The Jazz Foundation of America’s annual “Great Night in Harlem” benefit at the Apollo in New York in April had to be called off after the pandemic broke out this year. But the music charity is now aiming to bring a different kind of great night to homes nationwide May 14 with an online benefit, “#TheNewGig,” that will be hosted by Keegan-Michael Key and feature original performances by Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and other pop, blues and jazz stars.
The two-hour webcast, which will be hosted on Relix’s YouTube site for free, will solicit donations for support the JFA’s COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund, set up in March to supplement the efforts the foundation endeavors in year-round to help musicians and their families in need with basic living expenses.
Along with Crow and Costello, other performers announced to contribute fresh performances for the show include Jon Batiste, Robert Cray, Angelique Kidjo, Stanley Jordan, Milton Nascimento, Ivan Neville, Kim Wilson and Dee Dee Bridgewater,
Also making appearances are perennial JFA benefit band leader Steve Jordan, Bootsy Collins, Jeffrey Wright, Danny Glover, Wayne Shorter, Bruce Willis, Rosie Perez, Michael Imperioli, Mark Ruffin and Steve Schirripa.
Additionally, the Jazz Foundation will be digging into its archives to present selections from some Apollo Theatre benefits where the show did go on in recent years. Featured performers from those vaults include Patti Smith, Brittany Howard, the Herbie Hancock Sextet, the Count Basie Orchestra, a tribute to Sonny Rollins, and August Greene with Common and Karriem Riggins.
The webcast will initially air from 8-10 p.m. ET May 14 on Relix’s YouTube, with a repeat showing at 10. The show will then remain online for 24 hours. Those wishing to make a donation during or after the broadcast can do so at www.jazzfoundation.org/covid19.
“An entire community of artists who live gig to gig has gone from standstill to freefall, financially speaking, but their music has continued to give us solace and comfort in quarantine,” JFA executive director Joe Petrucelli said in a statement. “Support for #TheNewGig and the COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund provides these musicians direct assistance and creates a sense of solidarity and hope in a time of despair and uncertainty.”
This year’s Apollo gala, which was to have featured special tributes to Carlos Santana and Buddy Guy last month, is still listed as postponed.