Jazz in session
Jazz Artists in Residency
Inside cool, dark Moody’s Bistro and Lounge in Truckee, polished wood and swank velvet curtains set the backdrop for a year-round lineup of local and traveling jazz musicians. The appetizer menu boasts such delicacies as beef tartare and tempura Maine lobster. On a recent summer day, though, owner J.J. Morgan was more concerned with what was happening in the parking lot. Looking kind of daddy-o with a wisp of a goatee and a pastel blue flat-topped cap, he gestured to a produce delivery truck and two smelly dumpsters. They would all be moved to make way for opening night of the restaurant’s Jazz Artists in Residency Festival, a series of concerts featuring jazz acts from San Francisco and Seattle, including the Victor Noriega Quartet, Josh Jones Latin Jazz Ensemble and Shotgun Wedding Hip Hop Symphony.
“This is going to be a 200-seat theater,” says Morgan, looking overhead to where he envisions the 40-by-40-foot shade screen.
Transforming his back alley into a comfortable concert venue isn’t all he’s dreaming about. Morgan, who’s the father of an 8-year-old, would also like to see more opportunities for kids to learn about music.
“There’s a void in this area,” he says. He says Truckee schools have cut back music programs. He notes that, for many kids, music education isn’t just about entertainment. While working on a documentary film for the Berkeley Youth Music Program a few years ago, Morgan noticed a heartening phenomenon: “A lot of kids came from broken homes. Then there was a 100-percent graduation rate into university music programs.”
In an effort to help remedy the dearth of music education in the Truckee area, Morgan is donating proceeds from the jazz festival’s opening-night fundraiser to the Truckee Youth Music Program, which pairs accomplished high-school musicians with younger students. The rest of the festival’s shows are free and open to all ages, and visiting musicians will conduct free Kids’ Jazz Camp workshops. (They will focus on jazz, but San Francisco music producer DJ Romanowski plans to teach a DJ clinic as well.)
Jordan Nadel, a 16-year-old trombone player from Truckee, participated in last year’s workshops. He says the half-day sessions were demanding but “not too bad” and definitely worth the effort. He plans to attend again this year.
“It was pretty cool just getting to work with Adam [of the Adam Theis Trio] one-on-one,” he says. Almost as cool as what happened during one of the evening concerts: “When they went to play, I went to watch them, and they asked if I wanted to come up on stage and play. That was pretty cool.”
This is exactly the kind of thing Morgan likes to hear about: young musicians stepping out of a theoretical, classroom environment to get a taste of what it’s like to be a professional musician.
“It’s all about seeing them down the road,” he says. “As a kid playing a clarinet, your teacher might not be your idol, but when you come see one of these cool guys who’ve made it, you think, ‘If I keep my head around this, that’s where it could take me.'”
“We want this to be the seedling of a world-class jazz festival,” Morgan says, adding that while he’s working on that, “If we can fire a kid up, no matter what, bring it on.”