There's nothing like a jam session. Great improvisational music can even help us forget that the word "jam" has become inextricably associated with Grateful Dead tribute bands and patchouli-scented college students. In fact, a jam session can be so good that it becomes a party.
This year the Broadmoor Jazz Club celebrates its 22nd anniversary with a three-day party -- as in: not to be confused with "festival."
"At a festival, musicians perform pieces they've played before with people they play with frequently," said Broadmoor Jazz Club founder and party organizer Dick Donohue. "At a party like this one, the musicians don't know who they're going to play with before they come. I designate a leader for each set and he calls the tune, the key and the tempo right before they start to play. There's no rehearsal at all."
Attending a concert for which the musicians haven't rehearsed may seem strange to some, but in a genre that relies so heavily on improvisation, imagination and the interplay among players, it becomes an organic, immensely rewarding listening experience.
After attending a jazz party in Denver with friends in the mid-'60s, Donahue got together with some friends and decided to start a first-class jazz club here in Colorado Springs. Originally called the Front Range Jazz Club, the members soon discovered that they all lived in neighborhoods near The Broadmoor, so they changed the name to The Broadmoor Jazz Club (though the group is not affiliated with the hotel).
The party will feature 13 musicians from all over the country in addition to locals who will play during intermissions and breaks. To spice things up, Donahue tries to bring musicians who haven't played together all that much and, in some cases, who've never even met. Each musician is hired individually, and though many are returning, they may not have been here for several years, resulting in a different sound each year. Because of this intentional grab-bag-like mixing of musicians, the party "unfolds like a tapestry" over the course of four different sessions.
"It's almost like a jazz cruise -- you commit yourself to the whole thing and by the end of it you're family."
All of the performers slated to appear at this year's party boast impressive rsums. And one notable newcomer, Joe Cohn, is the son of the famous late tenor saxophone player Al Cohn. A graduate of Juilliard who studied six different instruments, Cohn will be a featured guitar player at the party. "It's funny -- he'll be here to play guitar, but his favorite instrument is piano," said Donahue. "We're hoping we can get him to sit down at the piano and play a tune for us as well."
Before each concert, some of the musicians will participate in a 30-minute clinic, a kind of "How to Appreciate Jazz" session for spectators. Players will discuss the various signals and techniques they use in order to communicate musical changes as well as their personal experiences as musicians. Each concert lasts five hours and audience members will be served food and beverages twice.
The proceeds of the entire party will benefit the music program at the Colorado Springs School.
-- Bettina Swigger
22nd annual Broadmoor Jazz Club Party
Louisa Performing Arts Center, The Colorado Springs School 21 Broadmoor Ave.
Friday, April 30; Saturday, May 1; Sunday, May 2
$250 for a three-day pass; $65 for individual events (five hours of music plus two food and beverage servings)