A Weekly Jazzonian Newsletter
December 25, 2017

...is a jazzonian e-newsletter published weekly unless the author is somehow incapacitated. It details the thriving jazz scene in Columbus, Georgia and the surrounding Chattahoochee Valley, written exclusively by
Rusty Taylor, the jester-singer for the vocal jazz band Southern Standard Time


I hope that you had a really groovy and peaceful week. Many of you know that I am a vocal adherent of jazz with especial emphasis on the Chattahoochee Valley’s jazz scene, and to that end, I try to make Friday Jazz at The Loft’s weekly jazz concert in historic downtown Columbus, Georgia as often as I am able. The venue is truly special; however, I shan’t make this week’s gig because I’ll be playing a four-hour vocal jazz gig at Eighth and Rail in Opelika, Alabama from 8 ‘til midnight CDT with my friends Taylor Pierce (guitar), Chris Helms (sax), Patrick Bruce (bass), and Trey Byars (drums). This is exciting for me because I’ll be playing with a different rhythm section, but that’s the beauty of playing with such awesome jazz musicians: although the melodies are the same, the improvisational styles will be different. I’ll be able to hear individual timbres and will adjust my style accordingly. I can’t wait.

I write each week about the local jazz scene that is actually growing, insidiously, into a formidable energy that is currently simmering in a cauldron of progressive diversity on the verge of erupting into a musical revolution against the repetitive, kitsch sentimentality that is ubiquitous in today’s musical clime. I have found three cozy jazzonian environments in which I reside, and these niches are beginning to overlap. Columbus, Georgia is my hometown and will always hold a special place within my emotional theater that will remain forever embryonic; the Chattahoochee River is the umbilical cord that connects the hinterland of my soul with the Caribbean Sea of my destiny and beyond into the universal cosmos. Our city’s jazz history begins with the Blues and Ma Rainey, but Columbus State University’s Schwob Jazz Orchestra marks the reestablishment of our city’s current Jazzonian impetus since Dr. Paul Vander Gheynst began the jazz studies program at CSU in the ‘70s and from this group of jazz enthusiasts quickened the Columbus Jazz Society and The Loft’s weekly jazz concert. I’m excited that Dr. Kevin Whalen currently holds the reins of the university’s jazz program that continues to develop wonderful young jazz musicians. The future of area jazz is in very capable hands.

Quite a few years back, I went to the weekly jazz jam held at Twain’s Pub in Decatur, Georgia, a jam that was hosted by jazz legend Joe Gransden. Obviously, I was introduced to some incredible Atlantan musicians. Joe welcomed me and my friends into his jazzonian family with a warmth that continues to glow with blushing embers. That jam has since moved to Venkman’s and remains a formidable source of inspiration. I have recently acquired a more reliable mode of transportation and plan to join Joe’s jam every other month or so. I invite all area jazz enthusiasts to join me and my friends whenever possible. It is always a special time.

For a seeming eternity, I heard about a weekly jazz jam at a place called Eighth and Rail in Opelika, Alabama, a jam hosted by the Jane Drake Band. At the time, the band consisted of Jane Drake (vocals), Sidney Simmons (bass), and Eric Buchanan (drums), all musicians I knew and respected. (There are many more incredible musicians I’ve met since then, but that’s kindling for another fireside chat.) A few years back, I decided to go and listen… just to check out the scene, and I found a new home. These cats welcomed me, again, with open
arms and bright smiles, and I have become an integral part of the scene. The jam has since grown into a really happening venue of diverse-lovin’, jazz-embracin’, toe-tappin’ camaraderie that is as powerful as the silent strength of Winter. The beauty of this family is that we draw musicians from Montgomery, Tuskegee, Tuscaloosa, and Columbus. The Jazzonian family is growing.

These communities are now spilling over into each other. Last Friday, my friends and I played Christmas jazz for The Loft, and we had a really nice crowd of fans, which was sweet. My friend Jake Shaw and the Pierce family came from the Auburn/Opelika area to enjoy our music. Yes, our jazzonian family is growing, and I really believe that we are all on the verge of witnessing the reestablishment of jazz music as a mainstream form of social entertainment. It’s beyond great to be a part of the revolution.

Enjoy the newsletter...
Groovy Upcoming Events
  • Saturday, January 13 – The Tivon Pennicott Quartet at Venkman's starting at 7:30 pm EDT. Tivon Pennicott was born & raised in Marietta, Georgia in December of 1985. He began studying tenor saxophone in high school, garnering recognition early on as an outstanding soloist in the Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington competition, as well as the Georgia All-state Jazz Band. In 2004, he relocated to Miami to study at the University of Miami, where he had the opportunity to perform alongside artists such as: Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, and Maria Schneider. Visit Tivon's website by clicking here.
  • Sunday, January 14 – The Glenn Miller Orchestra begins playing at 3 pm at Spivey Hall in Morrow, Georgia. Fo' mo' info, click here.
  • Saturday, February 3 – The Afro Cuban All Stars at The Rialto Center for the Arts in Atlanta, the Afro-Cuban All Stars band begins at 8 pm EDT. Afro-Cuban All Stars is a Cuban band led by Juan de Marcos González. Their music is a mix of all the styles of Cuban music, including bolero, chachachá, salsa, son montuno, timba, guajira, danzón, rumba and abakua. To visit their website, click here.
  • Friday, February 9 – Diana Krall - Turn Up The Quiet World Tour At Atlanta Symphony Hall.
This Week at The Loft
Columbus, GA's Weekly Home for Jazz
Friday, December 29, 2017
7 - 9 pm EDT

My absence from The Loft (“Columbus [Georgia’s] weekly home for jazz”) does sadden me because my good friend Jeff Smith will be playing bass, and I will miss hearing his playing. He’ll be playing with staunch Jazzonians Stan Murray (sax and clarinet), Don Tipton (keys), and David Morgan (drums) to whom I also enjoy listening. I’m sure that they’ll play wonderfully, but my attention will be in a different time zone. The Loft is a groovy venue for jazz. It has a full bar, an awesome menu, groovy staff, and the best live jazz in town. I will return soon.

And coming in January is Kevin Vannoy, Chris Otts, and Solar Quintet (and a possible CD Release Party) so keep your eyes and ears open for the news, which will certainly be included in this e-rag.
Last Week at The Loft
Columbus, GA's Weekly Home for Jazz

My band played at The Loft last Friday: Southern Standard Time with Taylor Pierce (guitar), Jeff Smith (bass), and Mark Parker (drums), and we played Christmas Jazz. It was nice to see so many folks come to hear our music. I was especially proud of our funky version of “Frosty the Snowman” as well as our raucous interpretation of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” One of my friends told me afterward that I made her cry when I sang “Blue Christmas,” but I honestly don’t think it was that bad. All in all, we had a great time; it was the third consecutive year we played Christmas Jazz the Friday before Jesus’ birthday, and hope we’re asked back again next year.
I Need A Favor, Please
The next time you go see a live musical group, check out the stage. Does it have a wheelchair ramp leading from the audience to the stage or are their steps? Is there a wheelchair ramp backstage? Is there handicapped parking where the performers load and unload? Chances are that the venue doesn’t provide these accommodations. It’s like this: my biggest challenge as a quadriplegic jazz vocalist is finding accessible stages on which to perform. I was once raised up to a five-foot high stage using a forklift and a wooden palette because the stage was not wheelchair accessible. Fortunately, I didn’t die. Point is that there are few wheelchair accessible stages; otherwise, I’d sing much more often.

It’s easy to see why this isn’t a mainstream problem: there are few “physically challenged” performers, but that’s merely an excuse encouraged by indifference. We handicapped performers exist and are eager to share our dreams with fans who dig what we do. But why are we unconsciously ignored? That’s easy: Being unable to perform even the most rudimentary acts of daily living is a major downer; the wheelchair, quite frankly, is a symbol of lost hope. Let’s face it; it’s a marketing problem, and this is where you come in to save the day.

Physical handicaps are wrapped in lugubrious imagery, but not every moment of life in a wheelchair is steeped in mournful decay. Believe it or not, I laugh every day… some days more than others, but if life were perfect, I, for one, would take a bite of forbidden fruit to find some excitement from the decay of entropy (the hypothetical tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity). What I’m trying so desperately to connote here is the fact that having a physical challenge can, at times, be fun and inspirational. What we need is positive imagery, and here’s where I ask for a favor from you, dear reader, and it has to do with social media, more specifically, using the ubiquitous #hashtag: will you help by coming up with a #hashtag meme that has positive connotations for the handicapped and send it to me. This could be fun. Maybe I can come up with prizes for creative contributions. Regardless, this could be the beginning of a social movement that witnesses an outcry of creative energy by talented people who have difficulty overcoming the obstacles that are hidden from people who can hop out of bed running full tilt. By the way, I’ve come up with a possible #hashtag meme that might work: #FantastAbility. What do you think?

The gauntlet has been dropped. Do you accept the challenge? Please reply to this email with as many suggestions as you want, and challenge your friends as well. Let’s see if we can extend this conversation internationally. (Actually, when you send in your suggestions, include the name of your hometown city. We’ll see how far this request goes.) Let’s make the wheelchair a symbol of fun… or grace… or intelligence… or, dare I say it? Let’s make the wheelchair Sexy!
I really don’t want to bring anybody down, but, sometimes, reality must be faced head on. I will be going into surgery on Friday morning January 12th to remove a blockage that is currently disrupting the flow of urine from my kidney to my ureter (the tube that conveys the urine from my kidney to my bladder). We’re not sure what the blockage is but suspect that it is a mass of capillary vessels. No biggie. I’ll have the easy part. I’ll be unconscious. My other kidney has shrunk significantly so that it is pretty useless, so this can be significant. Regardless, I admit that I am already weak, physically, but my mental energy is formidable. I expect a full recovery; although, your positive energy will be readily accepted and deeply appreciated. Obviously, I will miss The Loft’s weekly jazz concert, but I’ll be there in spirit.

Some of you may recall that I almost checked out on you last summer. It was an experience that I don’t discuss much, but it did encourage my thinking about Life differently. I now really appreciate whenever I get on stage to sing, and, quite honestly, I believe that my emotional essence has become a bit more passionate and compassionate. In fact, I’m really looking forward to singing this Friday at Eighth and Rail in Opelika… four hours of singing songs that I really love in the crooning style that is really fun. I expect it to be my best performance ever; I will be focused on each moment with especial intensity. I also have a gig with Ted McVay the following week. As I will be singing harmony, I don’t think that I’ll be exerting too much energy. Regardless, music is therapy for me… physical and emotional, so I will sing if I am able. We’ll see. Point is that none of us is promised tomorrow, so I plan to live as fully as possible with each moment… even when I rest. 

Oh… and I love you. Thanks for your love in return.
Weekly Area Jams
Eighth and Rail
Every Tuesday 7 - 10 pm CT
The Eighth and Rail in historical downtown Opelika, Alabama is the venue for a wildly groovy weekly jazz jam as hosted by the Jane Drake Jazz Band. It's a cozy celebration of life that has become a buzzing collection of jazz-loving fanatics gathered together in a coterie of peaceful, fun-loving positive energy. I am downright proud as a peacock with enhanced LED-flashing feathers to participate in the jam on a regular basis, and I really love it! Proprietor Mike Patterson makes the wonderful sushi and Miss Tiffany keeps the affable atmosphere at a lovely level of emotive satisfaction. Plus... they serve an awesome cheesecake that'll make you wanna slap yourself so hard as to tell horrific knock-knock jokes to mimes. No lie. We have really talented musicians come in from the bi-state area: Auburn, Montgomery, Tuskegee, Columbus, LaGrange, Fort Valley, et al. The jam begins at 7 pm and ends at 10 pm CT. Hopefully, I'll see you there.

Eighth and Rail
Venkman's Jazz Jam
Every Tuesday starting at 8 pm ET
Venkman's is a nightclub in Atlanta, a venue that Joe Gransden uses for his weekly jazz jam. This is where the Who's Who of the Atlanta Jazz Scene come together to dazzle us mortals. It's free and starts at 8 pm ET. Fo' mo' info, click link below. I've participated in this jam a couple of times, and I love it as well. Joe Gransden always welcomes me with a smile that will melt antarctic glaciers in the middle of winter, which, oddly enough, is during June through August... when it's so hot and humid in middle Georgia that my toenails sweat. Nevertheless, Joe's band often includes keyboardist Kenny Banks (sometimes Kevin Bales), drummer Chris Burroughs and bassist Craig Shaw, and these cats kick it. When I find the transportation, I'm going.

Red Light Cafe Jazz Jam
Every Wed at 8 pm ET

I have not been to the weekly jazz jam at Red Light Cafe, but it is hosted by the Gordon Vernick Quartet, and I am a huge fan of Gordon's, so I'm planning to go soon, and when I do... Ha! I'm very likely to get excited. Fo' mo' info, click here.
Apache Cafe in Atlanta
Every Wed at 9:00 ET

Al Smith's Midtown Jam Session @Apache Cafe!  Contemporary Jazz , Soul, R&B vocalists jam Session. Featuring live band led by keyboardist Al Smith! Vocalists are invited to sign the list and jam with the band, musicians can sit in too... a must attend! Different Dj spinning on the back patio each week! SPECIAL GUEST HOST EVERY WEEK! Doors open at 9pm and list-sign up is at 9pm. Event admission, the day of, at the door, is CASH. Fo' mo' info, click here.
1048 Club in Montgomery
Every Sun at 9:30-12:30 CT

The 1048 Cafe is in Montgomery, AL. The weekly Jazz Jam led by Sam Williams, 9 pm CDT, $5 cover. I don't really know that much about it, but the 1048 has a jazz jam every Sunday from 9ish 'til whenever. Apparently the jam draws some incredible musicians. Fo' mo' info, click here.
Piccolo's Lounge, Auburn

It's not a jam, but the Piccolo lounge offers a comfortable, clubby environment. Leather club chairs, a cozy fireplace and comfy banquettes serve as a relaxing getaway. Enjoy a single malt scotch and relax and unwind from a hectic day or meet friends to hear live jazz every Friday and Saturday night, of non-home football game weekends. Fo' mo' info, click here.
A Little Lunch Music at Jule Collins Smith Museum, Auburn University
On Thursdays at Noon, make a lunch date with our region’s finest musicians. A Little Lunch Music is an informal, come-and-go performance presented by JCSM and coordinated by musician Patrick McCurry. You can sit in and listen to the entire performance, dine in the Museum Cafe from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT, browse the Museum Shop or explore the galleries.
  • November 2 - On Thursday, October 19, from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert by Plains 2, featuring trombonist Matthew Wood and pianist Joshua Pifer.
  • November 9 - Clarinetist Patricia Crisp with pianist Beibei Lin
  • November 16 - pianist Vijay Venkatesh in collaboration with Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta
  • November 23 - No concert... it's Thanksgiving
  • November 30 - classical guitarist Kevin Manderville
  • December 7 - hornist William Shaffer with pianist Joshua Pifer
  • December 13 - The Auburn Music Club Singers

Jazz Association of Macon
We Promote Jazz in Macon
and Middle Georgia
Our purpose is to:
Encourage and support creation, presentation, and preservation of jazz music.
Support the creation of new audiences for jazz music.
Provide education and information about jazz.
Encourage young musicians to learn and appreciate jazz.
Develop a network among local and regional jazz advocates.
Increase awareness of jazz events and musicians in our community.

To read their blog, click here.
Area Musicians
Actually, this is a link to a page of my personal website, but it makes it much easier t maintain. It is a dynamic list of area musicians that will, hopefully, be continually updated until I can no longer do it. If you are a musician who is not listed or you are listed but with invalid info, please let me know, and I'll make the appropriate revisions. Thank you, and click here to visit the link.
High Museum of Art: Atlanta Jazz
Live jazz in the Robinson Atrium at the Atlanta High Museum of Art every 3rd Friday of the month. Fo' mo' info, click here .
On-line Radio
  • WCUG 88.5 Cougar Radio - Columbus State University.
  • KUNR 88.7 Reno, Nevada.
  • KNCJ 89.5 Reno, Nevado. (I listen to this station on Saturday evening from 9-1 a.m. ET to catch Saturday Night Jazz hosted by Scot Marshall and Dallas Smith.)
  • Saturday Night Jazz hosted by Scot Marshall and Dallas Smith (Columbus, GA native) - Scot and Dallas bring their rich musical experiences together in "Saturday Night Jazz" to feature music which ranges from the latest releases to jazz classics and occasional recordings by local artists, as well as announcements of upcoming local jazz events in the Reno-Tahoe area. "Saturday Night Jazz" is supported by the Reno Jazz Orchestra and For the Love of Jazz.The program airs every Saturday evening from 1pm-10pm Pacific Time.
  • WCLK 99.1 Atlanta's Jazz Station, Clark Atlanta University.
  • Adore Jazz - Adore Jazz makes listeners relax, feel, think and smile through listening to the finest vocal jazz.
  • WTSU 88.9 Troy State University - Ray Murray's Jazz Radio Show Saturday nights at 10 pm Central Time.
  • WVAS 90.7 Montgomery - Jazz, Blues, News, and views.
Christmas Music by Area Musicians

Some area musicians have recorded Christmas music. Simply click on the cover art, and the link will send you to a magical, virtual store where you can buy the music. If I've missed an area musician who has recorded Christmas music, let me know and I'll include it here. Support local musicians; otherwise, Santa will leave you coal in your stockings.
Pat Trudell
One Silent Night
Annie Sellick
Let's Make A Christmas Memory
Joe Gransden
I'll Be Home For Christmas

If you know of an area musician who has recorded a Christmas CD, please let me know. Thanks.

The year is winding down, and what a year it’s been. Our nation’s Democracy hangs in the balance, but I believe that major social change is immanent. Women, especially women of color, have been unshackled, and their powers are waxing as the power of the pasty white man wanes into obscurity. Young people are energized as well. We, as a nation, are witnessing a profound shift in power that hasn’t been experienced since the redoubtable patriarchal monarchies were threatened with the creation of U.S. Democracy over two centuries ago, which, as we all know, was initially a reaffirmation of “white privilege” built with the cheapest form of labor… slavery. Democracy is slowly becoming all-inclusive, but immigrants, the LGBT community, homosexuals, women, the physically challenged, and other minorities are seeing a more aggressive push against their very existence as the last dying gasp of the pasty white man suspires into nonexistence. A golden age of peaceful diversity is just around the corner. It’s like jazz… inclusive, loving, peaceful, harmonious.

 The media is also slowly regaining its swagger. Fake news, as espoused by our current illegitimately selected president and, by extension the GOP, will soon be exposed as the authoritarian tool it is. Objective news that is unaffected by money is alive because the Internet facilitates global access. That’s why net-neutrality is vital to terrestrial stability and why the current appointed establishment is so keen on controlling it. What these usurpers of illusory 
power tend to neglect is the fact that they are the minority. The women and men who actually make our society great are the soldiers, firefighters, laborers, nurses, doctors, students, and teachers. It is they who allow societal security. When they realize the narcissistic ambitions of authoritarian government, the populace will turn to revolution. It is my contention that Mueller’s investigation will soon reveal Trump’s megalomaniacal ambitions before the chaos of revolution sends the planet back to the Dark Ages of ignorance and superstition. The minority that currently wield power will return to their meager troglodytic existences in the shadows of humanity, and a long age of peace and prosperity will prevail wherein progressive diversity will become the norm. Happy New Year!

Peace Through Music