Reflections On A 2018 Pivotal Year For Jazz In Buffalo

2018 marked a pivotal year in the history of jazz in Buffalo.  We are seeing a pronounced jazz resurgence unlike any seen in quite a few decades.  The most encouraging aspects of the resurgence are this – the expansive breadth and depth of jazz are becoming an integral element of the Buffalo Arts and Cultural scene.  Robustly becoming a part of the overall renaissance of the Greater Buffalo community.  A renaissance in our arts and culture not only being seen by our local community but also receiving praise from national publications.

This reflection is a look back at trends, in no particular order, that have contributed to the jazz resurgence in our community:

Maturing Of The Youth Movement

A resurgence of most kinds is often fueled by the energy of the youth.  The jazz resurgence we see here in Buffalo is no exception.  Many musicians now entering their mid-twenties to their early thirties are exploring new sounds in jazz.  Riding the wave in music that is blending different musical styles into new approachable sounds that attract a wider audience.  What is needed is to get these performers out of the dark recesses of late-night Nietzsche’s and into the light of the community for everyone to see and hear.  This is starting to happen and it is exciting.  The outstanding educational efforts happening at the high school and collegiate levels also mean a bright future ahead.  However, let us not lose sight of the fact that there are still pockets of neglect in the area’s school systems needing music education.

Hotel Henry Jazz Concert Series Makes Jazz About Community

The second year of this community-oriented jazz concert series has exceeded all expectations.  Fast becoming a fixture in the Buffalo arts and cultural scene.  Special in that the Hotel Henry has opened its doors to the community to enjoy and experience the now nationally recognized cultural icon.  High-quality jazz presentations have expanded an appreciative audience for the music of jazz.  The size of the audiences attending was only dreamed of just a few short years ago.  Above all, the concerts have become a gathering place for the community to come together as one.

National Artist Make Buffalo A Tour Stop

The light on the resurgence of jazz in our city now shines brighter and is reaching out to cities like New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Toronto.  We are seeing more interest in national artists keen on making Buffalo part of their CD and concert tours.  Highlights in 2018 included concerts by Grammy-Nominee Jane Bunnett and Maqueque and 6-times Juno Award Nominee Carol Welsman.  New York City-based artists such as Dred Scott, Alex Wintz, Michael Sarian, Jerry Weldon,  and more performed here.  From Chicago, we had Shawn Maxwell and the Joe Policastro Trio.  Kudos to places like Pausa Art House, Hotel Henry, and MusicalFare Theater Cabaret Lounge for taking the chance in exposing the Buffalo community to emerging national artists.  Let us also not forget the continued arrival of international jazz artists from the world of free jazz and avant-garde jazz performing at Hallwalls.

The Return Of The Jazz Brunch

More than any year in the past decade, we are seeing the return of the jazz brunch.  The Hollow Bistro and Brew, which pioneered the First Saturday Jazz Brunch, is about to enter its third year.  The Terrace at Delaware Park began JazzBrunch Sundays overlooking Hoyt Lake.  The community responded overwhelmingly as literally hundreds of people each week enjoyed jazz music and brunch at one of Buffalo’s most treasured cultural locations.  Throughout Greater Buffalo, we are seeing the return of the jazz brunch.

The Albright-Knox Art Of Jazz Series

In its 18th year, the Art of Jazz Series has presented critically acclaimed international artists and promising rising stars on the cusp of stardom.  While only four concerts per year, the opportunity to see Grammy winners like Billy Childs or meteoric rising stars such as Melissa Aldana affords the community to see and hear jazz at its highest form of artistry.

Jazz Festivals Raise The Bar On Artistic Quality

This past year, the artistic quality of the jazz festivals in the city offered up by the Pappy Martin Jazz Collective and the Historic Colored Musicians Club has risen substantially.  Where we had the opportunity to hear rising star Theo Croker or Joel Ross.  While at the same time hear the breathtaking vocals of Carmen Lundy.  To the north, the Northwest Jazz Festival in Lewiston, NY offered international jazz stars such as Benny Green, Elio Villafranca, Steve Turré, Vincent Herring, Jay Hoggard, Avery Sharp, Veronica Swift and more.  This in addition to the mix of outstanding local and regional talents that performed in all the festivals.

More Jazz Series Arrive

The amount of jazz series in the area proliferated as the wave of resurgence gained strength.  In addition to community-oriented series such as the Hotel Henry Jazz Concert Series, we saw specific series related to CD releases by national artists, the year 1968 featuring poetry and jazz, celebrating John Coltrane, the mixing of Art and Jazz, tributes to jazz legends, and more.

Jazz Of All Kinds

The resurgence has meant more varietal forms of jazz for the community to enjoy.  While the traditional format of straight-ahead jazz is readily available, we’ve seen emerging interests grow for Gypsy Jazz, Mediterranean Jazz, New Orleans Traditional Jazz, Soul / R&B Infused Jazz, Jazz-Pop, Rock-oriented Jazz Fusion, Big Band Jazz, and other varied blending that appeals to both specific interests, as well as, to a wider audience.

Making Jazz Freely Available To The Community

In addition to First Fridays at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Second Fridays at Burchfield Penney, we are seeing more jazz made freely available.  Whether it is outdoor summer concerts or jazz with dinner or brunch at The Terrace at Delaware Park, more jazz is freely available.  Including the 12-weeks every Monday Jazz On The Rooftop at Tappo Restaurant over the summer.

More Jazz In Venues And Neighborhoods In Greater Buffalo

The jazz resurgence has meant more and more venues and neighborhoods wanting jazz as part of their entertainment offerings.  Jazz is reaching every corner of Buffalo in the neighborhoods of the Elmwood District, North Buffalo/Hertel Avenue, Black Rock, Allentown, and the Broadway/Michigan/Central Terminal areas.  Jazz is also sprawling outwards to the Southtowns, Northtowns, East Aurora, Lockport, and Niagara Falls.  What is needed is more jazz in Downtown Buffalo.

The Photography Of Jack Zuff

Through JazzBuffalo, photographer Jack Zuff became aware of jazz happening in Greater Buffalo.  He has become a photo chronicler and contributor to JazzBuffalo and the community as a whole.  His fantastic photography capturing moments in jazz has made more people aware of the artistic beauty of jazz.  Many of Jack’s photos populate the JazzBuffalo website, Facebook page, and the JazzBuffalo Community Facebook Group, as well as, the Facebook profiles of many jazz artists.

JazzBuffalo Platform and Website

The event platform and website now provide the community with the most comprehensive news about jazz and beyond jazz music events in Greater Buffalo.  Access to such news is building awareness and appreciation for the local jazz talents and nationally/internationally recognized jazz artists visiting Buffalo.  Since its redesign launch in May of 2018, the website continues to grow substantially.  With sizable increases in the JazzBuffalo “Jazz In Town” Newsletter subscribership and the number of site visitors monthly.   For many in the community, JazzBuffalo has become their number one source for information on all things jazz in the Greater Buffalo area.

What Is In Store For 2019

The promise for jazz in 2019 is bright.  The utilizing of jazz music and beyond jazz music to bring our community closer together will become more visible.  For the foreseeable future, unlike other periods of jazz resurgences in Buffalo, what we are experiencing now appears to have sustainable legs.  The big reason why is that the jazz resurgence is not happening in isolation as it had before.  Instead, jazz is becoming a vibrant element of why Buffalo is receiving well-deserved national recognition as a place to live and grow.

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