Catch a generous helping of jazz vibe

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 17, 2007

Patel Conservatory instructor James Crumbly didn't possess the perfect ingredients for a musical stew when he began teaching his latest jazz ensemble class.

But he cooked it up anyway.

The combination of guitar (David Hernandez), bass (Justin Von Fischer), drums (Daniel Stawicki), percussion (Terry Edwards), trombone (Eric Li), alto sax (Scott Parker), trumpet (Kedar Jambheker) and two keyboards (Kaitlyn Raterman and Joseph Kenny) would not measure up to most ensemble standards, but Crumbly embraced the challenge.

So did his students.

"The beauty of the program is that its education first, performance second," Crumbly said. "We focus on what they're learning, but there will be a performance.

"And for some reason, it sounds pretty good."

Crumbly - the Middleton High music department chairman and an acclaimed pianist, composer and arranger - will serve up his product to the masses at Sunday's Fall 2007 Jazz Jam in the conservatory's TECO Theater. The conservatory's adult voice ensemble will join the high school jazz artists for what Crumbly promises will be a good show.

"If you could see how far they've come, you would really be impressed," Crumbly said. "And we have some ladies in the adult voice ensemble who could easily be singing professionally, who could easily be recording."

Crumbly's genuine excitement sustains his involvement with young musicians. He could opt for a professional life of concert performances and club dates, but he gets a thrill from hearing kids create their own musical tapestry.

And Crumbly likes it best when that tapestry is made of innate feelings instead of technical showmanship.

"You have to interpret the style, not just read the notes," Crumbly said. "To be in the groove, you have to be off the groove.

"When you listen to Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis, their choice of notes was so much more impressive than the number of notes. You have to lay off and let the audience feel, let the audience breathe."

* * *

Few people probably know more about the innate relationship musicians need to have with notes than the group of jazz musicians performing 6 p.m. Sunday at International Bazaar in Ybor City.

Myron Jackson, founder of the Kuumba Dancers, brought together these retired jazz pros from around the state for a performance at the eclectic store last month. The success resulted in a command appearance.

"It was phenomenal," said bazaar co-owner Jacqueline Conley. "The quality of their music was incredible. It was everything you thought jazz should be. It was scheduled to end at 9, and we were here until 1:30 in the morning.

"They played all night."

Admission for the Jambalaya Jazz is $10 and includes jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp and other Cajun food.

Whether you catch the kids at Patel or the vets at the Bazaar, I don't think you can go wrong. As Crumbly says, without music, the earth would be void.

That's all I'm saying.