LOS ANGELES – When We Are the World was recorded in 1985, to benefit famine relief in Africa, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones succeeded in spearheading a host of celebrities and singers to convene in a short space of time and produced some memorable and pivotal lines which became an overnight sensation, and raised millions for African famine relief. Now Rio Sakairi, Director of Programming at The Jazz Gallery, an internationally recognized breeding ground for young musical talent in New York City, shows up in the same spot, using an extraordinary cast of talented musicians to share with the world a benefit album called HOME-Gift of Music.
HOME-Gift of Music, released on September 11, 2012 on the Sunnyside Records label, is an eight-track listing of compelling and moving original compositions, and is the brainchild of Sakairi, which began to take shape shortly after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. Marking one of the worst natural disasters on record, the earthquake spawned devastating tsunamis and a subsequent nuclear crisis. The insurmountable destruction claimed tens of thousands of lives, and the world watched in horror. For Sakairi, born and raised in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki – just two hundred miles from the severely ravaged Sendai area — it was more than an unfathomable tragedy; it literally hit home.
HOME was produced by Sakairi, but she had a host of artists from every facet of the jazz music spectrum who assisted in lending their voices and talents to the cause. Those artists consisted of singers-songwriters: Claudia Acuña, John Ellis, Alan Hampton, Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens, Leron Thomas, Sachal Vasandani, Doug Wamble, Dayna Stephens, Taylor Eigsti, Adam Rogers, Ryan Scott, Danton Boller, Chris Tordini, Ben Williams, Johnathan Blake and Bill Campbell.
Sakairi stated that “these are some of the most innovative and gifted musicians on the contemporary jazz scene and for them to donate their time and efforts to this cause was simply a work of humility.” All proceeds from HOME – Gift of Music will go to Habitat for Humanity Japan, where volunteers are working tirelessly to rebuild homes for those affected.
John Ellis, Bacca Stevens, and Sachal Vasandani, joins the songwriting credits by adding beautiful and riveting melodies which tears at the heart of what this album is all about. Coming Home, Home, and Doves are songs thankfully without the gloss, but turns out to be durable, meaningful and they connect us to the one humanity we should be striving to become. The inspirational lift of these three particular songs contains lyrics which are free from their potential narcissism, and coveys a universal message that we are saving our own lives when we help others in need.
Rio Sakairi and her entourage of ambassadors for peace and world harmony should be commended for their dutiful dedication and sincerity. The universal declaration of hope passionately displayed in HOME-Gift of Music is to insist that all the stars are indeed singing about worldwide community and solidarity.
For more information on Habitat Humanity Japan, please visit: habitat.org
Danny R. Johnson is San Diego County News’ Jazz and Pop Music Critic.