The Cry of Jazz | Theater | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
Pin It
Favorite

The Cry of Jazz 

Frank Boyd's "The Holler Sessions"

click to enlarge forecast_frank_boyd_the_holler_session_baranova-6734.jpg

Jazz has been called America's greatest cultural invention. With the blues at its core, it's characterized by improvisation and passion. Unfortunately, it may also be America's least understood artform—a situation Seattle actor Frank Boyd is on a mission to right with his one-man play "The Holler Sessions," which comes to the Ancram Opera House this month.

"I think probably the biggest misconception about jazz is that it's background music," says Boyd. "That and that it's 'intellectual' music—that you have to be in on some secret in order to 'get it'—and that it's not emotional music. I mean, there's certainly a lot of pop music these days that's not exactly what I'd call 'emotional' music."

Written, directed, and performed by Boyd, "The Holler Sessions" depicts a live radio show hosted by a crazed, cigar-chomping DJ named Ray. An evangelical jazz obsessive, Ray holds forth from his dingy garret/studio, championing with irresistible passion the music he sees as being marginalized. Free-riffing amid audio clips of Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, and other immortals, Boyd's character not only pays tribute to the greatness of key jazz figures and their music; he also presents the music as a character itself, a portal to dealing with the human condition and other timeless truths. Think Philip Seymour Hoffman's depiction of rock critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous—but talking about jazz instead of rock 'n' roll.

"There's some truth in that, although [Hoffman's character] was more worn down from the business and mine is very animated," posits Boyd. "I'm a big fan of [sports radio personality] Christopher 'Mad Dog' Russo, which got me thinking, 'Wouldn't it be cool to have a DJ who talked about jazz with the same passion as Russo and some of these other sportscasters talk about sports?'"

"The Holler Sessions," a collaboration with Brooklyn experimental theater group the TEAM, premiered in 2015 and evolved out of a character Boyd played in another play the ensemble was workshopping in Kansas City, which, besides being Ray's fictional home and birthplace, is the birthplace of bebop icon Charlie Parker and the hard-swinging big-band style developed there in the 1930s by the bands led by Count Basie, Jay McShann, Andy Kirk, and others—an irony not lost on Boyd. "In that earlier play, I was playing this sort of political, talking-head character," he recalls. "But when I was there I started soaking up all of this Kansas City jazz history, and I reworked the idea [of the character] into a jazz DJ."

Going into the role, Boyd was, perhaps surprisingly, largely unfamiliar with jazz. "At first, I was afraid that would be a problem," he admits. "Even though I had gotten really into the music and was learning a lot as I got deeper into it, I had these nightmares of Wynton Marsalis or someone being pissed off and calling me out. [Laughs.] But it turned out to be helpful, because it ended up bringing a sense of discovery to what Ray does, which is something that's missing from a lot of jazz radio now. The best comments I've heard from people who've seen the play have been from the ones who say they literally started getting into jazz after seeing it. Right now, a lot of people in America are asking themselves, 'What are we?' To me, jazz represents the best version of what we are as Americans."

"The Holler Sessions" will run at the Ancram Opera House in Ancram on July 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, and 23 (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $25. (518) 329-0114; Ancramoperahouse.org.

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Spring Exhibition. Marking Time: The Work of Ernest Shaw @ The Moviehouse

Spring Exhibition. Marking Time: The Work of Ernest Shaw

March 23-June 25 — Ernest Shaw has work in nearly 50 museum, university and public collections,...
Still | Life | Like @ Carrie Haddad Gallery

Still | Life | Like

Wed., April 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. — Exhibit that explores the still life genre with a contemporary lens. The...

View all of today's events

Chronogram on Instagram

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Five Highly Hip Hudson Valley Events
  • Five Highly Hip Hudson Valley Events

    Phantoms, flea markets, and far-out music: Here are this week’s hip tips on upcoming upstate cultural events.
    • Apr 24, 2019
  • Five Fantastic Hudson Valley Events for Your Calendar
  • Five Fantastic Hudson Valley Events for Your Calendar

    From world-class live music to a woodworker’s dream sale and Hudson’s hippest reading series, it’s all here, waiting for you.
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • AMR Spring Art Show at the Commons Building
  • AMR Spring Art Show at the Commons Building

    The Spring Show hosted by the AMR Artists, which opens on April 19 at Upstairs at the Commons gallery in Margaretville and remains on view through May 13, will include works by 20 participants working in different disciplines: painting, monotypes, photography, tapestry, installation, and even jewelry.
    • Apr 11, 2019
  • More »