January 17, 2012 - 12:28 am
The Las Vegas Jazz Society, or as it’s more simply known, Vegas Jazz, has been putting on shows and providing a place for jazz aficionados to connect since April 22, 1975. At 1 p.m. Saturday, the annual membership meeting is scheduled at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive, followed by a 2 p.m. concert titled "This is New," featuring vocalist Lynn Bush. She will be backed by four local musicians, including the current president of Vegas Jazz, Frank Leone, on piano.
"We choose the date very carefully," Leone said with a laugh. "It’s a Saturday afternoon in January with no professional football games playing. I just say that wryly, because that’s how you handle musicians, at least in January."
The group hosts its annual meeting each January, and joking aside, Leone recalled a year the gathering was scheduled against a playoff game, and attendance at the meeting was sparse.
Leone has been a professional musician in town since 1967 and a member of Vegas Jazz for 10 years. He’s a firm believer in and proponent of jazz, and he works at fulfilling the group’s mission laid out by founder Monk Montgomery.
"The society’s purpose is to provide an opportunity for those who appreciate jazz in all its various forms to meet, exchange ideas, participate in common objectives and share their common interest in jazz music," Montgomery wrote.
To that end, the group has organized concerts, promoted the teaching of jazz in schools and funded scholarships.
Leone admits that the heyday of jazz has passed in Las Vegas, but he hopes Vegas Jazz can keep the music alive and restore some of its former glory.
"We used to have nationally syndicated radio programs here that broadcast jazz played here," Leone said. "Now even KUNV (91.5 FM) has switched to smooth jazz during the day."
To Leone’s thinking, a lot of smooth jazz relegates the art form to background music.
"You can listen to jazz passively as background, or you can listen to it actively," he said. "There’s some intellectual reward when you listen to it actively."
Vegas Jazz organizes many shows at the Winchester Cultural Center and the Charleston Heights Arts Center, but it also works with the city of Las Vegas to plan shows at venues such as parks and the Historic Fifth Street School.
At one time the group had a grant that allowed members to put together four big band shows and four other shows at the Winchester each year. When that grant went away, so did the big band concerts.
"Every 501(c)(3) (nonprofit organization) has been hit hard by the decline in grant money available," Leone said. "The states are hurting."
The group still manages to put together a number of shows annually.
"The jazz shows are always popular," said Patrick Gaffey, cultural program supervisor for Clark County. "I’m really happy the Winchester is able to support such a wide variety of music, including a lot of music you can’t hear anywhere else in the valley."
Leone is particularly excited about Saturday’s offering.
"Lynn Bush is a great jazz singer with a sultry voice and complete musical command," he said. "She sings standard but not ordinary standards. She chooses songs by well-known composers that didn’t get recorded as often."
Leone is so excited by Bush that he opted to perform in the show, which he rarely does these days.
"I thought it would be fun," he said. "It’s a chance to play with some great performers and play some terrific songs."
For more information about Vegas Jazz, including a calendar of upcoming jazz shows, visit vegasjazz.org.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at email@example.com or 380-4532.Upcoming Jazz Shows
Jazzology, featuring Gus Mancuso, is scheduled from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through at least February at the Bootlegger Bistro, 7700 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Happy Hour drinks all night and half-price pizza are planned. For more information, call 736-4939.
"This is New" — featuring Lynn Bush, Frank Leone, Phil Wigfall, Jeff Davis and Jim Belk — is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 on the day of the show. For more information, visit clarkcountynv.gov or call 455-7340.
"Ronnie Rose sings the Blues and Soul" is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Jan. 29 at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The casual dining and dancing event has no cover charge. For more information, visit houseofblues.com or call 632-7600.
The city of Las Vegas plans to present the Laura Taylor Band at 2 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, call 229-6383.
La Voz De Tres — featuring Mike Eckroth on piano, Jason Ennis on seven-string Brazilian guitar and Natalia Bernal’s vocals — is set to perform at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, visit clarkcountynv.gov or call 455-7340.
The city of Las Vegas plans to present Tuck & Patti, husband-and-wife duo Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart, at 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, call 229-6383.
The Turtle Island Quartet — featuring David Balakrishnan on violin, Mark Summer on cello, Mads Tolling on violin and Jeremy Kittel on viola — is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. March 2 at the Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, call 229-6469.