Tamara Tunie pulled off a mini “Law & Order” reunion last night at Harlem Stage, the performing arts venue in Upper Manhattan.
Tunie, a board member, brought in Jesse Martin and S. Epatha Merkerson as emcees, while she herself did a star turn as auctioneer at the landmark theater, a scenic conversion of a former pumping station for the Croton Aqueduct. The exterior of the building looks like a castle; inside, a grand arch frames the theater.
You can’t ask for a more perfect setting to conjure up the spirit of Fats Waller, the jazz great who once jammed at Small’s Paradise, the Harlem dance club.
That time was remembered in the world premiere of “The Fats Waller Dance Party,” commissioned by Harlem Stage from pianist, composer (and MacArthur genius) Jason Moran, and singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello.
The music was all over the jazz map and on the mood scale ranged from an island groove to a romantic slow beat. Moran, wearing a white T-shirt and pale suit, performed at piano and keyboards, joined by Ndegeocello in a sweater, jeans, and big pink-frame glasses.
The duo was backed by trumpet, trombone, bass, and drum, and some young, edgy dancers who stomped their feet, swiveled their hips, and wove their way around the dinner tables, luring guests to join them.
Moran performed in a big Mardi Gras mask of Fats, complete with top hat and cigar sticking out of his mouth. At a live auction earlier in the evening, art dealer Roland Augustine had bought the mask by Haitian artist Didier Civil for $1,500.
“That’s the last deal tonight,” Tunie told the crowd, which included artist Glenn Ligon, who has his own show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and actress Gloria Reuben.
LaChanze and her husband, Derek Fordjour, bid $3,000 for a trip to Napa Valley. Art dealer Jack Tilton, a Harlem Stage board member, bid $6,000 for Moran to play a 30-minute house concert. In less than a minute, more than 10 people pledged $1,000 each to bring teaching artists into a neighborhood public school, enhancing the experience of seeing shows at Harlem Stage.
During dinner, Merkerson said she had acquired the rights to film August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Martin said he will be stepping out as Marvin Gaye in the forthcoming film, “Sexual Healing,” and summering in Montauk.
Janet Jackson at the Louvre
The atmosphere was calmer at the flower-filled private residence of Gerard Araud, France’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He hosted a benefit for the Young Patrons of the American Friends of the Louvre.
Among the guests were Daniel Colon, a partner at the private equity shop CM Equity Partners and a decorative arts enthusiast, and Anne Huntington, an independent curator and communications manager at Phillips de Pury & Co., who is keen on the Louvre’s contemporary art initiatives with artists such as Nan Goldin and Jenny Holzer.
These modern excursions, of course, have alarmed those who still gag at the memory of Jeff Koons infiltrating Louis XIV’s other palace at Versailles.
So here’s some advance notice to fragile esthetes: On June 14, Janet Jackson will perform a benefit concert at the Louvre.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)