"Well the Real Thing is back in town/
Ask me if you wanna know the way to Coolsville," invites
singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones in her song about that mythical
burg. Audience members can take Jones up on her offer at her
concert in the Prospect Park band shell on June 15, when the
50-year-old, flaxen-haired chanteuse kicks off the annual Celebrate
Brooklyn performing arts series.
The outdoor concert, like all Celebrate Brooklyn performances,
is free (with a $3 suggested admission), but pre-show gala ticket
buyers get perks that include seats close to the stage where
the author of "Chuck E’s in Love" will be crooning
songs from her pop-jazz oeuvre.
A $300 gala ticket includes pre-show cocktails, dinner and dancing
and VIP concert seats. The Friends of Celebrate Brooklyn membership
program gives members early admission to the show at 6:45 pm
and access, with gala guests, to the post-show party with Jones,
who’s no doubt celebrating the impending release of her three-CD
anthology, "Duchess of Coolsville," on June 28.
"By having an opening night gala that coincides with a concert,
it’s a unique way for supporters to come together to see what
they’re supporting," explained Celebrate Brooklyn Director
and Producer Jack Walsh. "They come and actually get to
experience one of our events. They get to see the public in the
seats and on the grass, an audience in the thousands – especially
this year with Rickie Lee Jones – rather than having the fundraiser
in a hotel that has nothing to do with [our] program. Here it’s
very connected to the meaning of the program."
Walsh said that two famous fans of "Celebrate Brooklyn,"
musicians John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants,
are expected to attend the gala and perform the ode they penned
for the concert series. (A live recording of their song, taped
at a previous performance at the band shell, can be downloaded
from their Web site, www.tmbg.com.)
This year, Walsh said he is spreading the word to visitors who
have enjoyed previous Celebrate Brooklyn events that now is the
time to become a member.
"The Independence Community Foundation has given us a $25,000
challenge grant," said Walsh. "They’ll match every
new and increased dollar we raise through our Friends of Celebrate
The funds raised through the membership program and benefit concerts
help to defray the costs of the Celebrate Brooklyn series, which
is celebrating its 27th anniversary of bringing free dance, music
and movies to Prospect Park.
This year’s Celebrate Brooklyn line-up features artists from
as far as Finland and South Africa as well as sounds from as
close as the Mississippi Delta in its "American Roots Series."
In addition to Jones, "American Roots" includes bluegrass
living legend Del McCoury on June 30, country blues harmonica
player Charlie Musselwhite on July 15 and others.
Among the highlights of his "Budweiser Latin Music Series"
is the performance by Latin fusion clan Ozomatli on July 14,
"I went to the jazz festival in New Orleans, and out of
the 40 bands I saw in three days, the best thing I saw was Ozomatli
from Los Angeles," said Walsh. "Hands down, the best.
They are amazingly energetic and lively, and the musicianship
is first-rate. And they have a blast on stage. They are completely
infectious and completely fun."
Walsh predicts that the June 23 performance by iconic South African
jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela will be "one of the most compelling
events in New York this summer."
"He went into exile and became a torchbearer for the anti-apartheid
movement," said Walsh. "His performance is in itself
an amazing show. But in the second half we’re partnering with
the Public Art Fund to project the work of South African visual
artist William Kentridge, who’s highly regarded and shown in
museums around the world. His drawings, filmed in sequence that
become moving animation, are scored by Philip Miller.
"[Masekela, Kentridge and Miller] are all coming from South
Africa for the show."
Another hotly anticipated import is the Canadian triple bill
on June 25, featuring three indie bands: New Pornographers, Stars
and The Sadies.
On June 17, Celebrate Brooklyn is partnering with another respected
music presenter, the JVC Jazz Festival, for the first time, said
"It’s a fabulous triple bill and all three groups are trios,"
he said of Bad Plus, the Charlie Hunter Trio and the James Carter
What is returning to Celebrate Brooklyn this year is the popular
"Music & Movies Series" beginning with the "Hop-Fu:
Prodigal Son" program on July 8. On that night, the audience
will be treated to DJs IXL and Excess of Kolabz Crew performing
their original score to Sammo Hung’s comic 1982 film, "Prodigal
Son," which spoofs the kung-fu genre.
For this year’s edition of Celebrate Brooklyn, Walsh commissioned
a new score from Adam Dorn, a.k.a. Mocean Worker, for the 1932
classic "Tarzan the Ape Man." Mocean Worker’s score
will get its world premiere at the band shell on Aug. 7.
"Adam is doing very interesting work," said Walsh.
"He’s a talented musician. He’ll perform in a pit configuration
in a band [for this screening.]"
Other "Music & Movies" events include the Alloy
Orchestra performing their score live to a screening of the 1925
silent film "Phantom of the Opera," starring Lon Cheney,
on July 22, and a screening of "The Sound of Music"
on July 29, projected in Cinemascope on the band shell’s 50-foot-wide,
22-feet-tall screen "as it was meant to be seen," assured
Celebrate Brooklyn has a history of supporting artists and has
commissioned film scores in past years from the Jazz Passengers
and the BQE Project, recalled Walsh. He explained that the commissions
allow the artists "an opportunity to do something on a large
scale" and he hopes the commission’s premiere will in turn
draw audiences to Celebrate Brooklyn "in droves."
"Because," said Walsh, "this is something they
can’t do or see anywhere else."
The 2005 Celebrate Brooklyn music, dance,
word and film series runs June 15 through Aug. 7 at the Prospect
Park band shell in Park Slope. Tickets to the gala, prior to
Rickie Lee Jones’ performance on June 15, are $300 and up. The
gala tickets include cocktails, dinner and dancing, beginning
at 5:30 pm, and reserved seats for the 8 pm concert. Enter at
Prospect Park West and Ninth Street. Admission to all concerts
is free, but a $3 donation is suggested. For the series’ schedule
and more information, call (718) 855-7882 ext. 45 or visit www.celebratebrooklyn.org.
All performances are rain or shine. Check the Web site before
you go to confirm dates, times and performers.