Music department’s first-ever Jazz Bash aims to expand audiences

Liz Sieng

In addition to the music department’s two jazz ensembles, there are usually one or two student-organized jazz groups that perform on campus each year. With three such groups playing this year, it seemed to David Glenn, director of jazz studies and professor of music, an ideal time to put into action an idea he had been contemplating for some time.

On April 27, the Whitman Music Department will host its first-ever outdoor jazz music festival. The concert will take place on the Reid side lawn and will feature Jazz Ensembles One and Two as well as the three student-organized jazz bands: The Klezmatics, The Matt Bachmann Sextet and the Whitman Jazz Collective.

“I’ve been thinking about it for years; my graduate school had one in the spring end of the school year,” said Glenn.

Glenn, who has played in numerous outdoor jazz festivals in the United States and in Europe, proposed the idea of an outdoor bash just a few weeks ago to jazz musicians in the department. Students were receptive to the idea and quickly agreed to perform.

“We’re excited that Dave put it all together,” said junior Matt Bachmann. “I’m excited to play outside, especially during dinner hours.”

As a jazz musician, Bachmann plays in the ensembles and his own student band. Glenn explained that the festival will serve as an alternative to the jazz ensembles’ usual spring concerts. In the past, end of the year jazz performances took place at Merchant’s Delicatessen downtown on Main Street in Walla Walla. After the Olive Marketplace restaurant replaced Merchant’s this past year, Glenn began thinking of new ideas for a concert venue.

“Rather than replicate that experience, I thought this would be a good opportunity to break that tradition and try something new,” said Glenn. “I think it will work a lot better. Playing outside will attract a lot of people, especially those who don’t know that it’s happening.”

During performances at Merchant’s, Glenn explained, few students attended and only one of the two jazz ensembles played. Because of the openness of the event, Glenn and jazz students expect to attract people from campus and the community.

“It’s great to have a crowd watching, especially for the people on campus to come,” said Bachmann about the Matt Bachmann Sextet. “A lot of times we’re playing wine cellars or restaurants, and [Whitman] people don’t necessarily come. It’s good exposure for us; we love playing concerts.”

Throughout the school year, student run jazz groups often play at venues in Walla Walla in addition to concerts on campus.

Junior Ross Eustis, of the Whitman Jazz Collective, explained that his group has several gigs left to play before school ends, mostly for wineries and festivals in Walla Walla.

“I wasn’t surprised though I was certainly excited,” said Eustis. “Actually I’m not surprised because it seems like something like this should happen each year. Little events like this give us musical opportunities to perform.”

Eustis explained that the student groups are made up of musicians from the jazz ensembles and that several are members in multiple student bands. He said that his hope for the event is that it will begin a trend of attracting more students and local community members to Whitman jazz events.

Glenn mentioned the possibility of having outdoor festivals for future end of the year performances and perhaps, playing in Reid Coffeehouse for the end of fall performances.

“I’m hoping that it does become a tradition,” said Glenn, pointing at Reid Center from inside his office in the music building. “It could work really well here. We certainly have a good space, right across the street.”

The Jazz Bash will take place Tuesday, April 27, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Reid side lawn.