All That Jazz

upfrontspet2015-64749e7bPutting out our August/September issue is a particularly exciting endeavor. It comes together in the sultry heat of summer but is the happy harbinger of cooler days and an impressive arts season to come.

Speaking of excitement, photographing this year’s  cover with Wycliffe Gordon was a special thrill for me, a lifetime lover of jazz—literally. At an early age, I spent hours listening as my mother played selections from her well-worn 78 record collection of Big Band music. While her tastes ran more toward Benny Goodman than Duke Ellington, that music set the stage for a time in my early 20s when I was introduced to jazz of the bebop era by a close friend and former saxophone player. I was immediately enamored by the sounds of such greats of modern jazz as Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Gene Ammons, Coleman Hawkins and the list goes on. Even now you can drop by my house on any given weekend and find my playlist tuned to the distinctive sounds of that era. 

So you can image my elation at meeting Wycliffe Gordon, a modern day jazzman and an icon in his own right. What’s more, he’s a native Augustan. After years of traveling the world, performing, teaching and acting as an ambassador of jazz, he’s turned his focus back to his hometown as the artist in residence at GRU-Augusta, working with the music department to develop a jazz studies program as well as community outreach and education opportunities to help mentor young musicians. Over the upcoming years the community will benefit from his expertise, generosity and extensive music industry network. Despite his impressive accolades, Wycliffe is incredibly unassuming and approachable with an easy sense of humor and quick smile. Augusta is very fortunate to call him a native son.

For those who love jazz, there are a number of scheduled opportunities to hear him play. One of particular note is a performance on October 11, at the Maxwell Theatre, billed as “Family Ties.” It will feature not only Wycliffe but also his sister Karen, a gifted musician and jazz advocate in her own right. They will appear with two other renowned performers from the Augusta area, siblings Karen and Russell Joel Brown. It is certain to be a memorable evening. In addition, Wycliffe will play on December 1 with the GRU music faculty. These are but two performances on the calendar to date, but there are sure to be more added in the upcoming months. 

Stay tuned. 


This article appears in the August-September 2015 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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