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Artist Stories

A 10 year spotlight on the jazz musicians of Charlotte

February, 2020 — Every month, in surveys of JAZZ ROOM attendees new and old, respondents are asked to rate the quality of the music and musicians. Every month, for as long as we have captured this information, they are rated 10 out of 10. It’s a running joke that after every show one particular subscriber says “best show ever”, and means it.

The musicians that perform in the JAZZ ROOM express an overwhelming respect for the organization and for each other. They each attribute a growth of jazz in Charlotte to the work of JazzArts Charlotte. When Lonnie and Ocie arrived in Charlotte 10 years ago, they recognized the incredible quality of local jazz musicians and the need to support them. In that time, the goal has been to shine a spotlight on what was already in our midst.

In one word, Charlotte saxophonist David Lail calls JazzArts Charlotte a “catalyst”, broadening access to jazz locally. “For a long time there were quite a few jazz musicians here that didn’t have an outlet. They spent a lot of time playing in settings where it was background music.” The Charlotte audience wasn’t exposed directly to the real value of jazz. The JAZZ ROOM put live jazz at the forefront, getting the audience close to the musicians so they could experience the interaction that happens between the audience, and the performers.

In addition to that live experience, Charlotte jazz vocalist Dawn Anthony shares how valuable she believes it is to be able to use that “megaphone” to share the heritage of jazz and its connection to our culture and history. The JazzArts Charlotte efforts “showcase the legacy that jazz music has created in our own community, just as Jazz at Lincoln Center showcases the legacy of jazz in New Orleans.”

“It may be cliché, but jazz defines America,” says jazz trumpeter Matt Postle. “It’s inclusiveness, democracy and ability to self-express are important values in this country. It’s never about one person, it is a much larger picture.” In addition to the musicians’ obvious skill, what comes through in the quality of a JAZZ ROOM show are a focus beyond just the music.

Ariel Pocock, jazz pianist and vocalist, describes her experience as a musician at the JAZZ ROOM as an emphasis on artistic integrity. “Rather than putting on a show that just sells tickets, clearly values, integrity and quality are at the forefront. And the audience senses that.”

The most rewarding experience that sets JazzArts Charlotte is the camaraderie, according to jazz saxophonist Greg Jarrell. “The business can sometimes be competitive, but that atmosphere doesn’t happen with JazzArts Charlotte. The first time I met Dawn Anthony was the night we performed together in the JAZZ ROOM November 2014. There were moments in that first show when we locked together, like we were speaking with one voice. That energy developed into an ongoing artistic collaboration, and to a friendship beyond the music.” This support is described as the norm rather than the rule at the JAZZ ROOM.

The two go hand in hand – quality musicianship and a platform to experience it. When they come together, you get a jazz community driven to influence the greater community of Charlotte.

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