On Monday nights from 7-9 the Hangar Restaurant at the Albert Whitted Airport in downtown St. Petersburg overlooking Tampa Bay is the place to be if you like jazz! This Monday night July 18 the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association presented a tribute to the late Louie Armstrong a leading trumpeter and one of the most influential artists in jazz history. During the month of July, the ADTBJ musicians are celebrating Armstrong’s music along with the famous jazz singer, Billy Holiday or “Lady Day” as she was called. They both passed in the month of July.
After the tribute to pioneer jazz legends, the evening continues with many different musicians from the audience taking their positions in front of the mics jamming to tunes of the pioneers of jazz. Joining this Monday night Jazz Jam was a student playing tenor sax, a man blowing his trumpet, someone sitting at the keyboard, another with his drum sticks climbing around the drum set and someone else plucking the strings of an upright bass. They know the notes, the sounds, the theme and listen for their cue to begin playing with the rest of the musicians.
What I like about the Monday night Jazz Jam is anyone with an instrument gets a chance to play just by putting their name on a list at the entrance to the restaurant. That means you never know what to expect! The Al Downing MC, Dwayne, introduces the participants and invites them into the group. They in turn find their position and begin to play. Throughout the evening the musicians and the instruments constantly change but always together making harmonious musical sounds and unique variations. This evening there was sometimes more than ten musicians playing together. I was amazed at the spontaneous playing of the instruments and how the musicians who did not know each other make a collective sound. Two hours of continual music is a treat and very salacious. Another great event for the City of St. Petersburg!
The Al Downing Jazz Association gives scholarships to high school music students. And every Monday night Dwayne calls up music students to take part in the innovative sounds. One student on summer break from the University of Indiana was thrilled to play his tenor saxophone. He stepped to the mic and never missed a beat and was always right on cue.
What if this was a large group of artists painting a wall mural or collaborating together on an enormous abstract painting of blues, reds, yellows and whites, black, purples all the colors, what would it look like! Jazz music is inspirating! As I sit and listen, I imagine a bird, a river, a tree. I smiled remembering my childhood days and hearing the sounds of Miles Davis coming from my neighbor’s house as she painted her reds, blues, yellows on the canvas. I said, “Someday I’ll be an artist like her.”