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Bridgeport hosting winter jazzerland

By Staff | Dec 29, 2009

If you’d like to warm up a cold winter weekend with some hot soul jazz, you don’t need to go to Atlanta or New Orleans. You can go to Bridgeport. If your taste in jazz runs to a downtown New York sound or some re-energized hard bop, Bridgeport will have that too. There’s no need to travel a long distance.

In what promoters plan to be the first in a series of top-quality jazz events scheduled for this central West Virginia city, Winter Jazz Weekend has nine live jazz performances slated for over three nights and two days beginning Jan. 28. Ticketed performances on Friday and Saturday nights will be held in Jazz at Charles Pointe, a nightclub style venue inside the Bridgeport Conference Center at Exit 124 of Interstate 79.

“Our location puts us in the middle of the eastern U.S. jazz market,” said Eric Spelsberg, president of the West Virginia Jazz Society, a not-for-profit corporation with a mission to identify and develop the market for jazz music in West Virginia. “People are looking for alternative leisure closer to home. We are appealing to that market in a new way.”

Featured bands include New York City’s Sean Nowell Quintet and Nowell’s electric “FX mixed meter” project, The Kung Fu Masters, plus C.C. Booker III, a soul jazz quartet from Atlanta featuring sax man and vocalist, Will Scruggs. Promotion for the event emphasizes the urban origination of the performers, but does not leave out the home boys.

There are several West Virginia performers scheduled each night in Jazz at Charles Pointe, including on Friday, Jan. 29. That night, the Jenny Wilson Trio from Morgantown and Charleston native David Martin will perform in a guitar duo with partner Mike Doolin from Portland, Ore. 

On Jan. 30, Mountain State artists scheduled to appear are Appalachian Jazz Project from Elkins and Todd Burge, a Parkersburg troubadour, who will perform an opening set and serve as Master of Ceremonies.

In reviewing Sean Nowell in performance, Jazz Inside New York magazine said, “A modern day re-energizing of the East Coast hard bop of the 1950s and1960s. The result is a chili-hot stew of galvanizing intensity.”

Will Scruggs and his C.C. Booker III project pay tribute to soul jazz legends Ray Charles, King Curtis and Booker T and the MGs, and deliver what the Washington City Paper describe as, “An earthshaking mix of soul, funk and hard bop jazz. Every solo, every tune, and occasionally even a few lonely rifts generated screams and mighty ovations.”

“We hired C.C. Booker III after seeing them at Twins Jazz in D.C.,” Spelsberg said. “The crowd went nuts in D.C. and the folks in Weston did the same when we brought them in last year. We look forward to a great show. Their new Hammond B-3 player is out of New Orleans and he can tear it up too.”

Why the focus on jazz in a community where other genres are much better known?

“It’s the right product in the right place at the right time,” Spelsberg said. The theme of Winter Jazz Weekend’s performances and educational activities is, “The Business Of Music,” and event organizers, featured musicians and guest speakers will be making the point that the music industry is big business with many career opportunities, and that jazz music, specifically, holds a promise as a growth segment of that industry.

Master class workshops in area high schools, a student/business networking luncheon, mentoring sessions and a student invitational jam session make up the West Virginia Jazz Society’s Education Initiative.

“Every ticketed show we promote or organize is coupled with educational activities and free performances in the community,” Spelsberg said. “It is our belief that learning about jazz is fundamental to a growing appreciation for the genre, which is after all, America’s original music.”

For more information on Winter Jazz Weekend, see the Bridgeport Conference Center’s website at www.bridgeportconference.com or to order tickets call (304) 808-3000. Each night’s performances are priced at $50 plus a $2.50 processing fee that includes gourmet dining and premium jazz all evening. Doors open at 6 p.m., and dining begins at 6:30 sharp, with each evening’s menu themed to the music of the featured performers.

A recent addition to the Weekend is an early evening show by C.C. Booker III at the BW3 restaurant next to the conference center.

For more: email: WVJazzSociety@aol.com.

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