Jazz Concert to Honor Links to Ukraine

By Kathy Knotts

Multiple links to Ukraine inspired jazz promoter Paulina Phillips to turn the next Jazz Beyond Borders concert into a celebration of the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira.

Sunday at Café Mezzanotte in Severna Park, musician Seth Kibel will perform a Salute to the Gerswhin Brothers as a nod to the family’s ties to Odessa, Ukraine.

“I have loved the music of George Gershwin since I was a child,” says Phillips. “It just so happens that his grandfather was born in Odessa, also part of Ukraine. It is likely that the most performed jazz song in history, Summertime, is based on a Ukrainian lullaby, although there are various theories on how the song came about.”

Phillips says she was inspired to book the show because of the war in Ukraine.  “My grandmother was born in Kiev when it was part of Russia … my great-grandfather was a bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church who was sent from Greece to Russia in the 1800s.”

Phillips says she wanted a way to express her grief and pride in her family history and culture. “It breaks my heart to see the loss of life and destruction of families, of culture, of birth, death and marriage records. So many of us have history in that part of the world.”

During a Ukrainian Christmas concert at Maryland Hall, Phillips says a violinist performed the lullaby followed by the Gershwin tune. “The similarity is uncanny. It was very moving. Now, we don’t know whether Gershwin was sung that lullaby by a family member. After all, he was born in the U.S. I know that my grandparents sang to me in various languages and our parents were exposed to the same music. But perhaps he heard it as an adult somewhere in a public or private gathering, or a performance. We don’t know for sure. I’m okay with the mystery and don’t know that we will ever know for sure.”

Kibel will play two shows at 4:30pm and 7:30pm (seating at 4pm & 7pm). In addition to performing on clarinet, saxophone and flute, Kibel will share historic context and insight into these timeless works of popular song which continue to influence music around the globe to this day. 

Pianist Ellington Carthan, double bassist Bob Abbott, drummer Wes Crawford and special guest vocalist Theresa Sise will join him. Sise is the co-founder and frequent hostess of the series. A popular jazz vocalist in the region, Sise has sold out many shows and performed extensively with big bands as well as her own group, Sweet Tea. 

Advance tickets required: https://instnt.us/CafeMezz