PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
August 12, 2003

A Taste of the Local Jazz Scene

by Jim Newsom

Besides bringing in name acts from out of town, one of the purposes of Jazz Norfolk is spotlighting jazz musicians who live and perform in Hampton Roads. This year, two venues that have consistently supported the local jazz scene play host to this side of the festival.

The Chrysler Museum of Art presents jazz every Wednesday night in its spacious Huber Court. My group, the Jim Newsom Quartet, will be at the Chrysler this week to kick off Jazz Norfolk. One of the regulars on the museum’s monthly jazz schedule, the Quartet includes some of the most experienced players in the area.

Brassman Ron Hallman, who plays trumpet, fluegelhorn and bass trumpet, has been a fixture on the local music scene since playing with the original Rhondels and recording with Frank Guida’s “Norfolk sound” in the early-to-mid ‘60s. Bassist David Hufstedler has a lengthy musical resume stretching back to the early ‘70s, playing locally and on the road. Drummer Tom Jeffrey retired from the Army band, with which he was stationed at Ft. Monroe in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and has taught and played music around the world.

Blues Alley, at 455 Granby Street, is the late night place to be after the Roper shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Following Kenny Rankin’s performance on Thursday evening, the Odd Bop Quartet will be in session. Led by saxophonist Steve Rozek, the Odd Bop includes four talented musicians who are members of the U. S. Air Force’s Heritage of America band stationed at Langley. All have music degrees, have worked and studied with the some of the best, and each also composes.

Besides Rozek, the group includes trumpeter John Castleman, bassist Nathan Bersee and drummer Steve Buckley. The foursome is dedicated to expanding the jazz audience by playing their own fresh brand of original music and mixing in uniquely skewed versions of contemporary pop music by performers like Alanis Morisette, Sting and Pink. Their sound is very cool, reminiscent of slightly off-center jazz innovators like Eric Dolphy and Thelonious Monk. The conversational arrangements remind me of Josef Zawinul’s comment about Weather Report’s music, “We always solo; we never solo.”

The Odd Bop Quartet plans to record a debut CD this fall. This band is surfing on the forward wave of new jazz for the future.

On Friday and Saturday, Steve Nygaard brings the Birdland Express in to Blues Alley. Nygaard is a tremendously talented trumpeter, and his collaborator Dave Adams is a triple threat on piano, bass pedals and bass trumpet. This weekend, he’ll get to relax a little as the bass parts will be handled by veteran jazzman Jimmy Masters, probably the best known of the region’s acoustic double bassists. Another well-traveled veteran, drummer and percussionist Leon Alexander, an instructor at the Navy School of Music, keeps the rhythmic pulse percolating.

Nygaard describes the music of the Birdland Express as “straightahead, relaxing be-bop.” He and Adams have played with a pile of famous jazz musicians, and they just finished a recording with saxophonist Richie Cole that should be available later this year.

Blues Alley also hosts the grand finale of this year’s Jazz Norfolk, an all-star jam session Sunday evening starting at 6:00 pm. Drummer Russell Scarborough directs the proceedings with a rhythm section including David Hufstedler on bass and Tim McDonald on the keys. Russell’s most recent CD, First Annual, included a batch of Hufstedler’s originals. McDonald is a phenomenal player whose day job is teaching piano at the Navy School of Music.

Several of the area’s top musicians have indicated they will be there to trade licks, and chef-owner Calvert Johnston has food and drink specials on tap for a fitting farewell to five days of great jazz.

copyright © 2003 Port Folio Weekly. Used by Permission.