Albany-based jazz band the Arch Stanton Quartet completed a tour of Egypt last week, and the band’s guitarist Roger Noyes reports on the journey…
By Roger Noyes
Touring a country like post-revolution Egypt is one thing … but to do so as a jazz musician embarking on a cultural mission is something else entirely, and we are honored for having had this incredible, life-altering experience.
While in Egypt last week, the Arch Stanton Quartet performed two dates at the Cairo International Jazz Festival; two performances for high school students (many of whom had never heard American jazz music before) in Cairo and Alexandria; a reception in Alexandria; a performance for students and faculty at the American University in Cairo; a series of jazz workshops and master classes at the American University in Cairo; and a reception with cultural affairs officials from the U.S. Embassy.
We even fit in some time to see the Pyramids.
This tour was important for several reasons, both politically and artistically. The Jazz Festival is one of the year’s most significant cultural events in Cairo – a city that has had to cope with a dramatic decline in both domestic and international tourism, economic hardship and a good share of political unrest. As we heard time and again from festival attendees, the city of Cairo needed an event like the Jazz Festival to help boost its tourism industry and to give Egyptians a chance to come together around something as powerful and hopeful as music at a time of weighty political issues. The Cairo International Jazz Festival director, Amro Salah, is a true hero for organizing this festival amid security challenges and other odds, and he did an amazing job bringing together musicians from around the globe to share the gift of music in such a wonderful city of wonderful people.
For the Arch Stanton Quartet, these performances were especially meaningful because we were the only American jazz band at the festival that performed classic American jazz in the traditional small-combo format. It was a unique honor, as Americans, to bring this music to our friends in Egypt and around the world, thanks to the sponsorship and vision of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, AMIDEAST/Egypt and the American University who all came together to make our travels possible.
The Jazz Festival was certainly amazing, but perhaps the most inspiring parts of the tour were our performances for young high school students learning about American culture through AMIDEAST’s exceptional Access program for youths in Egypt. Many of these young students were hearing American jazz for the first time, and they were far and away the most enthusiastic audiences we have ever performed for. We have never before felt more welcome.