Carl Griffin and Terrance Blanchard

Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen and Carl Griffin are brining the essence of Jazz back with the Jazz Roots Concert Series. Through Jazz Roots, Rosen (creator and producer) and Griffin (series line producer) produce concerts, curate programs, design programing for high school students and establish community outreach.

Rosen and Griffin recently sat down with rolling out to discuss how the Jazz Roots Concert Series is making a difference.

How did the Jazz Roots Series come about?

Larry: Jazz Roots first started in Miami five years ago. It started with a very large performing arts center in Miami that was built as a new center and they came to me and asked if they could put on a Jazz series. We came up with a branding idea, which became Jazz Roots. Consequently, we started to get calls from performing art centers around the country and they wanted us to bring the Jazz Roots concept to their area.

How did jazz influence rap, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll?

Larry: If you look at the roots of the music of in America, it’s all based on the drums that came from Africa.  And that’s really the nucleus, the musical DNA and the history of where it comes from.  So whether it’s Brazilian music, samba boss nova, Latin music from the Caribbean, blues, gospel, R&B, jazz and hip-hop from the U.S., it all comes from the same root.  We called it Jazz Roots [because] everything in our series … fits under that umbrella concept.

How does the Jazz Roots Series educate? 

Carl: One of the most important aspects is the education component to the Jazz Roots’ program. We found that there are hundreds of jazz musicians in high school bands, so Larry and his friends got a group from Miami to contribute to start bringing 150 kids to every show.

Do the kids get a chance to participate?

Carl: Yes. It’s extraordinary because we bus them to the performing arts center and they get to watch a sound check. Now most young musicians have never seen an authentic sound check. But the aspiring musicians get to see how to be a professional and how to conduct an official soundcheck. Then, I conduct a Q-and-A session with the artist and with the kids. The artist gives them a little background of who they are, where they come from and how they made it to the big stage.

The Jazz Roots Concert Series will feature Esperanza Spalding, Al Jarreau, Ramsey Lewis, Terri Lynn Carrington and others at the Cobb Energy Center in September and October. For more information, visit

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A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.