The fourth Saturday of each month is time for Garden City Jazz’s jazz and wine soiree, but this Saturday, after all, follows a major holiday – a quieter time for live performance.
Karen Gordon had envisioned to instead make the December edition a small affair with family who came into town, and as a show of appreciation for Garden City Jazz volunteers and sponsors – something requiring an invitation.
But as more people called her to find what would be on tap for jazz this month, it became difficult to say “no.”
The jazz and wine soiree at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27, has now turned into an event open for all – continuing the season of holiday festivities past Christmas Day.
The soiree will be held at Jessye Norman School of the Arts, 739 Greene St., and is free; Garden City Jazz is accepting donations at the event for the school and its programs. An RSVP is required by calling (762) 233-JAZZ, or visiting ssme.to/SOIREE, and attendees are expected to “dress to impress.”
“I really see this as feeling like a regular drop-in holiday party, very similar to the kind of thing we do in my family on Christmas Day,” said Gordon, a jazz pianist who heads Garden City Jazz, an organization providing jazz entertainment by local artists in the greater Augusta area.
Throughout 2014, the organization helped to provide local jazz musicians for events and concerts around the area, including the “Jazz at the ‘G’ ” concert series at Georgia Regents University, Arts in the Heart of Augusta, and Jazz on Pine.
And the Garden City Jazz soirees at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts this year were the second round of something relatively new, a work in progress to present the people of the Augusta area with the opportunity to hear performances dedicated solely to the genre, as many larger concerts are an amalgam of types.
“I’m a working musician, and a lot of times we have to play what we have to play to make money,” Gordon explained.
But there was a practical reason to start the soirees: inclement weather that rained out many of the
city’s summer outdoor concerts.
“It almost drove me crazy because I couldn’t control it,” Gordon said. “I looked for an indoor venue. I felt it was important that I present the music.
“It fills a void I see here in town,” she continued. “I felt it important to share the music that I grew up hearing and fell in love with – and there are so many people in this area who love classic jazz music, and so many talented musicians who want to play that type of jazz, but there’s not a venue where they can play the music.”
After December’s edition, the 2014-15 season of the jazz soirees continues with:
• Henry Johnson & 3 Generations on Jan. 24
• The Edwin G. Hamilton Trio on Feb. 28
• Ari Gosa on March 28
• Matthew Wittington 3 on April 25
• Dr. Martin D. Jones on May 23
• Tim Sanders + UNITY on June 27.
During Masters Week in 2015, Garden City Jazz is slated to even provide a jazz club environment at the school.
“We’re still figuring out what that looks like, but we’ve gotten a tremendous response from local musicians,” Gordon said. “We’re very excited.”
The soirees are also a chance to help promote the host venue – a school that provides arts education and training for youth in Augusta who would otherwise not have a chance to pursue the arts.
“At each event, I always ask the question, ‘How many of you have never been in this room, or in this space before?’ and the majority who come to the event have never been there,” Gordon said.
“It is an opportunity for us to talk about the work that the Jessye Norman School is doing in the community, the impact that it has on young people and the difference that it’s making in the downtown artistic world.”
With GRU artist-in-residence Wycliffe Gordon, an accomplished trombonist, helping to build the university’s jazz studies program, along with work by Georgia Public Broadcasting and others in the local jazz community, Gordon said the genre’s future in Augusta is bright.
“This is a great time for jazz music,” she said.