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jazz pianist and vocalist Rick DellaRatta played at the Jazz for Peace concert last Thursday. (Photo by David Gordon)


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Through jazz, a message of peace
By Michelle Apuzzio/ Correspondent
Thursday, September 23, 2004

SHERBORN - Since the first Jazz for Peace concert in October 2001, jazz pianist and vocalist Rick DellaRatta and his ever-evolving troupe of accompanying musicians have played more than 150 concerts. Last week, he brought the philosophy of Jazz for Peace to the Peace Abbey to play a benefit for Anu Mati, a community healing center soon to open in Natick.


     Although Jazz for Peace's first American concert coincided with the post-September 11 peace movement, DellaRatta explained that the idea of uniting people through the art form of jazz came to him the previous year. But it was after he assembled a multinational ensemble to play at the United Nations in September 2002, the Jazz for Peace concerts really took off. He has played, along with jazz notables such Eddie Gomez and Lenny White, every Saturday in the Jazz on the Park series in New York City since that concert.


     DellaRatta believes that the art form of jazz promotes creativity and intellectuality, and that a mind and soul filled with those things leaves less room for destructive behavior.


     As he traveled the world as a jazz musician, DellaRatta noted that jazz was a universal interest. "It is something really American that is embraced by the world," he said.


     He believes so strongly in music's power to bring together citizens of the world regardless of race or religion, he will use the proceeds from his most recent CD, "Jazz for Peace," to supply musical instruments to underprivileged communities around the world.


     "If you've made music with someone of a different religion, it's very hard to think about killing someone," he said. "It puts you on common ground."


     Jazz for Peace concerts have benefited many nonprofit organizations of various focuses, including Dollars and Sense, Lawyers without Borders and the Russian Orphan Aid Foundation. Mare Tomaski, who will open Anu Mati in January, contacted Jazz for Peace about doing a benefit for the new community healing center.


     Anu Mati, which means "gentle mind" in Sanskrit, will offer massage, dance and movement classes, meditation and wellness workshops. The healing center's mission is: "If we are to make gentle the world, we must first start with ourselves." And thus, although Anu Mati will effect change on a smaller scale than Jazz for Peace, they have the same charge - to better the individual person by exposing them to art and spirituality in hopes of making the world a better place to live.


     And so music brought together more than two dozen in the community to raise money for the new center as bassist Ben Meigners and drummer Andrew LaSalla joined DellaRatta on jazz standards such as "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Night and Day" as well as original pieces like "Cheeks," a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie who is credited for bringing jazz to Cuba - an inspiration to folks like DellaRatta trying to spread the art form of jazz throughout the world.


     "Rick sees the potential in the human spirit," said Tomaski.