The most frequently asked question of the jazz stroll organizers is what the music will be like in the different venues. Being that jazz music is improvisational by nature, that question is hard to answer in specific terms. In an effort to answer the question, though, the West Virginia Jazz Society (WVJS)has offered some a general descriptions they trust are helpful to the thoughtful jazz fan.
WVJS is the group that arranged for over 20 top jazz artists to appear in five different venues to make up the stops along Clarksburg, West Virginia’s Uptown Jazz Stroll on Friday evening, June 21.
Each venue will feature a jazz ensemble that will begin 50-minute sets of music at exactly 6pm, 7:15pm and 8:30pm, allowing patrons time to “stroll” if they want to move to another performance. Each show is staged within a two-block area in Clarksburg’s historic business district.
Four of the ensembles feature a “headliner” artist supported by a talented trio of West Virginia-based jazz musicians, while a fifth features two artists with legendary reputations in the regional jazz scene.
In Waldomore Mansion, gospel and jazz pianist, Dr. Alton Merrell will hold forth on a Steinway Concert Grand piano while accompanied by Adam Loudin on trumpet, Kyle Andrews on drums, and Steve Hefner on bass.. The audience will sit in folding chairs arranged theatre style in close proximity to the musicians, who will play a collection of songs from the Great American Songbook. Dr. Merrell is both a noted performer but also an educator who will take time to discuss his art with audience members. Of particular note is the combination of Loudin and Andrews, both Wesleyan alumni, who have collaborated on a number of compositions and arrangements that have received critical praise. People who go to Waldomore should expect a very studied but lively session of familiar jazz themes, done with a lot of youthful vigor with a hint of the gospel for which Merrell is also known.
In the Fifth Floor Lounge, patrons will enjoy the very stylish tenor saxophone talent of Curtis Johnson, a player’s player who is both a college music instructor, as well as a veteran “road warrior” who loves playing multiple gigs on consecutive nights in different places each night. Johnson will be joined by Seth Maynard, vocalist and Berklee College Of Music-trained guitarist and composer , Morgantown’s Mark Capellini on drums and Greg Thurman on bass. Their performance will match the sophisticated décor and style of the Fifth Floor, a comfortable martini-bar done up just right. The music will be very entertaining but with plenty of substance to keep people interested.
At PJ Kelly’s, the “monster” trombonist, Jeff Bush, will have no trouble filling the room with his extra-ripe, very full-blown and wonderful sound. Bush’s playing is envied by other trombonists, and by other musicians in general. Davin Seamon, Bush’s pianist for the evening, said Bush’s skill is so compelling, he is tempted to take up the trombone himself (just to have that much fun, I presume). Also playing with Bush in the music bar/restaurant are Anton DeFace, a very talented Pittsburgh-based bassist, and George Heid, a drummer trained by true legendary jazz statesman, Roger Humphries. Expect to be moving your feet and snapping your fingers.
The Starving Artist will host Dr. James Moore and the West Virginia Wesleyan Student Jazz Ensemble in what should be a show with a really big sound. Moore’s trumpet playing stops people dean in their tracks, and when he’s playing with students he has prepared for the moment, the effect can be startling. Dr. Moore is helping the West Virginia Jazz Society form a franchise for quality jazz in central West Virginia, both through his work with cooperative educational projects, but also through his recruitment of top artists to participate in WVJS organized events. Patrons will be seated near, around and among an amazing collection of art – the whole place is a work of art – and will have no problem staying awake for this performance as both the music and Moore’s personality will carry the evening.