Riddle: Jazz up some love for the genre in Macon

January 31, 2014 

Was Macon ever a town that loved jazz? I’m honestly asking. I’ve been in Macon for almost 17 years now and jazz seems to be an almost overlooked genre of music here.

The reason I am asking is because the Tubman African American Museum just wrapped up its annual “All That Jazz” concert and from all I saw and heard, it was a success. This year, the event featured saxophonist Najee, who can arguably be considered the godfather of the smooth jazz genre. He has been releasing records since 1986 and he’s still going strong.

It’s not just luck that the Tubman brought such a well known jazz artist to Macon for a night of music. Early in the planning stages, Nicole Thurston, director of sales and marketing at the Tubman, told me they were considering Roy Ayers and Lonnie Liston Smith. These are also two huge names in the world of jazz. For them to even be considered means that people in Macon know more about jazz than what seems to show on the surface.

The Jazz Association of Macon, www.maconjazz.org, does its best to promote jazz here in Middle Georgia, getting behind live shows at the Douglass Theatre and even helping to bring us the annual Jazz and Arts on Riverdale festival.

The Midtown Key Club downtown is just about one of the last places you can head to on a regular basis and even get close to the genre if you are really feeling the need for some live jazz music.

Is it the lack of a radio outlet for jazz in Macon that stunts the growth of the genre in this area? Our best shot at hearing jazz on the radio happens Friday nights on Georgia Public Broadcasting with quality shows such as The Jazz Spot and Ab’s Place. However, what happens the rest of the days of the week?

With Macon’s love of blues and soul, it seems logical that a love of jazz would go hand in hand with the others.

Or, should I take last weekend’s success of “All That Jazz” as a sign that jazz lovers are coming out of the closet? As a fan of bebop, fusion and soul-jazz, I would love to see and hear more of these sounds here in Middle Georgia. The genre is right now experiencing a mini renaissance as young people are stepping into jazz’s arena to show what they are made of. You need to look no further than Espranza Spalding and Robert Glasper as proof that the genre is alive and well.

Here’s hoping we continue to build on the success of what we have recently seen so we can all snap our fingers to some great sounds.

Contact Roger Riddle at roger.riddle@gmail.com.

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