Jazz Appreciation Month
And Speaking of the Jazz Workshop . . .
This is one of several bright spots on the Jazz scene here in Albuquerque. Formed more than twenty-five years ago, the not-for-profit Workshop is dedicated to promoting Jazz through concert presentations and educational programs for adults and children. Over the past several years the NMJW has grown to be one of the city’s leading arts organizations, drawing an audience of more than 25,000 to its forty concerts each year while its educational programs reach more than ten thousand students in local schools. Classes are designed for all ages and reach aspiring musicians and music-lovers from ages six to sixty. Two programs were added this year — the Workshop Honor Jazz Ensemble, which brings together the city’s most talented high school players in challenging, performance-oriented big band ensembles that perform in June alongside the Adult Big Band and Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra in the Workshop’s “Big Band Extravaganza” at the Albuquerque Museum, and the JCC Jazz Intensive, designed to provide year-round Jazz studies for middle and high school students through weekly sessions and a final performance at Albuquerque’s new Jewish Community Center. Other programs include Roots of Jazz, in which Frank Leto and four other musicians present an hour-long program packed with music and information to about 6,500 elementary school children each year; Jazz Camp, in which more than a hundred children ages 6-12 work directly with local musicians during June to explore music first-hand through observing live performances, creating music and reacting to it through dance and art; and Summer Jazz Intensive, now in its third year at the Albuquerque Academy, a Jazz camp that offers young musicians a comprehensive and challenging introduction to Jazz in a supportive environment. The course includes sessions on Jazz theory, improvisation and ensemble work. In addition, the Workshop’s Jazz Outreach program tours outlying areas of New Mexico with a Jazz quintet, presenting programs in elementary schools and clinics for music students in secondary schools and even colleges. The residency concludes with a free evening performance for the entire community. Last but not least, there are the NMJW’s adult education programs including Adult Jazz Chorus, Adult Big Band, Beginning Improvisation, Intermediate Improvisation and the Adult Lecture Series. The Workshop moved into new quarters in the fall of ‘03 and extended its activities to include the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and Albuquerque Latin Jazz Orchestra.
Also in Albuquerque . . .
There is The Outpost, a “performance space” that presents Jazz, experimental music, world music, folk and roots, spoken word, children’s shows, lecture-demonstrations, performance and visual art and what-have-you. Outpost Productions, formed in 1988, is another not-for-profit entity consisting of a board of directors and professional staff along with a corps of dedicated volunteers. OP has more than five hundred paid members and a mailing list of more than ten thousand. It is supported by memberships, private donations and a wide range of corporate sponsorships. The Outpost itself, located about two blocks south of the UNM campus, is relatively small, seating only 175, but the sound system is excellent while the stage is large enough to accommodate a big band (we saw the UNM Jazz Ensemble perform there with guest conductor Gerald Wilson). Most recently, Betty and I saw and heard the marvelous Jazz pianist Jessica Williams who treated her audience to some wonderful music in spite of having broken several ribs only eight days before the concert. What a trouper . . .
Meanwhile, in Oakland, CA . . .
Friends of Big Band Jazz, yet another non-profit, is helping keep the flame of Jazz burning in its neighborhood through performance and educational programs that include two summer Jazz camps, scholarships for aspiring musicians, funding for school music departments and sponsorship of the Mike Vax Big Band which is touring the East Coast this spring, its second such tour in three years. FBBJ has a web site at which big-band albums can be purchased, with two-thirds of the proceeds earmarked for the performing artists, the rest for FBBJ’s scholarship fund. It’s a good deal for everyone and a great way for Jazz fans to become involved in supporting the art form while acquiring topnotch big-band albums at a reasonable cost. You can reach Friends of Big Band Jazz by logging on to the site, www.bigbandjazz.net