‘Living Legacy’ concert benefits Derek Gordon Arts Fund

They were Derek Gordon’s friends in life. Now they’re honoring his memory by donating their time and talent to a concert that will benefit an arts fund in his name.

Gordon was president and CEO of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge from 2006 until his death at age 57 on Sept. 10, 2012. His work with the council, as well as the local arts community, is his legacy.

And that legacy continues to grow through the Derek E. Gordon Arts Fund, established by the Arts Council to support excellence in the arts through organizational programs and scholarships to individuals for artistic endeavors and creative opportunities.

To honor the legacy and help with the fund, musicians Kurt Elling, Fred Hersch, Berta Rojas and Vanessa Rubin will perform in the concert, “Living Legacy,” in the Manship Theatre on Tuesday.

“This came about shortly after Derek’s passing,” said Kathy Scherer, the Arts Council’s deputy director. “The concert has been scheduled for 10 or 11 months. The performers are some of Derek’s closest friends.”

Jazz vocalist Elling has earned eight Grammy nominations. Jazz pianist Hersch is considered to be the most prolific and celebrated solo jazz pianist of his generation. Classical guitarist Rojas is an artist whose versatility allows her to move effortlessly between classical music and other genres.

And jazz vocalist Rubin’s repertoire ranges from composers Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Kurt Weil to musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Wayne Shorter and Sting.

“Each musician will perform for about 25 minutes, and there will be an intermission,” Scherer said. “This will be about a two-hour concert.”

Bill Grimes, upright bassist and LSU’s E. & D. White Professor of Jazz Studies, will be the master of ceremonies and accompany the performers, along with drummer Tony Davis and pianist and composer Mike Esneault.

The concert will be preceded by a 6:30 p.m. reception, which will include the sale of six pieces from Gordon’s extensive art collection with proceeds benefitting the arts fund. Pieces from this collection also are on exhibit in the Manship Gallery, next door to the theater.

“The pieces that will be for sale aren’t a part of this exhibit,” Scherer said. “Ann Connelly Fine Arts installed this exhibit for us, and they’re framing the pieces that will be for sale as a gift to the arts fund. We’ll be offering opportunities available through the fund within a few weeks. We’ll have applications on our website.”

Gordon was considered on of the top arts administrators in the country. He was a Baton Rouge native and, before returning to his hometown, served as CEO of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, as well as senior vice president for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

As head of the Arts Council, Gordon worked with leaders of local arts and community organizations to advance an inclusive, dynamic vision for the arts. And with support from the River City Jazz Coalition, he used his extensive network of personal relationships to present world-class jazz performances in Baton Rouge.