Flowers won't be the only thing blooming in the garden when the annual Jazz in Bloom concert starts at 6 p.m. May 15 at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. Making the music will be Like Minds Jazz Quintet and the Fayetteville Jazz Collective Octet.
"It was kind of inspired by just the resource we have in the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and how much we love that space and how we wanted to celebrate spring," explains Robert Ginsburg, artistic director for the Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society. "We're bringing back one of the favorite large ensembles in Northwest Arkansas, the Fayetteville Jazz Collective."
The group will perform as an octet for the event. In this year's lineup are Claudia Burson, Darren Novotny, Benji Wilson, Ben Harris, Austin Farnam, Rick Salonen, Chase Cavalier and Matt Beach. "They do a variety of music from standard to originals," Ginsburg adds.
"We try to find a group that we feel has broad appeal," Ginsburg explains. "One of the challenges of this music is that it implies so many different things to so many different people. Because when you think about jazz, it could be Dixieland. It could be swing, it could be New Orleans, it could be big bands, it can be avant-garde -- it can be, you know, it's so many things. ... Most people will say they like the idea of jazz, but they're not quite sure about the music. They know it's a gift, and they know it's one of the most revered American art forms. You know, it's really born and bred in this country. But not many people get exposure to it."
In the tradition of keeping America's music alive, the jazz society also works with high school students around Northwest Arkansas to help them learn more about making, recording and performing jazz music. Ginsburg adds that the group is excited to showcase its younger members, which make up the Northwest Arkansas Jazz All-Star Youth Ensemble, now in its sixth year.
"That's just a program that we're so proud of. We recruit kids from all over Northwest Arkansas, [from] 11 different high schools, and we bring together the best of the best music students," Ginsburg enthuses. He said that this year's group is "mind-boggling, they are so good." Performing under the moniker Like Minds Jazz Quintet will be Dillon Brouse, Logan Clark, Connor Cowart, Nicholas Plumlee and Ryan Yumang.
"We've always had an educational outreach with our scholarship program for 20 years now ... for students that want to dive in deeper to their study of jazz," Ginsburg says. "We partnered with the Walton Arts Center six years ago to create this Jazz All-Star Youth Ensemble. ... We created a program that was three months long, rehearsing every Sunday for three months, and working very hard on repertoire. Then we always bring in an internationally known guest artist, who at the end of the program would come in for the last rehearsal, work with the kids and then perform with the kids. ... What we've seen happen is we've helped raise the bar in terms of jazz education through this group. And their program culminates with a concert at Walton Arts Center every year."
Ginsburg says that those wanting to help expand the educational outreach of the jazz society should consider joining the group, and the Jazz in Bloom concert is a good place to learn more as the event will also be a membership drive/appreciation event. The group is also celebrating other milestones.
"The Northwest Arkansas Jazz Society is celebrating its 30th anniversary -- we started operating in 1992. But we operated before incorporation for 10 years. So it's really like our 40th anniversary, officially our 30th," Ginsburg explains. "Anybody can come to our events. But we also have a base of people who have supported us through membership."
The group is a nonprofit organization, and memberships are tax deductible.
"I think the greatest perk is just knowing that you're supporting an organization that has a long-standing history of presenting this music," Ginsburg says. "Getting educational opportunities out there for kids, supporting musicians in need."