The Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, VT has been presenting concerts, hosting jam sessions, and running ensembles using the same sweet workhorse piano for the last 15 years. During that time numerous world class pianists like Cyrus Chestnut, Gerald Clayton, Robert Glasper, Don Friedman, Armen Donelian, Hal Galper, Jason Lindner, Don Friedman, Taylor Eigsti, Luis Perdomo, Edward Simon, Carolina Calvache, and Harold Mabern--to name just a few--have shown that the Yamaha C7 piano can really sing. But there was a quality of sound that was missing and this became most clearly apparent when listening back to recordings of concerts held at VJC. It was time to start investigating how to upgrade from a Yamaha to a Steinway Concert Grand so that the pianists performing at the Vermont Jazz Center will benefit from having an instrument with enhanced nuance and greater dynamic range, a piano that truly complemented the VJC's mission of presenting top-level artists in an environment that maximizes the audience's listening experience.
In the fall of 2015, the VJC borrowed a concert-quality Steinway B (7') from the Yellow Barn Chamber Music School and was able to compare the difference between a Steinway and the Jazz Center's trusty Yamaha. After listening to pianists Uri Caine, Helio Alves and Xavier Davis, it quickly became apparent that there was a noticeable improvement in tone quality; these pianists were able to coax a more resonant, beautiful sound from the Steinway.
VJC artistic director Eugene Uman spoke of his vision to purchase a Steinway to several area piano technicians. The word was out that the Vermont Jazz Center was seriously interested in realizing its dream of providing Steinway D (nine-foot concert piano) for the pianists performing at its venue. The goal was to have an instrument ready for concerts already scheduled with top tier pianists Fred Hersch (March 12th), Renee Rosnes (April 16th) and Miro Sprague (March 26th with Michael Zsoldos).
Piano technician Crystal Fielding mentioned that there was a Steinway D for sale in Montpelier, Vermont being sold by the estate of John and Catherine Baird. Uman was shown the piano by Catherine Baird's sisters, Helen and Marjorie Merena and was instantly captivated by its majesty, resonant tone, rich bass and playability. Vermont musician Arthur Zorn agreed that "This instrument "sings" from the lowest note to the top of the keyboard. When I play it, the piano encourages my fingers, hands and arms and body to express music in a way that I have not experienced with any other instrument."
The Merenas told Uman that the piano had been sold in 1998 to the Baird's by the esteemed concert pianist, Lorin Hollander. Hollander performed with "virtually all of the major symphony orchestras in the United States and many around the world" and had been recognized by New York Times critic Howard Klein as "the leading pianist of his generation." Mr. Hollander related to the Merenas that this was a piano worthy of the Steinway showroom's 'concert basement' where "a special class (the top 1%) ...of hand-picked instruments were selected to be used exclusively by Steinway Artists for recording and concertizing at places like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Alice Tully Hall." In a phone conversation with Uman, Mr. Hollander elaborated that "This one for me had that magical -what we all called the 'Rachmaninoff' - sound, where something happened that went beyond us. And sitting down at that piano ...even before sitting down, you would get nervous. I would feel a type of anxiety deep in my muscles just approaching the instrument. I don't know what's real here. I've studied science and I know what is required to make a legitimate hypothesis of reality. However, I also live in the world of the un-namable, un-measurable magic of great music. This piano had it."
The piano was purchased in early December of 2015 thanks to the munificence of the McKenzie Family Charitable Trust. Their trustee, Michael McKenzie has always kept a keen eye on VJC affairs, assuring the institution's financial ability to forward its mission. He saw this piano as a means to continue to enhance the Jazz Center's reputation as a concert venue that will attract artists who prefer to perform on instruments of this caliber.
In December the piano was moved directly from the Baird's practice studio to the workshop of the jazz center's piano technician, William Ballard. For the last three months Ballard has put his heart and soul into restoring the instrument to pristine and concert-level condition. He has replaced the strings, shaved and weighted the hammers, tuned it, and then tuned it again. Ballard examined and enhanced every possible detail by refining and calibrating all that was needed to have this piano meet its extraordinary potential.
The Vermont Jazz Center will inaugurate and celebrate its newly renovated Steinway D piano on March 12th at 8:00 PM with a performance by the grand maestro Fred Hersch--a legendary jazz pianist who will be preforming with his working trio, John Hébert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. The Merena sisters will be present, there's a chance that Mike McKenzie will come in from Italy and of course Bill Ballard will be in his regular seat with his tools by his side should Hersch request an adjustment. Lorin Hollander Skyped in to the VJC from Cyprus with these words of encouragement - "I wanted to support you and acknowledge you and acknowledge the work that you're doing to keep live music alive. My love to all of you that are helping you create this."
Story about our new piano on VPR
For more information, the Vermont Jazz Center's website is www.vtjazz.org.
The Vermont Jazz Center instructors are committed to the jazz ethic of passing the tradition on and keeping it alive. Their ability to pull beautiful music out of even beginners is phenomenal. Their contributions to our community cannot be overstated.
The Vermont Jazz Center will begin their 10-week long semester of Spring/Winter educational programs, most classes will begin the week of February 8th, 2016. Visit the Jazz Center's website at www.vtjazz.org for details, or call or email Office Manager, Ginger Morawski to register: 802 254 9088, email@example.com. Sessions are 10 weeks long (except for Youth Jazz which is 8 weeks). Starting dates are listed below and at vtjazz.org. Fees are $250 for 10 week semesters, except for Latin Jazz which is $200 and Youth Jazz which is $100. Call for scholarship/work study options. The semester will culminate in a concert with a short set performed by each of the groups on Thursday April 28th at 7:00 PM.
5:15 - 6:45 Blue Note Ensemble, Scott Mullett, instructor. February 8th starting date. This ensemble will focus on the repertoire from landmark Blue Note recordings of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mullett states that this era represents for him, "the heartbeat of American jazz." The repertoire performed by this ensemble will include jazz standards and originals recorded by the bands of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Wayne Shorter.
7:00 - 9:00 Valley Rock Choir, Tony Lechner, instructor. Tony Lechner, has been conducting choirs in the Northampton Massachusetts region for over a decade under the auspices of Valley Jazz Choirs. He uses the VJC to rehearse his rock choir on Monday evenings at 7:00 PM. Contact Mr. Lechner directly for starting date and fee information. To register: firstname.lastname@example.org
3:45 -5:00 Youth Jazz Ensemble, Eugene Uman, instructor. February 23rd start date (8 week session). For youth age 10 - 16 who are interested in adding improvisation to their musical toolbox. This ensemble will use simple tunes written by jazz masters Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley and others as vehicles for taking off. The tunes we will start with are simple melodies that encourage participants to want to delve deeper into the jazz repertoire.
4:15 - 5:45 Latin Jazz Ensemble, Julian Gerstin and Eugene Uman, instructors. February 10th start date. For musicians who wish to learn and play jazz influenced by rhythms of Latin America. Emphasized styles include salsa, son, rumba, danzon, bolero and cha cha chá from Cuba (and Puerto Rico); cumbia, bambucco and porro from Colombia; bossa, samba, partido alto and samba reggae from Brazil.
5:45 - 7:30 Women's Jazz Harmony Vocal Ensemble, Anna Patton, instructor, February 11th start date . Anna Patton will lead a women's vocal ensemble that will sing arrangements of songs from the swing era as well as contemporary pieces in the jazz idiom. The ensemble will work on blend and precision in close harmonies in the style of groups like the Andrews Sisters and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. We will also spend some time working on aural skills and playing with chord progressions. Recommended for singers who read music and/or have quick ears. The group is not auditioned, but does take on some challenging material.
VJC Wednesday Night Jam Sessions (ongoing)
All are invited to attend our Wednesday night jam community sessions which are held from 8:00 - 10:00 PM every week. All levels and all instruments are invited. A $3.00 donation is suggested for listeners and players. The jam sessions were especially important in past times for musicians to learn from each other and review the jazz repertoire. Today is no exception. A supportive environment prevails in order to encourage musicians who can, at a minimum, play through a melody. Most musicians also use the opportunity to explore their improvising "chops." Sessions are attended by a myriad of musicians from diverse backgrounds. High School and college students are especially urged to attend. This open jam at the Vermont Jazz Center has been taking place since 1997 and is a means for young and old to hone their skills together.
Check out the VJC's website at www.vtjazz.org and find class descriptions and further information on all the VJC's offerings. For registration: 802 254 9088 or email@example.com. For information on class content firstname.lastname@example.org. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds, please call to find out about the VJC's scholarship and extended payment options.
List of Classes and Ensembles Vermont Jazz Center Spring/Winter 2016
- Blue Note Ensemble 5:15 - 6:45, Scott Mullett
- Brattleboro Rock Chorus 7:30 - 9:00, Tony Lechner
- Youth Jazz Ensemble 3:45 - 5:00, Eugene Uman
- Latin Jazz Ensemble 4:15 - 5:45, Gerstin/Uman
- VJC Sextet (full) 6:00 - 7:30, Rob Freeberg
- Jam Session 8:00 - 10:00, Uman
- Women's Jazz Harmony 5:45 - 7:30, Anna Patton
- September 18th (Friday), 2015 - Jamie Baum Septet
- September 19th, 2015 - Steve Wilson + Wilsonian's Grain
- October 2nd (Friday), 2015 - Emerging Artist Series: Carlos Averhoff, Jr. Quartet
- October 17th, 2015 - Carl Allen Quintet
- October 30th (Friday), 2015 - Sofia Rei Quartet (in collaboration w/Next Stage)
- November 14th, 2015 - Tribute to Jobim with Brazilian Vocalist Maucha Adnet
- December 4th (Friday), 2015 - VJC Big Band and Guest Vibraphonist, Richard Greenblatt Pay Tribute to Terry Gibbs' Dream Band
- January 23rd, 2016 - Bobby Broom Trio
- February 13th, 2016 - Eric Alexander Quartet + Scott Mullett
- March 12th, 2016 - Fred Hersch Trio
- March 26th, 2016 - Under the Radar Series: Michael Zsoldos + String Quartet
- April 16th, 2016 - Renee Rosnes Quartet
- May 14th, 2016 - Ben Williams Quartet
- June 11th, 2016 - Eugene Uman's Convergence Project
The Vermont Jazz Center is an internationally recognized institution that provides jazz education, programming and outreach. Currently in its 40th year, it was founded in 1974 by the legendary guitarist, Attila Zoller and is now run by pianist, Eugene Uman.
The VJC features a summer jazz workshop, a monthly concert series, Wednesday night jam sessions, and frequent collaborations with area schools, arts organizations and businesses.
Mission: The Vermont Jazz Center is dedicated to creating and preserving jazz through the presentation of workshops, concerts, and instruction to a broad constituency of artists, students, and the general public.