"Jazz Noir" is a new original radio series complete with live voiceover actors in front of a studio audience, just like in the days of radio's infancy. Jazz88's first episode is an original drama, "Charles & Avon," that will be performed, recorded and broadcast in front of a live audience from the Artists' Quarter in downtown Saint Paul on Sunday, April 28, with shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The 8 p.m. performance will be broadcast live. Ticket information is available at www.jazz88fm.com.
The radio show will be re-broadcast on Jazz88 KBEM in June and on several AMPERS radio stations throughout Minnesota, with potential broadcasts on several public radio jazz stations nationwide.
Originated and produced by Kevin Barnes, a Minnesota-based team collaboratively created this new drama with the writing expertise of Alex Lewin and a jazz music score composed and performed by George Maurer. The Playwright's Center and American Composers Forum partnered to assist with the call and jury process for the writer and composer for this initial "Jazz Noir" production.
KBEM conducted auditions for the four characters performing in this live radio drama last month. Character Avon Davis is a self-taught savant jazz pianist and an only child who has spent her entire life helping her father. Latisha White, an emerging young talent with a great range, portrays Avon. Ezekiel Davis, Avon's father who owns and operates a boarding house, will be played by David Copper. Edwin Strout, who has extensive Guthrie acting credits and voiceover experience, will play crime writer Kelly Long. Narrator Jack Marshall, the private-detective hero of Kelly's crime stories, will be played by Bruce Bohne, who is known for his film roles as Officer Lou in "Fargo" and Andy in "Dawn of the Dead," plus television work in "Star Trek: Voyager," "Jericho," "Law & Order: SVU" and "The Pretender." Ed Jones, Jazz88's morning show host and theater veteran, is directing the play.
The plot unfolds in the late 1920s in the predominantly African-American Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul. Americans have been having too much fun to realize the roaring twenties are about to abruptly end with the onset of the Great Depression. Avon has been working with her father Ezekiel to operate his boarding house. She taught herself the piano and her talent is prodigious. The parlor of the boarding house becomes a focal point for the Twin Cities jazz scene. Crime writer Kelly Long, a resident of the house, can see that Avon is flying too high and tries to save her from the despair of the eventual crash landing and the ultimate despair unique to artistic souls.
The production of "Jazz Noir" is made possible through funding provided by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. For more information, visit www.jazz88fm.com.