Drummers Ricky Malichi, right, Chuck Redd and Akira Tana lay down some mean chops during the School of Jazz free seminar at Ginsberg Music, Saturday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
From playing at the Roswell Museum and Art Center’s block party to jazz seminars at Ginsberg Music Co., the versatility of jazz was the common theme for Roswell Jazz Festival events, Saturday.
Musicians with the Roswell Jazz Festival played Latin-infused melodies during the annual art block party at the RMAC. While the public got to enjoy the chalk art that local artists drew on the sidewalk in front of the museum’s south entrance, jazz musicians played just outside the north entrance on 11th Street. Partygoers brought out museum chairs to sit on the blocked-off street and enjoyed the music.
Local artist Maribel Thompson had taken a break from a demonstration she was giving at the RMAC about how to make art with pine needles and had decided to grab a hamburger from a food truck on 11th Street. However, she couldn’t resist the sound of a song she recognized — “Una Mañana Linda,” or “One Beautiful Morning”— when the festival musicians began to play it. She approached the stage, and started to dance.
Originally from Honduras, Thompson is very familiar with Latin music.
“It reminds me of bossa nova or samba,” Thompson said of the style of music that was being played. “It’s the same rhythm.”
The link between jazz and other musical forms — including bossa nova and samba — is not just in Thompson’s imagination. During a jazz seminar at Ginsberg Music Co., the universality of jazz was made clear through a discussion of its style and improvisational quality.
Ginsberg Music Co. was the site of several jazz seminars featuring different instruments, Saturday. Musicians Eddie Erickson and Bucky Pizzarelli performed and took questions from members of a sizeable crowd Saturday afternoon.
Though they are both guitarists, Erickson said he is primarily a banjoist. Pizzarelli mostly played rhythm guitar at the event. When accompanied by other instruments, the chords of the rhythm guitar may become lost to the untrained ear; however, Pizzarelli explained the instrument provides a crucial musical backbone to many songs.
“If you listen to a good blues record, it’s a good rhythm guitar that makes the record,” he said.
When asked if he plays classic Spanish guitar, Pizzarelli did not hesitate to say he is fairly accomplished in the genre. Although he said every serious guitar player should own a rhythm, electrical and classical guitar, Pizzarelli said if he had to choose just one, he would choose classical guitar.
His leaning toward and ability to delve into various forms of guitar genres gave him an advantage when a guitarist who could play bossa nova — a Brazilian music style — was needed.
“When bossa nova came in, I was getting a lot of calls,” Pizzarelli said.
Fellow guitarist David Hett attended the event and followed the guitar seminar with a Latin-infusion seminar. He had a hypothesis as to why and how jazz and Latin music styles combine so well.
“The jazz music theory itself is fascinating,” Hett said. “You can take a former jazz song from the 1940s and make it samba or bossa nova.”
Whereas Thompson mused that the similarity between jazz and Latin music may be explained through common African roots, Hett said it’s the versatility of jazz that allows it to coalesce with other musical styles.
Hett said jazz is unique in that it usually follows a pattern of melody, improvisational opportunity, and back to melody. Classical music, on the other hand, has no improvisation.
“That’s how (classical music) remains the same century after century,” Hett said. On the other hand, it’s the improvisation inherently found in jazz that allows it to become what the musician and the listener want it to be.
“Jazz is like a soup du jour,” Hett said. “It becomes its own flavor to the ear.”