Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lessons of history- past, present and future

The Jazz Workshop was started by Sam Favors as the "Musicians Creative Guild." This was long enough ago- at least 30 years- that the exact timeline has been lost. The workshop has taken place in several Minneapolis parks over the years, for a while even being funded by the Park District. Some of Sam's words remain with us, however:

The Musicians’ Creative Guild (MCG) is a community-based group, organized to develop activities and projects aimed toward increasing jazz music performance arts, business and artistic acumen. MCG hosts a weekly jazz workshop for musicians to practice their craft. The group also sponsors seminars and performs throughout the Twin Cities.

MCG projects included the Jazz Workshop, instrument-specific workshops, jazz history and listening sessions and the Freedom Jazz Festival. Sam Favors was one of the founders of the FJF, the first one happening in 1999 at Minnehaha Falls Park. He was held in high esteem by his fellow musicians. Sam has passed away but the FJF continues and has created the "Samuel F. Favors Award," presented annually to an African-American musician "representing the creativity, dedication, energy and spirit of Jazz in Minnesota and beyond."

This year the FJF will be August 1, 2009 at Minnehaha Falls Park. Festivals like this are important to the continuation of the legacy of jazz in the community- a legacy founded in the African-American experience in this nation. Sam had hoped that the MCG and the FJF would further an understanding of that legacy, enhance the Twin Cities jazz culture, bring this wonderful music to a new generation, bring jazz musicians and jazz fans together and enhance the community and family experience.

The goals of the Jazz Workshop are connected to these goals and to the purpose of the MCG: to help people develop the craft of playing jazz music, to expand artistry and improve the ability to make a living. There are many supporters of jazz music in the Twin Cities (some of them are listed over to the right side of this page). For jazz to continue we need musicians and an educated audience able to hear and understand what is being played. We hope that that the Jazz Workshop helps move the Twin Cities jazz scene just a little further along.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'll Remember April...

Hmm, no, I'm anticipating April. But there aren't any jazz songs about March. Probably because it is March, not April, that is the cruelest month- at least in Minnesota.

Seventeen jazz musicians braved sunny skies and gentle north winds to come to the workshop today. I think that was our biggest turnout in a long time. The Craigslist ad remains the most effective publication tool we've used, even bringing in people who used to come to the workshop 15 years ago at a different park!

Today as had an "instrumental hour" from noon to 1:00 and then the usual workshop from 1:00-3:45, when it was time to pack up. We covered songs that will be played at the "Bunny Breakfast" next Saturday- "Easter Parade," "East of the Sun," "Corcovado," "Gentle Rain," "The Bunny Hop," St. Thomas," "I'll Remember April," "I Love You," and a few others. We also played "Four," "All of Me," "Flintstone's Theme," "Ornithology," "Fools Rush In" and there were some others besides that. Four hours of jazz fun!

Next Saturday, on April 4, the regular workshop will not happen. The ensemble will be playing at the "Bunny Breakfast" from 9:00AM to noon. Hope you can drop in and hear us!

On April 11, we'll again meet at noon for the "instrumental hour" and then the regular workshop will run from 1:00-3:45.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

View from the guitar chair

Sam and Vicki, above.

Once again the Jazz Workshop met in the classroom at McRae Park. The focus today was on working up songs for the April 4th "Bunny Breakfast" gig; performing at park events is part of how the Workshop pays for the use of the facilities. Today we had some new faces and some returning ones- Luis (electric bass), Tony (upright bass for the first hour or so), Christian (piano), Wes (tenor sax), Jim (tenor sax, clarinet, piano and vocals), Jarret (alto sax), a trumpeter whose name I have managed to forget (but his picture will be posted below to make up for that), Sam (trumpet), Craig (guitar), Gene (drums), Norman (drums and piano), Annie (vocals), Vicki (vocals) and Tim (guitar). That's a baker's dozen!

The horns

For the first time, at Sam's suggestion, we met at noon for an "instrumental hour" and then the vocalists joined in at the usual time. This was well-liked as it allowed the instrumentalists time to stretch out on solos that isn't available when working out songs with vocals. As an interesting side effect, the group played much more cohesively when backing up the singers, too.

Christian and Luis

Songs played included "Yardbird Suite," "Meditation," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "Four," "Nature Boy," "I'll Remember April," "Blue Bossa," "St. Thomas," "I Love You," "Easter Parade," "East of the Sun" and probably a bunch of others that I have forgotten.

Next week- 3/28/09- we will again start at noon for an hour of instrumentals before the start of the Workshop at 1:00PM. Be there if you can!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It Might As Well Be Spring!

The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and due to there being three birthday parties at various times in the main room at McRae Park we met in the small classroom. We jammed three drummers, two bassists (one of them also playing trumpet), a sax player, a trumpeter, a saxophonist, a pianist (also playing clarinet), two guitarists, a percussionist and three vocalists into the room. There were a couple other folks who dropped in to listen, too.

We covered a bunch of tunes, including "Corcovado/Quiet Nights," "The Bunny Hop," "St. Thomas," "I'll Remember April," "Fools Rush In," "Gentle Rain," "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and probably half-a-dozen other tunes that my aging brain has forgotten.

Annie Favors announced that on April 4, the Workshop will be performing for the "Bunny Brunch" from 9:00AM-12:00PM. This is an annual event at the park and the Workshop usually provides the music, emphasizing "springy" tunes. The workshop will not happen at the usual time on April 4. The set list will be finalized next Saturday. Only regular attendees will play on April 4 (bringing in somebody new at the last minute before a performance tends to create problems).

Sam Fiske announced that next week there will be an "instrumental hour" between noon and 1:00 PM, and then the workshop will start at 1:00 and run to 4:00 as usual.

I was so busy playing that I forgot to take any pictures!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A couple more photos

I always feel bad that we only get some of the musicians in the photos, so here are a couple more from 3/7/09. This is Vicki (vocals), Pete (bass), the other Pete (drums), Ken (guitar, right) and Tim (guitar, left):

And this is Sam and Mary (trumpets); we seem to have lost Dan, another trumpeter, somewhere along the line:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday in the Park (3/7/09)

Today we had a great turnout, by my count at one point there were about 16 players! Today we had most of the regulars (Annie, Vicki, Dick, Sam, Wes, Tim and Gene), some returning folks (Mary, Reno, Victor) and some new folks (Pete (bass), Ken (guitar), Craig (a different Craig- guitar), Christian (piano), Dan (trumpet) and another trumpet player whose name I didn't catch. Wow!

Here's Christian, Pete and (Re)Pete:

We got through a bunch of songs including "Blue Bossa," "Corcovado," "Waltz for Debby," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Easy Living," "I'll Remember April," "One Note Samba," a Dick Jacques original "Will You Be My Love," "Ornithology," and "St. Thomas." There are a few other songs that I've forgotten since I didn't write them down and my short term memory is what it used to be. Anyway we had a great time, the new folks played some good stuff and we hope they all keep coming back.

Here's part of the horn section (missing three trumpets, making this sort of a rogue's gallery):

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A shameless plug...

for sometime workshop participant Robert Bell and my friend Maud Hixson:

Snowlight in Minnesota 2/28/09

Unlike Vermont, Minnesota doesn't seem to have a great jazz song written about it. Too many syllables in the name, I think. That doesn't stop us from having good music, though- check out the club list on the right and also the great sites like Jazz Police and Twin Cities Jazz Society.

Despite the snow emergency, a dozen people found jazz important enough to come out to the workshop today including a new pianist, Jay, who played very well and fit in quite nicely. Our other pianist, Norman, also came and he and Jay switched off for a few songs. Here's Norman, Gene (drums) and Sam (bass):

In addition we had sax (Wes), clarinet (Jim), guitars (Craig and Tim) and three vocalists (Annie, Dick and Vicki) who took turns on songs like "Have You Met Miss Jones," "Watch What Happens," "I'll Remember April," "By The Time I Get to Phoenix." Instrumentals included "Forest Flower," "Pent Up House" and a few others.

Hope to see you next week!