Jazz musicians often struggle to find venues to showcase their art. Jazz fans are few and far between, and music venues, whether they be huge halls or humble dive bars, need to book talent that will draw a crowd. As a result, the jam sessions that spring up in restaurants and bars are continually scrutinized by the management for the amount of revenue they can generate. When a bar gives them the boot, the musicians move to a new venue, where the cycle begins anew. There must be an easier way for local musicians to be heard. Fueled by these concerns, local musicians performed for free last Saturday in the CoHo.
They call it a “community jazz showcase,” without any other explanation. As I sat down to review the event, struggling to find a spot amongst the Saturday dinner crowd, I had no idea who was playing in front of me — the bands do not have names for themselves. After asking around a bit, I was introduced to Marty Honda, bassist and organizer of the showcase. Marty explained that he used to host jazz jams, but grew tired of the negotiating. Fed up, he and his friends moved their jam to the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View several years ago. They did away with the traditional jam session format, instead grouping the musicians into small combos, rehearsing for a few weeks and then performing a full set. For their performances, the musicians alternate once a month between the Dana St. Roasting Company in Mountain View and the CoHo on Stanford campus.
The musicians are grateful to have a place to play without having to talk business. “It’s great that Stanford provides this venue,” Marty explains. The CoHo does not hassle them about profits, nor do the musicians expect to be paid for their performances. “I don’t have to negotiate,” he says. Everything is just for fun, and they seem more than happy about this.
The musicians were all very friendly, laughing and drinking pitchers of beer as their friends played. Most were senior citizens, but there were a few young players in the mix. Many play their own gigs in local restaurants and bars but come to the showcases purely for the love of making music. To my knowledge, the only musician affiliated with Stanford was Bob Murphy, a faculty member of the Stanford Jazz Workshop.
In total, four groups performed for about two and a half hours. The music ranged widely in style and instrumentation. The spontaneity of jazz was embodied in all the best ways, with musicians asking each other “What do you want to do?” between songs. Most of the tunes were jazz standards, including “Route 66,” “Get Out of Town,” “Dream Dancing,” and a refreshing, upbeat rendition of the Miles Davis classic “All Blues.”
All in all, it was an enjoyable show, not just for myself but for the performers as well. Keep up the good work, Marty!