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Where to See Jazz in Nashville

On a Friday night in a nondescript part of town, jazz enthusiasts gather in The Cave, nodding to the beat of the heady performance of Liz Johnson and the jazz band. The smooth tempo changes to a spirited beat bursting with energy. In the intimate atmosphere, the audience gives their rapt attention. They’re clustered around small tables, glasses of wine and BYO bottles glowing in the dim light. Art depicting well-known jazz musicians covers rustic red brick walls. DSC_0767

The Nashville Jazz Workshop (NJW) may well be one of the city’s hidden secrets. Dedicated to supporting jazz musicians, fans and the jazz community, it not only offers instrumental and vocal classes, but hosts regular public jazz performances and special events. I have discovered the jazz Mecca for Music City.

Founded by Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer in 1998 with a handful of students, it has filled a missing gap in the Nashville music scene for jazz improvisation and a place for jazz musicians to play. JazzCavePerformance-ScottHammaker

In a giant leap of faith shared with fellow visionaries, they moved into the derelict old meat packing plant in the Neuhoff Complex in East Germantown in 2001. The business transformed into the Nashville Jazz Workshop, a non-profit organization that has become the gathering place for the best jazz musicians in Nashville and the hub around which jazz turns in Music City.

Today you could join any of the 20+ classes a week – six-week courses for instrumental, vocal or non-musician for all levels. “Our goal is to get students out of the classroom to perform in small showcase venues,” said Roger Spencer. “How we do it is the original way people learned jazz – from other musicians and on the bandstand.” VictorWootenClass-ScottHammakerjpg

There are no grades in the Nashville Jazz Workshop. You can’t flunk out, but go at whatever pace you can achieve.

On a typical evening you may find a group learning Intro Ensemble, playing sax, flute, double bass, guitar and keyboard. In another room, the instructor teaches the intricacies of solo guitar. The instructors are successful musicians in their own right, many also teach at colleges like Belmont and MTSU.

The NJW also holds annual seminars and interactive clinics, concerts and recitals at The Cave, community outreach jazz programs and co-operative children’s programs with the Nashville Public Library. They host seniors groups for professional performances, Summer Jazz Camps for students aged 13-19, award scholarships, and participate in local festivals.

NJWExterior-ScottHammaker“Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will,” said trombonist J.J. Johnson. The Nashville Jazz Workshop is also irrepressibly on the move, spreading its influence far and wide and sharing a musical style that continues to evolve. You can hear live streaming from the Jazz Cave on internet radio.

Jazz by the Book – Enjoy some great jazz courtesy of the NJW on the last Saturday of every month at Parnassus Books in Green Hills. The next scheduled afternoon will be March 29 at 4 p.m.

Jazz on the Move at The Frist – Take in an educational lecture and free jazz performance by some of Nashville’s top jazz artists and educators at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts. This Sunday afternoon series is offered by The Frist and the Nashville Jazz Workshop. The next one is March 23 at 3 p.m., and includes free admission to all art exhibits at The Frist.

Belmont University Jazz Ensemble performs several concerts each semester on and off campus. Feel the sound and power of jazz band improvisation, ranging from Big Band swing to modern jazz-fusion.

F. Scott’s Restaurant & Bar

F.Scott's musicPerfect for an evening of sophisticated flair for that special occasion. The menu boasts fine seasonal fare and more than 300 wine selections, but F. Scott’s biggest draw is the live jazz six nights a week in the Jazz Bar.  A full menu is available in the intimate bar, and with no cover charge you can enjoy some of the best live jazz in Nashville, 7:00-10:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7:30-11:00 p.m. Saturdays. The restaurant is moving from Green Hills to West End late June or early July 2014, but the jazz won’t miss a beat.

B.B. King’s Blues Club

In heart of Downtown Nashville on 2nd Avenue, join the boisterous dancing and live music every night of the week, from smooth jazz and soulful Blues, to funky and solid rock. Savor the Southern style food, with dishes like spicy gumbo and dry rubbed ribs. BB Kings

 

Jazz on the Cumberland Concert Series

jazz on the cumberlandEnjoy local, regional and national jazz artists performing while you picnic on the lawn at Cumberland Park Amphitheater on the east bank riverfront, next to LP Field every third Sunday, May-October, 5:30-8:30 p.m. The concert series is free and family-friendly, with children’s play area and food trucks. The next concert is Sunday, May 11.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is bringing the best New Orleans jazz to Nashville on March 30, for one unforgettable night at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Get your tickets now for a night of hot jazz and classic American tunes under the mesmerizing power of these authentic New Orleans musicians performing soul music from the Deep South. Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on

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