‘I’ve never come up with a name for the kind of music I do, although I can tell you how it came into being.’
~ Peter Apfelbaum
What transforms musicians from young rookies into passionate and mind-blowing performers? What’s the trigger that leads to a deep love affair with music, a devotion to the incredible power of a solid drumbeat, a heart-wrenching horn melody or a scintillating guitar riff?
If a youngster’s only experience of playing music with a group is in the school band – often taught by a stretched-to-thin, underpaid, and sometimes unappreciated teacher – their musical aptitude can get buried under a cloak of boredom. In most small towns across America, opportunities to break out of the confines of the school-band setting are almost nonexistent. Fortunately for our small community, a music devotee personally made it a mission to offer local budding musicians an extraordinary opportunity to break the barriers.
With the right credentials for the job – co-owner of Moody’s Bistro and Lounge, an ex-San Francisco jazz club owner and a passionate musical advocate – JJ Morgan has known, loved, and been a part of the jazz scene since he was a kid. On any given day of the week, Moody’s hosts a variety of musical guests, but the pronounced focus is on world-renowned jazz ensembles.
For a special week in July, JJ opens Moody’s to young musicians, inviting them to learn and work with an arsenal of talented jazz professionals. Young musicians, it’s time to get ready, mark it on your calendar. It’s the Fourth Annual Jazz Artists in Residency (JAIR), happening July 7 to July 12. The weeklong jazz festival brings the best of the best to Truckee to participate in five days of Jazz Camp for high school musicians and six nights of jazz collaborations to the live stage for the whole community.
JJ is the kind of guy who takes on a project of this magnitude with a smooth stride and a sort of commanding ease. With his connections and cherished friends in the jazz community, he is able to bring artists of immense caliber to the area to teach during the day and play with innovative instinct at night. According to JJ, the artists he invites have to be monster musicians and good with kids.
‘These guys are not your typical band camp teachers. They are talented musicians in the middle of their careers,’ JJ said.
The top-tier musicians participating in this year’s JAIR include Grammy-nominated artists Will Bernard on guitar and Peter Apfelbaum on piano; Shotgun Wedding Quintet Hip Hop Symphony member and JAIR participant since its inception, Adam Theis working the brass section; ASCAP Jazz Composer Award winner Ben Wendel on the ever-seductive and eloquent saxophone; San Francisco Jazz movement pioneer and hip-hop jazz fusionist Josh Jones on drums; and last – but certainly not least – New York freelance jazz icon Andrew Emer on bass.
The JAIR Jazz Camp will provide local kids the chance to explore their musical aptitude with guys who have taken their music to the max and can motivate them to further their passion and raise the bar. JJ beams when he talks about JAIR and the Jazz Camp. ‘When these kids see their role models on stage, they aspire to be that guy in the band. If these guys say practice, the kids will practice,’ JJ said.
Holden Reed, a 12-year-old drummer-in-progress of Alder Creek Middle School, is returning for his second year at JAIR, and couldn’t be more sprung on the whole event. ‘Seeing our jazz camp teachers play on stage makes me so amazed that they take the time to teach us. It makes me say ‘WHOA,’ that would be so cool for me learn,’ Holden said. ‘The camp has taught me a lot of things I didn’t know that I thought I knew. It is really inspiring.’
Each day of camp will begin with the teachers performing a set of two tunes. Then the kids and teachers will break into groups and begin workshops specific to their instruments. They will then regroup as a whole and do some ensemble work, then once again break off into instrument-specific groups.
‘The jazz camp helps you know what the other instruments are going to sound like with your instrument. My favorite part is how you get to play with other kids and they get to hear how you sound and you just get to have fun jamming while you are all learning. You just get to play and go with the rhythm,’ Holden said.
On top of the daily camp will be nightly live testaments to pure imaginative freedom. JJ has known most of the ‘band teachers’ he’s recruited for close to 15 years. Josh, Will, and Peter have been playing together since the fourth grade and maybe even longer, JJ said excitedly as he rifled through past JAIR photos on his desktop. A distinctive treat, all the teachers will perform nightly unscripted freestyle jam sessions. JJ did not want to embellish the fact that these jam sessions comprised of ‘bad-ass’ raw talented musicians, is something that only happens once in a great while, but the truth can sometimes be just as elemental, lush, and unconstrained as the talent.
Adam Theis, a San Francisco jazz icon, has been involved with JAIR since its birth in 2005. He was recently awarded a handsome grant from the San Francisco Jazz Festival to compose a musical suite for their annual event. His band, the Shotgun Wedding Quintet Hip-Hop Symphony, usually plays the finale JAIR benefit shows on Friday and Saturday.
However this year, JJ is putting together something a little different. To jumpstart the evening, he is going to have the kids perform a recital – in Moody’s style of course – showcasing what they have learned in camp. Then the camp teachers, who by the end of the week have formed a tight, unprompted, and gifted band, will perform with Bay Area rapper/songwriter Dublin as their front man. Combining elements of a live emcee experience and a vaudevillian demeanor, Dublin’s spin on hip-hop will indubitably suit the unique composition of JAIR. Dublin has performed with hip-hop icons Blackalicious, Zeph & Azeem, Digital Underground, The Coup, Lyrics Born, and many other A-List hip-hop artists.
The finale shows on Friday and Saturday, unlike the other live shows throughout the week, which are FREE of charge from 8 to 11 p.m., will require a $5 donation, with proceeds going to benefit the Truckee Youth Music Program. This Program has been providing free, private, after-school music lessons and musical instruments to Truckee Elementary students for five years in the running, nourishing a passion for music at a young age.
Music in everyday life casts a spell over its performers, allowing them to create complex and layered compositions. What starts as a mere fascination with a particular instrument, molds into a respect for the mechanics and melodies drawn out through the dedication and passion of its player. JJ and all the participants of JAIR are not only planting a seed for a larger Jazz Festival in Truckee, but also nurturing the voice of musicians, their instruments, and a platform to grow and eventually blossom.
4th Annual Jazz Artists in Residency
July 7 to 12
• Kids Jazz Camp, Monday to Friday, 10am to 2 p.m.
• Nightly Live Music, Monday to Saturday, 8 to 11 p.m.
Info: JJ Morgan at Moody’s Bistro and Lounge, 530-587-8688