Jazz Festival features local talent

Published 10:48 am Monday, November 5, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

From the sounds and delicious smells, one may have felt as if they had been transported to another place when attending the Perfect Note Jazz Festival at Senior Connection on Nov. 3.

The Central Alabama Performing Arts Guild planned the lineup of musicians, local artists had displays and the Clanton Evening Lions Club held a shrimp boil fundraiser giving the event almost a New Orleans feel.

Attendees of all ages enjoyed the music and the relaxed atmosphere.

Verbena High School students Bryan Butler and Ethan Miller attended at the suggestion of their band director.

“It’s been really fun,” Butler said.

Miller said the school band played a lot of jazz music for last year’s halftime show.

Butler said he likes the mood that jazz sets and “the instruments how they can get that deep, rich tone melody … it helps you relax.”

“It gets rid of stress easy,” Miller said.

John Williams said it was his first time attending the event, and he enjoyed the food and music. He said the event had a good community feel.

“I love jazz,” his wife Sarah Williams said. “I have just always loved the music. I was in jazz band in high school, and ever since then, I have just loved it as a genre.”

She said she enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the event.

“This is probably the most people we play for in a year because we will have a lot of people come in and out,” Howard Beckner, who performed with The Prime Suspects and Zach & Gramps, said. “That’s what we do it for. We do it for fun, but we also like for people to listen to us.”

His grandson Zach Dawson is the Zach of Zach & Gramps.

Beckner has been playing jazz “on and off for about 65 years.” He was in a jazz band in college and then became a band director. Dawson is somewhat following in his grandfather’s footsteps, while playing in a jazz band while he is in college.

Beckner played the saxophone, and Dawson played the bass guitar during their performance.

“The freedom, the ability to ad lib” was what Beckner said he enjoyed about jazz.

“I like being able to experiment with all the different technical, musical, theoretical stuff,” Dawson said.

Dawson really started playing jazz after Beckner joined The Prime Suspects.

“This festival is comfortable, not all the attention is on you,” Dawson said. “People go around and they shop and not all the attention is on you.”

Jerry “J.J” Martin, trumpet player with The Usual Suspects said he enjoyed the festival for “the opportunity to get with a quality group of musicians.”

“I grew up in the Baton Rouge area and was influenced Louie Armstrong, Al Hirt and also influenced by Big Band trumpet players,” Martin said. “My mom and dad grew up in that era of Big Band music, so I was influenced greatly by what they listened to.”

Although he played the trumpet as a youth, it was not until he was an adult that he really began playing jazz.

Martin said he began playing “Swamp Pop” music.

“Things like ‘Brown-eyed Girl’ (and) ‘Margaritaville,’” Martin said. “I could jazz a little bit in that with a lot of my scales, then I graduated to this band.”

He had played in the Prattville Pops but was looking for a new group to play with in Chilton County. Someone at Pokana Talahassi introduced him to Mike Schiermann of The Usual Suspects.

Martin said the band is like family, and he has learned a lot about jazz from the other musicians.

Art vendors of different styles had displays at the event.

Donna Field was one of the vendors at the event selling her mother’s artwork.

“She passed away four years ago, and this is my first showing of her art … She would just be thrilled that I have taken the time to display her work.”

She said she loves the Perfect Note Jazz Festival because it is good music and an opportunity to spend the day with friends.