08 Nov 2011

Nantucket Jazz

Nantucket Jazz

It’s no secret that Nantucket is brimming with talented individuals. The island is well known for its willingness to support and showcase its talent as residents and visitors are given an opportunity to develop and utilize their gifts. Artists specializing in sculpture, painting or jewelry- making are featured in galleries and art shows. Actors, directors and theater buffs take center stage in a wide range of productions throughout the year as part of the Theater Workshop of Nantucket. Local authors and photographers capture the island’s beauty and charm in novels, poetry and photo-filled books. I’ve recently become intrigued by another group of talented individuals – musicians. Jazz players in particular now command my attention and set my toes tapping.

I went with a group of friends recently to hear Matthew Hutchinson and his jazz ensemble in concert at the Congregational Church. I’m not a music aficionado, but I found myself completely enthralled by the notes, the rhythm and the musicians themselves. There’s something about jazz that the performers “feel” not simply play. I was captivated watching their body language and facial expressions as the melodies commenced, picked up steam and ultimately reached their pinnacle while the walls of the church reverberated.

I have friends who are jazz players. I find them to be a rare breed. They communicate differently than me. They are in tune with their immediate surroundings, in sync with each other and intuitive in anticipating what their fellow players will do next. One jazz friend, who just turned 85 this summer, has convinced me that the way to finish life well is to spend every day doing what you love. The majority of his years have been spent creating art and playing music. Every time I see him poised at the drums, setting the tempo for his fellow musicians, I can’t help but be moved by the huge smile on his face. Whether it’s a 10 minute sit-in or a 3 hour gig, that childlike grin is his trademark. My friend and other jazz musicians have inspired me to explore my own passions, express myself and embrace the subtleties of life.

Chicago and New Orleans aren’t the only places to tap into your inner jazz. While in Nantucket, stop in at the White Elephant and move to the beat of the Bob Lehman trio, attend a jazz concert presented by Nantucket Island Arts and Music or perhaps host a local dinner party where musical friends will opt for a post-dinner “jam session” to jazz up the evening. NIAM recently announced they are in the process of designing a Jazz Fest for 2012. Their plan is to bring some big jazz names to the island, while offering classes and symposiums for all ages and abilities in an effort to make Nantucket a Jazz Festival destination spot. No firm summer dates have been set yet, but keep an eye on their website and then make plans to come be part of the Nantucket jazz scene. Bring your own instrument, take a lesson or simply grab a seat alongside some other music lovers and spend the evening swaying to the rhythm.

Get jazzed.

Shellie Dunlap

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