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All That Jazz

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Listen up. That's really all you need to do to get it -- jazz that is. Musician and owner of Indy's Jazz Kitchen, David Allee can tell you practically anything you care to know about the music genre. And this Wednesday evening he's willing to do just that during the free Jazz Appreciation 101 discussion he'll lead at Clowes Memorial Hall.

A prominent jazz enthusiast of Central Indiana, Allee wants to share his musical passion and knowledge in a style much like jazz sounds -- smooth, smart and enjoyable to hear. Nothing too "heady" or daunting. He hopes attendees can connect to the music on an emotional level while learning about its rich history -- especially its deep roots locally. From the glory days of Indiana Avenue to its presence now, a lot has evolved in the world of jazz, which Allee says is alive and thriving today.

Prior to this week's event, Sky Blue Window chatted with Allee,who offered some easy-to-follow tips for those wanting to add a little more jazz to their life. 

David Allee as seen a few years ago at the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation's Holiday Showcase. - PHOTO BY MARK SHELDON
  • Photo by Mark Sheldon
  • David Allee as seen a few years ago at the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation's Holiday Showcase.

Sky Blue Window: You've been around jazz for a very long time, with your father [Steve Allee] being a highly respected jazz musician. But for someone who hasn't grown up with it and isn't very familiar with this music, what tips would you give them for digging into the genre?

David Allee: I would say that they've gotta find the style of jazz that they like, because there are so many. There are probably eight to 10 major categories ... from Latin jazz to straight-ahead to big band to swing to Dixieland. There's not only that, but then I find that a lot of people sometimes listen to music very passively. I would just always say to listen. Maybe put your phone away for an hour and actually listen to the music, because I just find that a lot of people listen on the periphery.

SBW: If someone were to venture out to a show at The Jazz Kitchen for the first time, what can they do to make the most of their experience?

DA: The big thing is listening. That means you come in and try your best to just be quiet and listen to the music. We're a club, so we certainly have an experience that is both social and artistic, but it's hard to absorb this music without your full attention.

Also, sometimes it helps to find out a little background. That's what we're going to do on Wednesday is talk about the lineage and how some of these styles are interconnected. What you'll find through history is that it was learned by doing it and listening -- learning what your predecessor did and then adding on to it with your own voice.

SBW: What would you tell a new jazz listener about Indy's jazz legacy?

DA: We lay claim to probably four of the most influential players on Earth, and they are Wes Montgomery, Slide Hampton, Freddie Hubbard and J.J. Johnson. When we're dealing with the Indy Jazz Fest [which Allee serves as the Festival Director of], one of our major goals is to make sure that we're telling the story of the legacy and why it's important -- that Indianapolis can hang it's hat and say, 'Hey. You know what man? We're a major contributor to this stuff.' All those guys I mentioned are the innovators on their instruments too, so they're emulated all over the world -- they're the foundation for a lot of players.

David Allee remains one of Central Indiana's most prominent jazz enthusiasts. - PHOTO BY MARK SHELDON
  • Photo by Mark Sheldon
  • David Allee remains one of Central Indiana's most prominent jazz enthusiasts.

SBW: What excites you most about the current state of Indy's jazz scene?

DA: People seem to be interested in checking this music out, ... that's probably what I'm most excited about. We [The Jazz Kitchen] did a tribute show to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and the place was completely packed. Local saxophonist Rob Dixon put together an all-star band that came in and tore the roof down. It was packed to the gills. Everybody really loved it. The energy was there. The connection between the audience and the performers was there. So that's a refreshing thing. Everybody says jazz is dead, and I beg to differ. Just as much as there's good music and bad music, there's good jazz and bad jazz. When it's good, I think there's going to be people that can relate and want to support it, regardless of style.

SBW: Ultimately, what do you hope those who attend Jazz Appreciation 101 will take away from the discussion?

DA: Just a little insight. What I'll aim to do is not make it like a super heady master class or anything like that. This music is very emotion-driven. You can connect to this music in a lot of different ways. It's sometimes portrayed as being a little headier that it needs to be portrayed. I just think it's a music you can come out and enjoy. And like I said, I would completely recommend listening to it. This is an emotional expression and an intelligent expression. We hope people buy into that.

For more information on Allee's Jazz Appreciation 101 discussion, visit the Clowes Memorial Hall website.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Jazz Kitchen's opening, Allee enjoyed a visit from his father Steve Allee, a renowned jazz musician himself.  - PHOTO BY JAMI ALLEE
  • Photo by Jami Allee
  • Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Jazz Kitchen's opening, Allee enjoyed a visit from his father Steve Allee, a renowned jazz musician himself.

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