It all started with some jazz musicians who wanted to play a gig. A few months ago, The Greenville Jazz Collective (guitarist Matt Dingledine, bassist Shannon Hoover, pianist Keith Davis, drummer Justin Watt, saxophonist Tom Olson and trombone player Brad Jepson) found out that Ryan Keberle, a celebrated trombone player who’s worked with Wynton Marsalis and Beyoncé, among many others, was coming to town to play a show at Furman University. So the GJC contacted him about playing together while he was in town, which eventually led to a two-day, 80-musician event called the Spartanburg Jazz Festival. The festival will take place on the campuses of USC Upstate and Wofford College this Friday.
How exactly did that happen? Well, the Jazz Collective is also a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and educating the Upstate about jazz music, and they’ve held master classes and other programs for schools around the Greenville-Spartanburg area. So they decided to make their show with Ryan a master class. And that’s where the bigger idea was born. “It kind of ballooned into the festival, because we wanted to find some way to include other schools and get people out,” says Shannon Hoover. “So we extended it to two days and talked to some of the local schools.”
All in all, nine different combos will perform on Friday and Saturday, including the GJC Big Band, the USC Upstate Jazz Band, the SC Governor’s School Jazz Combo and the Clemson University Jazz Combo. Keberle will perform with the GJC Big Band on Friday and take part in the Late Night Jazz Jam later that night. And along the way, the Collective recruited another big name for the festival’s Saturday night shows: trumpeter Wallace Roney.
“Wallace is definitely a jazz legend,” Hoover says. “He was basically Miles Davis’ only protégé, the only one he took under his wing, and as a trumpet player you don’t see that much. But he welcomed Wallace; Wallace sounds a lot like Miles did in the ‘60s when he was playing with Herbie Hancock, and he’s been in a group with [Davis’ mid-60s drummer] Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.”
Hoover says he and his bandmates are thrilled about their shows with Keberle and Roney, but the real goal is to allow the Upstate’s jazz musicians a chance to shine. “All the ensembles need more opportunities to play, and we wanted to do something that might turn into an annual event,” he says. “Even at the college level, jazz musicians don’t get many opportunities to play out and meet other students, so we think it’s a good opportunity for them to meet each other and get to play together, and some of them will get to play with Wallace and Ryan too.”
Admission to the festival is only $10, a move the GJC made to encourage as much attendance as possible. “We didn’t want to put the ticket prices at $20 or $25 and exclude people,” Hoover says. “We’re trying to do something anybody can go to. We’ve had generous support from USC Upstate Commercial Music Program, and Wofford donated the space, and most of the musicians other than the main players are donating their time.”
Scheduling 80 musicians in two different locations over two days has been quite a headache for the GJC, but Hoover says that when it’s all over the only goal is to bring a big crowd to hear some underappreciated players. “I’m looking forward to people in the area coming out,” he says. “I’d like to see a good turnout for both nights. I don’t want it to be just musicians; I want people from outside the music world to appreciate what we have.”
Event: The Spartanburg Jazz Festival, featuring Wallace Roney & Ryan Keberle
Venue: USC Upstate, 800 University Way, Spartanburg &
Wofford College, 429 N. Church St., Spartanburg
Date: Friday, Nov. 4, 2-10:30 p.m. &
Saturday, Nov. 5, 1-10:30 p.m.
Info: 864-214-6810, greenvillejazzcollective.com