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MJF67, Sept. 27-29, 2024

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© Miryam Ramos
Conversation: Crescendo in Blue — Vinyl Past, Vinyl Future with Don Was, Julia Keefe, Brandee Younger, Steven Duncan & Ashley Kahn
  • Conversation
  • Sunday, September 29 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm Pacific Jazz Café

Join Don Was (bassist and president of the famed Blue Note label), Julia Keefe (acclaimed vocalist, bandleader, actor, and educator), Steve Duncan (Owner of Cured Vinyl, RSD Essentials Curator and Record Store Day Partner), and author/journalist/historian Ashley Kahn as they dig into their collective experiences in the music industry to speak on the future jazz recordings, physical formats, and the enduring value of vinyl as a delivery system for popular music, and jazz in particular.

As President of Blue Note Records, Don Was is both the company’s leader and chief ambassador for its music, charged with bringing the label’s 21st century jazz artists and its expanding pallete of contemporary musicians to larger audiences. Was is also a steward of Blue Note’s singular and historic catalogue of music, and is burnishing the label’s historic legacy through his involvement with ongoing and extensive reissue campaigns that serve audiences in both the analogue and digital realms. Was finds inspiration in the label’s original mission statement codified by the company’s founders in 1939: “Any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression.” Blue Note’s records are designed to serve the uncompromising expressions of authentic musical feeling. Don Was first became known to music audiences as a founding member of the Detroit soul/funk band, Was (Not Was). As an in-demand, highly acclaimed and commercially successful producer since the late 1980s, Was has been honored with multiple Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award for his production work with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt, Gregg Allman, Brian Wilson, Ziggy Marley and countless others. Albums produced by Was have achieved dozens of multi-platinum, platinum and gold certifications and have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide.

Julia Keefe (Nez Perce) is an internationally-acclaimed Native American jazz vocalist, bandleader, actor, and educator currently based in New York City. Her professional career has spanned nearly two decades, and she has headlined marquee events at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, and has opened for 20-time GRAMMY Award winner Tony Bennett and 4-time GRAMMY Award winner Esperanza Spalding. Her life’s work is the revival and honoring of the legendary Coeur d’Alene jazz musician Mildred Bailey and is leading the campaign for Bailey’s induction into the Jazz Hall of Fame at Lincoln Center. In addition to rehearsing for an upcoming album, she is currently directing the Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band, a new project highlighting the history and future of Indigenous people in jazz. The Mildred Bailey Project will be releasing its first studio recording winter 2024.

A leading voice of the harp today, performer, composer, educator, and concert curator Brandee Younger defies genres and labels. She has performed and recorded with artists including Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Common, John Legend, The Roots, Stevie Wonder, and Lauryn Hill. In 2019, she released her fourth solo album, Soul Awakening, and her original composition “Hortense” was featured in the Netflix Concert-Documentary, Beyoncé: Homecoming. This same year, Ms. Younger was selected to perform her original music as a featured performer for Quincy Jones and Steve McQueen's’ “Soundtrack of America.” Ms. Younger earned her Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance at the Hartt School of Music and her Master of Music at NYU Steinhardt. She has taught at Adelphi University, Nassau Community College, and The Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford and teaches masterclasses globally. Past residencies and masterclasses include The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), University of Birmingham (UK), Howard University, Drexel University, Princeton University, Tulane University, Trinity College, The Hartt School, University of Michigan, DePaul University, and Berklee College of Music. She also serves as Symphonic and Jazz Harp Artist in Residence at the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts. She holds leadership positions through the Apollo (theater) Young Patrons Steering Committee and the American Harp Society, Inc. where she is Director at Large. As a concert curator, Ms. Younger organized “Divine Ella,” part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s annual Women’s Jazz Festival. She also served as curator of the 2016 Harp On Park concert series, “highlighting the diversity of the harp and the contemporary importance of an ancient instrument,” and most recently coordinated "Her Song," featuring the works of women composers, both for Arts Brookfield.

Steve Duncan has spent his whole life working in music. He started as a teen at Music Plus, then went on to work for 15 years at Rasputin Records in the Bay Area. During his tenure at Rasputin Music he was lucky enough to attend a meeting in Baltimore with a ragtag bunch of record store owners & label partners. That meeting spawned the biggest music holiday to hit the world — Record Store Day. In 2008 he moved his family to Phoenix and took over as Director of Purchasing for Zia Records. In 2020 he took his unique combination of deep catalogue knowledge and obsession with vinyl and started Cured Vinyl, a company that works with labels, bands, and distributors to create unique vinyl pressings for indie record stores. Steve then partnered with ThinkIndie & Record Store Day to launch RSD Essentials. Steve’s first love is music, followed closely by baseball, beer, and his family — not always in that order.

Ashley Kahn is a Grammy-winning American music historian, author, professor and producer. He teaches at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music, co-wrote Carlos Santana’s award-winning autobiography The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light (Little, Brown, 2014), and is a producer of Carlos (2023), the documentary on Carlos Santana (Imagine Documentaries/Sony Pictures Classics). He has written books on two legendary recordings: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, and one on a legendary record label: The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. His most recent book is George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters. He also edited Rolling Stone: The Seventies, a 70-essay overview of that pivotal decade.

Kahn, who was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Jazz Journalists Association, broke into the music business as a tour manager and music festival producer, has held a variety of positions in radio, television, and online businesses. As a journalist, his byline has appeared in many publications and websites, including Rolling StoneThe New York TimesThe New Statesman, and others, and his writing has garnered four ASCAP/Deems Taylor awards, and three Grammy nominations. In 2015, he was awarded a Grammy for his album notes to the John Coltrane release Offering: Live at Temple University, and in 2017, he received the Robert Palmer-Helen Oakley Dance Award for Excellence in Writing from the Jazz Journalists Association. Kahn has worked on many music documentaries in a variety of roles: as producer/director—CarlosKind of Blue: Made in Heaven for Sony Music (2005) — as a consultant/writer — Netflix’s Chasing Trane (2016) and Stanley Nelson’s documentary on Miles Davis for PBS (2018)—and as on-screen interviewee in PBS’s Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music (2016); BBC’s 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz (2009); and many others.