Jazz: Performance

By Christopher Yasiejko

Throughout her career with various nonprofit organizations, Raye Jones Avery, the longtime executive director of the Christina Cultural Arts Center in Wilmington, has helped to manage, program, teach and raise funds for them. The technical writing that those roles have required has been a vaguely creative outlet, but that’s a stretch for an artist, which is what Jones Avery is.

She has a degree in English literature, but music – jazz, especially – always has been her medium of choice. In 2005, the singer released her first album, “Sistah Girl’s Lament.”

“We want to put people in boxes,” Jones Avery says. “The people that have interacted with me in a professional sense as the arts administrator, those few of them who have experience with me as an artist, they always say to me without fail, it’s a very different view.”

“Higher Love”  

“Visiting Room”  

She is moved most significantly by life experiences. She describes her musical influence as “the rhythmic language of poetry or a good story.”

Her most recent project interweaves stories both spoken and sung, original compositions, contemporary arrangements of jazz standards and experimentation. One poem set to music, “Corey Did You Know?,” is a tribute to Coretta Scott King; that contrasts with “Visiting Room Sonnet,” in which the wife of an imprisoned man wonders “what an incarcerated man’s dreams smell like.”

“Corey,” Jones Avery says, centers on an imagined perspective of a relationship between a world-renown civil rights leader. “Visiting Room Sonnet,” meanwhile, “reflects on the observable struggle of a significant male in my life that had a very troubled journey.”

The Division’s grant will help her complete her next project, which she is calling “Every Good-Bye Ain’t Gone,” phrasing pulled from an African American proverb. The fellowship also will go toward studio time, utility bills and other related expenses.

“As human beings,” Jones Avery says, “we are multidimensional. And when people interact with another human being, they are only experiencing one dimension of that person. I want to encourage people to explore the various dimensions of their own artistic selves. They don’t have to be artists. We are all creative.”