The spirit of jazz giants lives on
BRATTLEBORO -- The beating spirit of the Vermont Jazz Center flows through its annual summer jazz camp.
Even before there was a jazz center, its founder Attila Zoller would invite his musician friends up from New York during the summer to spend time at his Newfane home.
They would eat good food, find inspiration in the hills and green fields of southeastern Vermont and swing deep into the night.
Those jam sessions laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the Vermont Jazz Center, a year-round organization that promotes world class jazz concerts in Brattleboro, puts on a weekly jam session and offers lessons and occasional workshops with professional musicians.
Every year the Vermont Jazz Center hosts a one-week jazz workshop where players of all abilities come to learn, jam and gather together with that same energy that Zoller created more than four decades ago.
Zoller died January 25, 1998.
Vermont Jazz Center Executive Artistic Director Eugene Uman said Zoller's spirit lives in the summer jazz workshop, which will be held at the Putney School from Aug. 10 through 16.
This summer, Uman said, the jazz ghost giants of Vermont will be watching over the summer workshop with one more player.
Longtime Vermont Jazz Center supporter, and Summer Workshop teacher, Howard Brofsky died Oct. 17, 2013.
This will be the first summer in a very long time that Brofsky, or "Dr. Bebop" as he was known, will not be there to offer his wisdom, knowledge and deep love of jazz to the students who attend the workshop.
"Jazz is music that stands on the shoulders of the giants who have come before," Uman said. "That lineage is revered and no one personifies that more than Howard. Now more than ever, we will feel his presence."
This year's Summer Jazz Workshop Faculty Concert, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. in the Michael S. Currier Center at the Putney School, will be dedicated to the memory of Howard Brofsky.
The workshop runs from Sunday Aug. 10 to Saturday, Aug. 16.
Last year, less than two months before his death, Brofsky was there, walking through the hallways of the Putney School, listening for the coolest grooves and seeking out musicians young and old to play with.
He led a workshop and played at the faculty concert.
"He was a dignified presence at the summer workshops," Uman said. "We will miss his sense of humor, his kindness, his beautiful melodicism. He will be profoundly missed this summer."
Every summer about 40 jazz musicians and 20 vocalists attend the Vermont Jazz Center Summer Workshop.
Uman said the bucolic setting at the Putney School, the total immersion in music and learning, and the welcoming, nonjudgmental attitude among the teachers and players create an atmosphere that is hard to replicate elsewhere.
"There is a sense of community that we develop at the workshop," Uman said. "We live together. We eat together. We play together. People are relaxed and real relationships are formed."
Each day is scheduled with lessons in theory, and workshops. There is time set aside to listen to great jazz, teachers lecture on different topics and ensembles make music deep in to the night.
One of the hallmarks of the summer workshop is the ability for younger musicians to play with masters.
If a 17-year-old saxophone player has the chops to jam with a master drummer then it happens.
"There is no division between students and teachers like you have at other workshops," Uman said. "Because it is small there is sense of people working together, and forming tight relationships. It is about sharing a love for jazz."
This year is the 39th annual Summer Jazz Workshop, going back to 1975 when Zoller first invited his friends up from New York to help teach the students who traveled to Vermont for peace, beauty, community and jazz..
All of the teachers who have helped out and the hundreds of young and accomplished musicians who have passed through, taking a part of Vermont back home with them, create a foundation that is strengthened for one week every summer.
"Everyone who comes here has chosen to make music a big part of their life, and they have become a part of the lineage," Uman said. "They play and they teach and they become a part of something bigger that gets spread out over time. That lineage is not something that is outside of ourselves, it is part of that direct experience."
For more information on the VJC Summer Workshop go to www.vtjazz.org of call 802-579-5515
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.
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