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Chuck Florence

Saxophonist Chuck Florence is one of the many artists playing at this year's Jazzoula.

Courtesy photo

At least 24 combos will perform Dixieland to bebop, Brazilian and more next week at Jazzoula, the Garden City's five-day festival of jazz and blues.

"It's a great way to continue an American tradition," said Bruce Micklus, a founding organizer and the owner of Rockin' Rudy's.

The festival was started back in 2005 as a way to showcase local jazz artists in conjunction with the University of Montana's annual Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival. DeFranco is now held earlier in the year, but Jazzoula remains a draw for the city's tight-knit jazz community. Micklus estimated that around 250 people attend the shows each night.

From Monday through Friday, they'll set up in St. Anthony Church's parish hall and liven it up with some nightclub style flourishes.

It's an attentive environment for groups that are often hired around town to play in the background of events, whether at brunch or breweries.

"It's a real listening audience, and so the musicians get to actually lay it out and have people listen to it and not get caught up in the social thing," Micklus said.

Four to five bands a night will play 35-minute sets with only short breaks.

"People come on, do their set and we move to a completely different genre of jazz," he said. "We've got it from the most basic to some fairly complex orchestral sounds to keep people on their feet."

Each year, the festival inducts a musician into the Missoula Jazz and Blues Society's Hall of Fame. This year's honoree is pianist Bob Packwood, who's bounced in and out of Missoula over the years after a long-playing career in New York City and Canada. He's currently a member of the Big Sky Mudflaps, in addition to solo performances and other combos.

Micklus said Packwood exemplifies someone who's honed their craft and continues to do so.

On Thursday, Packwood will perform with Bozeman-based vocalist Jeni Fleming, who Micklus said is likely the best known Montana jazz musician since Eden Atwood. While Fleming stops in Missoula often with tribute act Pinkie and the Floyd, this will be a chance to see her in very different format.

In another special event, celebrated pianist Jodi Marshall will perform a short set on Wednesday to mark her 83rd birthday. Marshall was the first inductee into the Hall of Fame.

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The rest of the week's lineup is a smattering of new and familiar combos, ranging from seasoned groups like Canta Brasil to groups from the University of Montana's jazz program.

Here are some highlights:

On Monday, University of Montana music professor and saxophonist Johann Eriksson will join a quintet with vocalist Jami Kidd for a set of Eva Cassidy and Nina Simone tunes. It's also a chance to see the Missoula Conduction Orchestra. The band, which has 11-some players, uses a technique called "conduction," in which a conductor helps lead a large ensemble through spontaneous improvisation.

On Tuesday, Night Blooming Jasmine brings listeners a taste of Django Reinhardt-style gypsy jazz, a genre that's not often heard around Missoula. Also that evening, saxophone virtuoso Chuck Florence's band will be joined by pianist Jim Driscoll.

On Wednesday, there's a new group called crosstalk that will play a more experimental set of avant-garde jazz. The line-up is Bill Kautz on trumpet, Christopher Gray on guitar, Steve Kalling on bass, Naomi Siegel on trombone and keyboard and Emily Silks on drums.

On Thursday, saxophonist Stephane Gariepy will present his "New Standards Project," in which they translate songs by the Beatles, Steely Dan and more into jazz. Packwood and Fleming also play on Thursday.

Friday, MJ Williams, who sings and plays trombone, will bring her group, ThreeForm with Ann Tappan and Rob Kohler. The Captain Wilson Conspiracy will have its piano player Keaton Wilson back from Arizona for a set.


The annual Jazzoula festival runs Monday-Friday, April 16-20, at St. Anthony’s Parish Center, 217 Tremont St.

Tickets are available at Rockin Rudy’s, 542-0077 and at the door. They cost $12 nightly; $30 festival pass; $10 seniors/students or $25 festival pass for seniors/students. Full bar is available. Seats and tables are available.

Doors open at 6 p.m. every night. Music starts at 6:30. Most sets are 35 minutes.

Monday, April 16

  • “Hank Mobley” Quintet with Emily Silks and Brian Tremper
  • Carlson Meissner Duo
  • River City Players
  • Kidd/Eriksson Tribute Quintet
  • Missoula Conduction Orchestra

Tuesday, April 17

  • Youngest Divas
  • Night Blooming Jasmine
  • Chuck Florence Band with Jim Driscoll
  • Joan Zen
  • Pink Boyd with Becca Speranza

Wednesday, April 18

  • The Lady Boyds
  • Starlighters
  • Canta Brasil
  • Basement Boyz
  • crosstalk

Thursday, April 19

  • Melody Anderson
  • SG New Standards Project
  • Bob Packwood and Jeni Fleming
  • Hall of Fame presentation to pianist/composer Bob Packwood
  • Western Union

Friday, April 20

  • Joe Glassy Trio
  • ThreeForm with MJ Williams, Ann Tappan, Rob Kohler
  • Captain Wilson Conspiracy
  • Big Sky Mudflaps
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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment editor for the Missoulian.