The city’s local jazz festival went so well last spring that a fall version is in store next weekend.
The four-day installment of Jazzoula in the spring sold just over 500 tickets at its new venue in the Zootown Arts Community Center.
Kimberlee Carlson, a vocalist and the artistic director, said they were “very happy with the ZACC. The room is beautiful, it has great sound, and it’s a great fit for Jazzoula.”
The addition of dates on Nov. 10-12 (see schedule below) provided an opportunity to present even more artists, since not everyone was able to play back in April. Some of the highlights include MJ Williams, a widely recognized trombonist, composer and vocalist who has a new album coming out soon; and a number of emerging local jazz artists like the Connor Racicot Trio.
For years, the festival had been held at the community center at St. Anthony’s Parish. A two-year hiatus during COVID-19 ensued, and during that time the Zootown Arts Community Center opened its Show Room event space, a ready-made nightclub complete with sound system and a bar.
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The space has hosted local jazz artists frequently — in October, they held a show for saxophonist Loren Stillman, a Brooklyn transplant who now calls Missoula home. The sound was clear and the audience attentive and not chatting — the exact kind of “listening room” atmosphere that local musicians have been seeking out for years.
Mikyla Veis, who manages the Show Room, said “Missoulians love jazz, love playing (there are at least a dozen local acts I can think of off the top of my head), and love to support local jazz musicians and touring acts alike.” As a whole, she said jazz shows often draw a strong crowd and sell out.
As they did last spring, Carlson said they wanted to invite a range of acts, from emerging artists at the University of Montana and recent graduates to well-established acts.
On Thursday night, for instance, you can hear the veteran bandleader Williams and her trio with pianist Ann Tappan and bassist Rob Kohler. Williams, a composer, trombonist and vocalist, lives in Basin, where she co-founded the Montana Artist Refuge.
In 2021, she was named a “Jazz Hero” by the Jazz Journalists Association, citing her music and her efforts to cultivate the music in a rural state. On that same bill, you can hear Naomi Siegel’s quartet. The composer-trombonist recently added Lhanna Writesel, a saxophonist from the jam/improv group Transcendental Express, to her quartet.
Carlson, who sings jazz and Western swing, said they also wanted to provide a forum for players who can swing but have gigs in other genres, too. Keyboardist Milan House, who plays with music scene mainstay Joan Zen, has “amazing jazz chops,” Carlson said, and they wanted to provide a showcase.
Airmail Special is a showcase for saxophonist Chuck Florence and guitarist David Horgan, both of the Big Sky Mudflaps. Florence’s discography includes a record with pianist Jaki Byard, a verifiable virtuoso. Fans of virtuosi on the keys should check out Missoula’s own Bob Packwood, who will play with bassist Tommy Sciple, a faculty member at UM.
Stephane Gariepy, a keyboardist and arranger who’s toured with Cirque du Soleil, is bringing his large ensemble, the SG Modern Jazz Project, which harks back to the sounds and styles of Grover Washington Jr. and the Brecker Brothers.
Fall Jazzoula is Nov. 10-12 at the ZACC Show Room. All ages. Doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 6:30. Tickets are $20, $17 students and seniors 50 and up. Beverages available for purchase.
Each act will play a set that’s 30-40 minutes. (Check the Jazzoula Facebook page for updates, as there are many musicians involved and changes may occur.)
Thursday, Nov. 10
- Night Blooming Jasmine
- Milan House Trio
- Jeff Troxel and Friends
- SG Modern Jazz Project
- UM Boyd Combo
Friday, Nov. 11
- Canta Brasil
- Naomi Siegel Quartet
- Basement Boys
- MJ Williams, Ann Tappan and Rob Kohler
- Skyler Mendell Sextet
Saturday, Nov. 12
- Connor Racicot Trio
- Ryan Belski Quartet
- Katie and the Dewdroppers
- Airmail Special featuring Chuck Florence and David Horgan
- Bob Packwood and Tommy Sciple