A Conversation with PMAC's Executive Director, Russ Grazier, about the upcoming Jazz Night!
How many years have you been doing Jazz Night? How has it evolved?
Grazier: This is our eleventh year and remarkably, the program has been fairly consistent over that time. It is a very special, curated concert that features the faculty of PMAC's Jazz Institute. It has grown over the past decade from single night concerts at West End Studio Theater to a two-night festival at the larger Music Hall Loft. And though we've been in a larger space at The Loft for the past six or seven years, the concert is still very intimate, with some cabaret seating right up front with the band and never a bad seat in the house.What do you like most about Jazz Night?
Grazier: I love that our faculty comes together to present orchestrated arrangements that require rehearsal and really show of the talents of each musician. This is not your typical jazz show. It features many original arrangements and often unusual, but really wonderful music. We get to play things that we don't typically perform and it's incredibly special.Why East Coast/West Coast? How did you come up with the theme?
Grazier: We've been programming themes for a few years now and East Coast / West Coast provides a wonderful contrast for the two evenings, without being too restrictive. There are many ways we interpret the idea of the opposite coasts in America - you'll have to come out to the concert to hear them!Who is your biggest Jazz influence?
Grazier: I have many influences, so probably better to give you my big three: Oscar Peterson, John Zorn, and Charlie Parker. Three incredibly different musicians, one pianist and two alto saxophonists. I've had the pleasure of seeing Peterson and Zorn live, but unfortunately was born 13 years too late to ever see Parker. Each has a unique approach to jazz, and though I don't really play like any of them, I find their music to be incredibly inspiring. That said, I'm continually influenced by different musicians, and really need to give credit to our faculty, who inspire me every day.What can the audience expect when attending one or both of the concerts?
Grazier: A carefully curated, but heavily improvised night of live jazz music that takes you on a journey. We constantly shake up the combinations of musicians and styles of jazz. It's very similar to going to a NYC jazz club show - a 75-minute set that showcases the talents of each musician.What music are you listening to these days?
Gazier: I listen a lot of WGBO via web streaming - it's a jazz station out of Newark, NJ, possibly the best in the country. I learn about new artists every day listening to that station. I'm also really into Ambrose Akinsusire, Chris Potter, David Binney, Marco Benevento, and Terence Blanchard these days.