it will part of an All Star jazz concert at Harlem's world famous Apollo Theater. It's called "A Great Night In Harlem" and that's certain to be an understatement. I wish I could be there, for no other reason than to once again see and hear the great Ron Carter. He will be joined by a stellar cast of jazz and blues musicians - all playing on the same stage where the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown and John Lennon once cavorted with wild abandon, where the legends Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Patti LaBelle once sang till your heart broke in pieces. The event is a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America.
If you're not familiar with the Jazz Foundation of America, perhaps their mission statement says enough - "Saving jazz and blues... one musician at a time." And when they say "Saving" they really mean it. When the great Fats Domino, a resident in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, became a victim of Katrina, it was the Jazz Foundation of America that stepped in on his side. Fats lost everything, all his worldly belongings including his piano. Take away Fats Domino's piano, you might as well take his heart. The Jazz Foundation arranged for a new piano for The Fat Man. They didn't just call a piano company and get a donation. They had that piano trucked down to Louisiana and delivered right to him. They saved the blues that day, for Fats and for all of us.
When the great folk singer, that powerful voice and unforgettable American personality called Odetta, was a struggling 75 year-old woman, the Jazz Foundation of America made sure she kept her home and eventually paid for a private room in a nursing home. So many others, perhaps less famous than Fats Domino or Odetta, but equally deserving have also been helped by the Jazz Foundation - people like Johnnie Mae Dunson and a homeless Sweet Georgia Brown.
On May 20th the Jazz Foundation of America will not only fill the Apollo Theater's great hall with music to match the venue's history, they will also honor, among others, Ambassador Andrew Young. As one who has lived more than half my life in Atlanta, I know Andy Young as a courageous fighter for justice in America - at a time when you took your life in your hands to do such work - and as the Mayor so responsible for making Atlanta a great international city. On a personal note, I will always remember when Ambassador Young took the time to call me, in 2005, to wish me well as I waited for a heart transplant.
If you're in New York City next Thursday, buy a ticket. If not, make a donation. The music will be fantastic and the money well spent. I'll be counting on Atlanta's former Mayor to soak up all the pleasure I wish I could when Ron Carter takes to the Apollo stage.