Have you ever wondered about Jazz music? Local musicians help unravel the mysteries of jazz. | West Orange Times & Observer
WINTER GARDEN Every Sunday evening, local jazz musicians come to Pilars Martini for a jam session.
They take turns playing piano, double bass, drums and any other instrument that is carried. It’s reminiscent of the old-school jam sessions that took place in the mid-1900s.
But the fun of jazz is in the music itself.
“You must be bitten by the virus,” said Joe Breidenstine, a professional trumpeter from Philadelphia who was the featured jazz musician at Pilars last weekend.
Known as the only true American art form, the key to jazz is improvisation, said Chris Rottmayer, a jazz pianist who started the Sunday Jazz Jam sessions at Pilars last year.
“It is this improvisation that is the content of jazz,” Rottmayer said. “When you improvise, you depend on the support of others. It’s real teamwork. The deeper everyone listens to each other, the more nuanced the music.
While the musicians are jamming, it can be difficult to understand the musical process for jazz novices listening to the audience. But usually, each song revolves around a melody line.
At first, all band members play together until they have played the entire melody – or lead – of the song. Then one by one, the members take turns soloing, each improvising a new melodic line based on the original track.
The order of the soloists can be pre-arranged or completely improvised, Rottmayer said. But if it is spontaneous, the musicians must listen to each other carefully to avoid simultaneous solos.
“Even with the same band, the same song can sound different every night,” said bassist Charlie Silva.
And listening to live jazz makes music more interesting, Rottmayer said.
“Not everyone knows jazz, but I think everyone can relate to it and appreciate it,” he said. “You’d be surprised at the energy that’s there.”
A home for jazz
In September 2015, Rottmayer and fellow jazz musician Per Danielsson approached Pilars with the idea of creating a weekly Jazz Jam session. The goal was to create an environment where local jazz students could play alongside professional jazz musicians.
“Jazz was always learned in a mentor relationship at the bandstand, but that doesn’t really exist anymore,” Rottmayer said. “Now the teaching of jazz has moved into the university setting, but it’s a bit too academic. It becomes performance sets where (the music) is really worked on. He doesn’t have the energy to perform in front of people.
And jamming with the pros is one of the best ways to learn this delicate art form, Breidenstine said.
“It’s very difficult to master,” he said.
Now, every Sunday, students and members of the local community take turns jamming with the band. Some Sundays, more than 20 people register to participate in the jam session.
“It’s a very cool event,” said Becky Roper, owner of Pilars. “It’s a community-driven jazz event, and it’s really interesting to watch.”
For musicians, Pilars has become the new jazz hub in West Orange County.
“It’s our home away from home,” Silva said. “We feel so welcome here; it feels like family.
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].
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