NYC Jazz Record, NY@Night section, October 2019 issue
ARTS FOR ART TRIBUTE TO STEVE CANNON, September 6, 2019,
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, NYC
Performance review by John Pietaro
The crowd which overwhelmed the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center (September 6) came to celebrate Steve Cannon, LES poet, elder, teacher and cultural organizer, whose June passing remains grievous. Downtown creatives who’d come of age through the decades, many at the behest of Cannon, filled both stage and auditorium. Among the performing poets were Steve Dalachinsky--whose unexpected passing but a week later has leveled the community, his partner Yuko Otomo, Lydia Cortes and Edwin Torres opened the concert with moving works. Later, Anne Waldman performed with saxophonists James Brandon Lewis and Devin Bajha Waldman blowing cyclical, interlocking phrases around and through her poetry. “You may welcome all the strains”, Waldman dramatically advised. Cleveland poet/vocalist Julie Ezelle Patton’s piece drew on stirring melisma, spoken word, blues and a world of vocalization. Another gifted poet and vocalist, Tracie Morris, with cornetist Graham Haynes and downtown icon Elliot Sharp (guitar), movingly performed with Cannon’s recorded voice. The powerful ensemble What It Is?, fronted by Arts for Art administrator Patricia Nicholson Parker (poetry, dance) also boasted William Parker (bass), Melanie Dyer (viola), James Brandon Lewis and Devin Bajha Waldman (saxophones) and Val Jeanty (electronic percussion). Closing off this magical evening was Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arkestra which soared, wailed and softly sang through captivating originals, quaking free segments and an utterly compelling “Stranger in Paradise” with vocalist Tara Middleton’s rich alto welcoming all strains as Allen’s saxophone work, filled with the spirit, utterly belied his 94 years.