“Mary Stallings is, unfortunately, one of the lesser known great jazz vocalists of all time. Kind of like Mary Lou Williams was,” says Greater Madison Jazz Consortium board member Howard Landsman. “But there is no doubt that she is one of the great voices in all of jazz history.”
Landsman, a longtime lover and promoter of jazz music here in Madison, is pretty excited that Stallings, an internationally acclaimed jazz singer, will headline the “Jazz Junction” benefit concert for the nonprofit Greater Madison Jazz Consortium on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2-5 p.m. in Studio A at Full Compass on Madison’s west side.
The very talented Stallings follows in the tradition of jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Dinah Washington. Barry Singer of the New York Times did, indeed, call Stallings “perhaps the best jazz singer singing today,” while the great pianist Eric Reed said, “If you want to talk about jazz, the subtleties, the intricacies, the storytelling and the harmonies, there isn’t a woman alive that sings better than Mary Stallings.”
Stallings will be performing at Full Compass Studio A, an intimate venue with the top-of-the-line sound located at 9770 Silicon Prairie Parkway, two miles west of the Beltline, on Madison’s far west side.
“The auditorium seats about 250. It’s a much smaller venue and that is just great for jazz,” Landsman tells Madison365. “The sound is exquisite. The site lines are all really good. People who come to this show will have a great listening experience.”
Stallings has been a headliner at many of the world’s highest-profile jazz venues and festivals, and is no stranger to Madison giving a stunning headline performance in front of 800 people at the 2012 Isthmus Jazz Festival at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Madison.
“Back in 2012, before the Jazz Consortium was born, there were a number of partnerships in the jazz community locally. One of them was between the Madison Music Collective and the Wisconsin Union Theater who were talking about how to elevate the annual Isthmus Jazz Festival,” Landsman remembers. “We set out on a path to find somebody who we felt could be a really compelling draw to the community as a headline performer. We researched a number of possibilities and Mary Stallings seemed like the best fit at that time.”
A world-renowned artist whose career dates back to the early 1960s, Landsman found out that Stallings was the first jazz musician to perform at the iconic Prague National Theater in a memorial concert for the late Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel.
“Prague National Theater is Czechoslovakia’s version of Carnegie Hall,” Landstrom says. “She performed a memorial concert for President Havel who had just passed away. He was the political leader of Czechoslovakia as it emerged from the Soviet Union as an independent state. So, this was an enormously significant engagement for Mary. For the Prague National Theater to have her in such a role like that, we thought we should really look into her more.”
He also found out that Stallings had performed with all of these great jazz artists dating back to the 1960s.
“Her performance at the Isthmus Jazz Festival in 2012 was amazing, and since then we’ve been thinking about how we can bring her back,” Landsman says. “This year seemed like the perfect timing to bring Mary back hoping that a number of the people who attended that concert five years ago will be in town and want to come and see her again.”
Stallings recently conducted a four-day series of showcase performances at San Francisco’s SFJazz, the West Coast equivalent of New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, where she serves as one of four SFJazz Artistic Directors.
For her performance in Madison on Sunday, Stallings will be accompanied by New York City pianist/organist Mike LeDonne. Her headline performance will begin around 2:30 p.m. Prior to Stallings’ performance, the audience will be treated to a 20-minute performance by one of Madison’s terrific Latin Jazz bands, Acoplados, who will play some Latin American and Caribbean folk/pop music.
“This particular version of Acooplados is newly expanded into a seven-piece band,” Landsman says.
The band features the two-horn front line of saxophonist Tony Barba and trombonist Jamie Kember, with a rhythm section of Richard Richito Hildner Armacanqui on guitar, Nick Moran on bass, and Juan Tomas Juancho MartÍnez París on percussion and vocals.
Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. “We’re also offering VIP tickets at $100 for reserved seating – best in house seats – plus admission to a post-concert meet-and-greet with Mary and also a copy of her latest CD,” Landsman says.
The proceeds from “Jazz Junction 2017” will benefit the Jazz Consortium’s performance and educational programs including jazz artist residencies in local public schools, the Strollin’ series of free neighborhood-based jazz festivals, the InDIGenous series of free concerts showcasing works composed and performed by our community’s top jazz musicians, and much more.
“This is a major time in the community where we ask for people to support the Jazz Consortium and its programs and events, many of which are free,” Landsman says.
In addition to the live music, Jazz Junction will also include a raffle, wine pull, and silent and live auctions. If you are interested in attending the event, click here.