June 27, 2022

Jazz Road Moments

Just wrapped our Jazz Road tour, nine days filled with wonderful moments.

A little background first. The Jazz Road program is led by South Arts, which underwrites tours with an emphasis on reaching rural, isolated and underserved communities in combination with dates at more traditional venues. The Joe Alterman Trio (pianist Joe Alterman, bassist Kevin Smith and drummer Justin Chesarek) and I were honored to be one of 30 tours selected from among 200 applicants for the 2022 program.

Our tour included dates in Georgetown, SC, and in Charlotte, Asheville and Hayesville, NC. We started out in Georgetown, a small community on the coast that is the oldest town in South Carolina. We performed an intimate show at a beautiful restored venue, the historic Winyah Auditorium. One couple got out of their seats to dance and a wild thunderstorm kicked up as we were finishing our set -- great energy all around to kick off our tour!

In the morning, my husband, John (also our tour logistics pro), and I visited pretty Pauley Island before heading to downtown Charlotte, NC, for shows that night at Middle C Jazz club. Loved this classic jazz venue and making music with the trio for two full-house audiences. And we all had a great time relaxing afterwards at the restaurant next door with some of the Middle C crew, who had us laughing with their stories.

A few days later, we made our way to the small Blue Ridge mountain town of Hayesville, NC. We were there to put on a mini jazz camp for 30 kids who rarely get this kind of cultural experience, and it was a ball. Overheard while there:

One little boy to Joe: “Do you know Harry Styles?” (not yet)

Another little guy when asked what you should never do with a microphone: “Lick it!” (true)

An 11-year-old who said to Justin at the end of the day, “I know what I want to be when I grow up now – a professional drummer.” (score!)

The afternoon wrapped-up with the kids onstage singing multiple versions of "You Are My Sunshine" with the band and playing percussion instruments. Smiling faces all around.

Our next stop was Asheville, NC, a city I’ve wanted to visit for some time. Our concert, presented in partnership with Chat Hills Music, was held at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. Band was cooking, lovely people there, and Asheville is as great as I’ve heard. Breakfast at City Bakery the next day was an eggs, goat cheese and honey mustard sandwich on sprouted wheat bread (yum). Then it was over the mountains and through the woods back to Hayesville, NC, for our final concert. This fine little town lifts up the arts in a big way. The Peacock Performing Arts Center there is a great room; the audience was incredibly warm and filled with jazz lovers and the jazz curious – just what this tour was all about. It was the perfect way to cap our Jazz Road.

I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity and experience of the Jazz Road tour. I learned new things, met great people, and saw some gorgeous scenery along the way. It was a wonderful time in the music with Joe, Kevin and Justin, and I really felt our role as ambassadors for jazz -- which is to say, for the arts and cultural awareness and our shared humanity and love.

It’s no secret people come together in the music, leaving divisions and concerns of the world outside from the first note’s sounding. Many thanks to South Arts/Jazz Road for facilitating this Good Stuff.