It’s Thursday night and Joe Rohrbacher of Just Joe’s Music on south Highway 97 has turned his store into a makeshift nightclub. A club that will feature local jazz musicians Dillon Schneider (guitar), John Allen (bass) and and Stephen Tate (drums) backing Portland tenor sax player David Evans that evening in concert.
It’s an informal session giving the talented Evans his first chance to play with Bend muscians and a reward for patrons of Joe’s regular concerts with a free performance.
Rohrbacher started offering jazz at his shop four years ago. Eventually the demand for tickets exceeded his seating capacity. So he contracted with the Cascades Theatrical Company on Greenwood Avenue and has been offering concerts there for the past two years.
The concerts have brought some of the Northwest’s best jazz players to Bend as well as featured local artists like vocalists Teresa Ross and Michelle Van Handle.
With out-of-town guest performers, Rohrbacher hosts a afternoon pre-performance instructional session for aspiring young musicians so they can work with the pros.
He also offers high school musicians free seats at all of his productions.
It’s refreshing to see not only jazz still being available to local audiences but also to see it at played such a high level of musicianship.
That noted, you would hardly know that jazz is alive and very well in Bend as the scene is hidden from view by the heavy local press emphasis on indie, alt, rock, bluegrass, country, raggae, folk, you name it.
But jazz is being played at several venues including The Decoy and Flatbread Community Oven. On Sundays, the Northside Pub features an afternoon of jazz. It was also a regular feature at 38 until the place was sold and the future entertainment format of the place is in question.
Apart from these listening opportunities, Central Oregon's high schools have some first rate jazz instructional programs.
The most visible in terms of sending young musicians on to top-flight music schools is Jody Henderson’s program at Sisters High School. I’m completely knocked out by the dedication Henderson’s students pay to their playing, These kids have serious chops.
Bend High, Mountain View and Summit also produce some incredible music and musicians. Recently Summit, under the direction of Dan Judd, just took third in the State high school big band contest.
Open to students and adults, COCC jazz band program, under the capable guidance of tenor sax player, Andy Warr will be in concert Wednesday at the college at 7:30 pm.
Last year’s concert featured respected Portland-based drummer Carleton Jackson in a rousing big band performance.
For people of all ages, the Cascade School of Music offers a variety of jazz instructional classes covering aspect of the music from vocals to percussion.
This is all exciting to see and hear. And hearing the Pilot Butte Middle School's jazz ensemble under the direction of Warren Zaiger last week was an eye opener. Here were 6th 7th and 8th graders playing some swinging big band music and playing it well, capturing all the nuances of the arrangements and blowing some very tasteful solos.
I walked out of that concert indebted to Mr. Zaiger as well as being hopefully that “America’s Music” will always be with us.