Founded in 1959, the United Nations Staff Recreational Jazz Society consists of former and current staff members from different Departments of the Organization and is well represented internationally.
President of UNSRC Jazz Society, Lala Moore stated that, “it was in the 1980s that the recreational club formed.” Lala, one of the Society’s vocalists shares the spotlight with talented world musicians. The monthly jazz performance provides evening entertainment to staff and delegates alike while they unwind after a long day’s work with artisan beer and international wines around sphere tables and comfortable armchairs.
The North Delegates Lounge opened in 1952. It was subsequently renovated and redesigned in 2013 under the capital masterplan of the Secretariat building. Dutch artists including industrial designer Hella Jongerius, architect Rem Koolhaas, graphic designer Irma Boom, visual creator Gabriel Lester and designer Louise Schouwenberg crafted a professional décor. Overlooking expansive gardens while complementing the works of many gifted handmade carpets with envious East River views, it offers a space where UN delegates, staff and guests mingle in various foreign languages and enjoy music.
Speaking with a few of the Jazz Society members in the Delegates Lounge, it’s clear that the music is alive. Zambian born jazz guitarist, Robert Mwamba loves music as it’s a great way to communicate with everyone. It was in the 1990s while at Baruch College that he recognized that feeling of fulfillment after his first performance. Mwamba expressed, “My inspiration stems from the likes of traditional jazz guitarist George Benson, modern jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, creative musical figure Stevie Wonder, singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye and pop music icon Michael Jackson. Using an eclectic and soulful style, photographed below Robert Mwamba to the left with strums that are all encompassing.
British tenor saxophonist, Tom Caldin seen above on the right recalled his first introduction to music with the recorder while performing at a school assembly at the tender age of 8. Imagine feeling completely petrified; however, once the audience began to clap, there was a sigh of relief as it was a proud moment. Caldin explained that, “The jazz saxophonist, Stan Getz is a prime influence. His technical mastery of holding the attention of an audience with warm and wispy tones is the sound.” Caldin learns day by day from other band members as they improvise to create smooth jazz. Music acts as a universal language and with a musical attitude bringing everyone together.
Coming from a musical family, American pianist, Chris Maxfield understands the share of love of music as it carried down generations from his father performing in barbershop quartets and his mom connecting to the cello. It was soon enough that Chris Maxfield fell in love with piano. Playing at this great venue for wonderful people, Maxfield reflected on a time during 2010 in Brazil where he was in the groove. He felt that, “There was a serious buzz in the natural form, I had goosebumps and felt closer to universal energy.” Maxfield plays mainstream jazz with bossa nova and samba inspired by Bill Evans ‘the poet on the piano’, who redefined how to tell a story becoming the most influential jazz pianist of the 20th century. Maxfield expressed that, “Music is in everyone’s soul. You can touch people through music in a way that words can’t since words have meaning and music is emotion.” Clearly there’s a common passion for the music to play and immerse in the art form.
Meanwhile the Society’s Facilitator, Christopher Reid, a long-serving staff member, truly believes in the international community. Reid said, “The idea is to appeal to all countries representing jazz with different instruments and sounds. We would like people who are fully committed to music.”
Having support in the right places can help to bring more people to join the jazz community. The next performance will be on 14 April 2016 in the North Delegates Lounge on the 2nd floor of The Secretariat building. This is an excellent way for former and current UN staff to reconnect and connect with each other. The Jazz Society aims to inspire peace through music. Mark your calendars for the Jazz Society’s upcoming jazz festival in late spring 2016.