Hip-Hop Meets Jazz in Southampton

Baba Israel, an artist, producer, and educator, will lead a group comprising Ada Rovatti on saxophone, Bill O’Connell on piano, Santi Debriano on bass, and Claes Brondal on drums
Baba Israel, a rapper, producer, and educator Joel Chester Fildes

The next installment of the off-season series of concerts at the Southampton Arts Center promises to be one of its most musically adventurous. On Saturday at 7 p.m., the jazz and salsa that have characterized the series will blend with hip-hop and more when Baba Israel, an artist, producer, and educator, will lead a group comprising Ada Rovatti on saxophone, Bill O’Connell on piano, Santi Debriano on bass, and Claes Brondal on drums. 

Mr. Israel grew up in New York City, his parents core members of the Living Theatre, the experimental theater company founded by the Abstract Expressionist painter Julian Beck and Judith Malina. That influence and his own early performances at another Lower East Side institution, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, are evident in his spoken-word, socially conscious, and experimental recordings. 

“We struggle with life, with love, with bills, with politicians with eyes that pre-judge,” he raps on “Freedom Music,” a 2013 collaboration with Irfan Rainy. “We struggle with faith, we struggle with money that comes too late, we struggle with hate, we struggle with fate, we struggle to wait, we struggle like all of our ancestors.” 

“I definitely grew up on hip-hop,” Mr. Israel said last week from Europe, where he gave a series of performances. He cited among his influences pioneering artists of the genre including Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, and Gang Starr, “and I also got excited by West Coast, more underground stuff.” 

“My father was a jazz musician,” he added. “He was very connected in the jazz community, so he took me to see a lot of jazz. I would say those are my two biggest influences.” 

As an educator and consultant, he works with organizations including Urban Word, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has also worked as a cultural ambassador with the United States State Department, through which he has presented workshops and performances across Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and in Gambia and Turkey.

Mr. Brondal, who organizes the series as well as the Thursday evening Jazz Jam sessions at Bay Burger in Sag Harbor, said that a goal of the series is to present and showcase the diverse world of music under the jazz umbrella. “The roots of rhythm and history of the Americas is the unique melting pot of world cultures and societies,” he wrote in an email last week. “We want people to experience some of the best music gumbos and genres rooted in this country. The subcontext is that all humans are interconnected and we live on this planet as one — ultimately sharing one big, fat world culture.”

“Considering the rich history of the Bronx and Manhattan,” Mr. Brondal, who is from Denmark, wrote, “jazz/salsa/hip-hop is the obvious, but not famous, musical family. So much we can do within the spirit and traditions of these styles!”

Tickets for Hip Hop Meets Salsa and Jazz with Baba Israel and Friends, Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center, are $15, $5 for students and children. The venue will open at 6:30 for refreshments compliments of Union Cantina and Wolffer Estate Vineyard.