Duke Ellington, America’s genius of jazz, once observed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to decide where jazz began and ended. “I feel there is no boundary line,” he once said.
Crossing musical boundaries is what this year’s WTJU Jazz Marathon is all about. The weeklong marathon, which kicks off Monday, will focus on regional hotbeds of jazz, both in the U.S. and worldwide, celebrating the shifting boundaries throughout the jazz landscape.
Proclaiming “Everywhere There’s Jazz” through Oct. 6, the WTJU autumnal rite will broadcast from 91.1 FM – as well as stream to smartphones and computers at WTJU.net – a steady flow of boundless jazz from around the world.
“You can’t talk about jazz without talking about places,” Nathan Moore, WTJU’s general manager, said. “From its early days in New Orleans to its journey around the world, places have shaped jazz as much as the musicians who created it.
“Over the course of the week, we’ll take listeners to Havana nightclubs, Scandinavian concert halls, Chicago’s loft scene and everywhere in between.”
The public radio station hopes to raise at least $40,000 in listener donations throughout the week.
“Jazz is an original American art form, and jazz is also all about improvisation – the act of creation and the pursuit of new forms,” Moore said. “Over the past 100 years, jazz has been music for dancing, for funerals, for social protest and for deep artistic interpretation.”
The Jazz Marathon will be bookended by two live-broadcast concerts, kicking off Friday at 8 p.m. with a concert featuring Detroit chanteuse Kathy Kosins, with Bob Hallahan on piano, at Brooks Hall.
Born during the Motown era, Kosins began singing and arranging background vocals in the early 1980s for producer Don Was, now president of the Blue Note Records jazz label, which led to her becoming a highly sought-after session singer. Today Kosins records, performs extensively and gives numerous clinics and workshops at schools and universities around the country.
To light up the final weekend of the marathon, WTJU brings multi-instrumentalist Jessica Lurie to town for a concert. Lurie is well known to jazz fans for her concerts as a member of The Tiptons, an all-female sax quartet. For this performance, Lurie will bring her own band from New York City for a concert at The Haven on Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.
Both concerts are presented in conjunction with the Charlottesville Jazz Society. A portion of all ticket sales goes toward reaching the marathon’s $40,000 goal.
Tickets for both concerts are available only at the door, where WTJU DJs will be on hand to take pledges and hand out marathon guides. Attendees who donate to WTJU at the door will receive a $5 discount off the $15 ticket price. (Tickets are $10 for members of the Charlottesville Jazz Society and $5 for students.) Call 434-249-6191 or visit cvillejazz.org or wtju.net for information. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
In addition, from 6 to 8 each night of the marathon, jazz and blues artists from around Virginia will perform live in the WTJU studio. The roster includes the ensemble CHARST!, comprised of Charlottesville-area high school and college students; a cadre of musicians assembled by John D’earth, Charlottesville’s trumpeter, composer, teacher and jazz patriarch; the Charles Owens Trio, fronted by Owen on saxophone; bassist and composer Chris Dammann with like-minded improvisers playing classics and originals reflecting the flavor of Chicago jazz; Stephen Soghian and SwingKats, performing classic Dixieland, swing and Big Band music; and a reunion of the New Orleans-inspired dance band The Kokomotions after a 20-year absence from performing in Charlottesville.
And what would a Jazz Marathon be without the Charlottesville musician Artimus Idioticus Artimus Harmonicus Artimus Pianicus Afro-Saxon Afrodisiaction, also known as Art Wheeler? Wheeler will return to the airwaves on Sunday at 6 p.m. with his keyboard, guitar and harmonica along with some of Charlottesville’s top-shelf musicians for a live session hosted by the inimitable Professor Bebop.
The heart of this year’s marathon is the special programming by WTJU’s curatorial and jazz-aficionado DJs.
“WTJU’s DJs are curating some of the best jazz from all over the world, and they’re sharing it on-air during our Jazz Marathon,” Moore said.
A list of WTJU’s music specials during the week can be found here. Some of the highlights include:
- “Hard Bop: The New York Jazz Scene, 1950-1965” (Monday, 9 a.m.) explores the movement that was a reaction to bebop and the West Coast cool sound;
- “The New Jazz Standard” (Monday, 8 p.m.) presents modern jazz covers of rock tunes by artists such as Radiohead, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young;
- “Club Hopping in the Big Apple” (Oct. 2, 8 p.m.) offers live jazz performances in New York from venues past and present, from the Vanguard to the Half Note, steeped in the relentless spirit of spontaneity;
- “Infusion: Jazz Improvisation Bridges the Genre Gap” (Sunday, 12 p.m.) focuses on the creative aspect that has defined jazz itself – improvisation – and its influence on a variety of other music genres from rock to bluegrass;
- “American Jazz Worldwide” (Oct. 3, 8 p.m.) travels the globe to share geographical jazz insights from Scotland, Japan, Africa, Germany and Israel; and
- “Jazz That’s Out of This World” (Saturday, 2 p.m.) explores how jazz truly is everywhere – even in outer space – from Sun Ra to Frank Sinatra.
“I always look forward to the Jazz Marathon because it’s like receiving a jazz musicology education,” Moore said, “but also because we hear from so many listeners and donors who tell us how much they appreciate the depth and breadth of music we play, as well as the connections we make with the local music scene.
“The Jazz Marathon is one of WTJU’s major fundraisers each year. It takes a community of jazz and blues fans to keep our community radio station going.”