Nashville Jazz Workshop rocks

You might not think of Nashville, one of the major hubs for country music, as a hotspot for jazz, or home to a jazz education workshop, but you’d be wrong, according to an article in The Tennesseean.

“Nashville’s jazz audiences and performers might be closer than ever these days, thanks in no small part to the Nashville Jazz Workshop, which has operated out of the Neuhoff Complex in East Germantown since 2000.

The education and performance center was founded by local jazz artists Lori Mechem (executive director of the workshop) and Roger Spencer, who — along with other local players — teach weekly courses covering all areas of jazz performance, from vocal techniques to ensemble playing and improvisation.

An average night might have a group of vocal students learning to sing ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ or ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ with conversational style, while another group strikes up a samba beat on Brazilian instruments.

Students, instructors and visiting jazz stars perform onstage at the workshop’s cozy venue, the Jazz Cave. Its popular Snap on 2&4 concert series (second and fourth Fridays of each month) is a routine sell-out.

‘When we moved here … there just wasn’t a whole lot of stuff going on,’ Mechem says. ‘We’d go to jazz club after jazz club. They’d close. Then you’d have people that would go to the restaurants like F. Scott’s, and it’d be the same people. But the people that came (to the workshop) now are a family, and it’s the players, the fans, the students and the volunteers — those people now go to the other gigs.’

It might take awhile for Nashville to change perceptions…but jazz musicians might be uniquely equipped for the job, as, Mechem says, they never stop learning new techniques and taking on new challenges.

‘You can only go so far with country, or pop,’ she says. ‘But with jazz, you’re never done.’”

Nick Webb,  August 13, 2012 © National Association for Music Education