Singer-songwriter Suzanne Cloud, founding director of Jazz Bridge, recently retired, but her passionate advocacy for the uniquely American art form continues.
Oct. 9 marks the premiere of her latest endeavor, “The Dreambox Concerts,” taking place at “Drummers,” an intimate venue at 2152 Norris St. in Kensington. Every second Wednesday, the concerts will feature monthly performances by Philadelphia area musicians who “have a deep connection to social justice.” From now through May 2020, each concert will spotlight a specific social issue in current American life that is of concern to these artists, and every concert will partner with a local, affinity organization that is trying to mitigate the social injustice spotlighted in the performance.
After 14 years of service, Cloud stepped down as executive director of Jazz Bridge, a non-profit organization that presents jazz and blues concerts and also aids Philadelphia jazz and blues musicians in crisis. She now broadens her focus in hopes of having a national, possibly global impact.
“I feel, as an artist, a great urgency to speak out against what’s been happening in our country,” Cloud exclusively to the Philadelphia Tribune. “The hatred of immigrants, women, people of color, gleeful voter suppression, and climate change denial. I assumed that other artists were feeling that way too, and I was right. Time is long past for me to be on stage singing only love songs and over-done standards.”
The opening concert, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., will spotlight pianist-composer Aaron Graves and his quartet, featuring esteemed acoustic bassist Mike Boone with his young son Mekhi Boone on drums, along with vocalist Mya Ballardo.
According to Cloud, the theme that Graves will address is the fear and uncertainty that America’s children must face everyday just to attend school. After the concert, there will be a “talk back” with Graves and representatives of local groups fighting gun violence, including singer Barbara Montgomery, past president of the PA Chapter of the Million Mom Marchers, who has been involved with the Brady Campaign for over 10 years.
Cloud and drummer Sherrie Maricle, director of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, will host the concerts, which will feature musicians, singers, composers, and lyricists performing for “a cause that is near and dear to their hearts in this climate of racial hatred, white nationalism, poverty, the mistreatment of refugees seeking asylum, gun violence, and anti-democratic actions to suppress the vote.” The performance schedule is a follows:
Jan. 8: Denise Montana Quartet (Poverty)
Feb. 12: Bismuth Quartet: (Climate Change)
March 11: (Diane Monroe with Paul Jost (Affinity group: Anti-Defamation League, Civil Rights)
April 8: Suzanne Cloud Quartet (Voter Suppression and Political Corruption)
May 13: Wendy Simon and her band (Affinity group: SAFE Network, Refugees and Immigration)