Jazz musicians are always learning, and thanks to Seattle's nonprofit Jazz Night School program, students ages 10-74 are getting that education. An all-star ensemble mentored by trumpet and sax player Jay Thomas showed us how fun the early stages of learning jazz can be at any age.
Jazz Night School was founded in 2008 by pianist, composer, band leader (and more) Erik Hanson. The school's curricula and methodology is centered on improvisation, in big band and small ensemble context. As mentor Jay Thomas, one of the school's many talented musician/teachers told us, they learn "the old fashioned way." That is, they learn from watching, listening to, and playing with each other.
It's also centered on creating community. The ensemble in our studios ranged from recent retiree to practicing attorney and new high school graduate. Some had previously played other styles of music, now hooked on jazz. Others were returning to jazz after a long absence. All expressed their passion in their playing.
Especially nice was their sense of feeling on Harold Land's beautiful "Rapture," and also their attentive listening and focus on a tricky arrangement of the standard "East of the Sun." I asked Jay Thomas who arranged their version and he proudly answered, "We did!"
These musicians, their instructors, and Jazz Night School have something to be very proud of here. They are providing a much needed opportunity for that important connection, the musical community that makes all of our lives better. Bravo!