Jazz is cool. Dig into it, and you’ll find that it’s had an influential hand in popular culture, and is a genre of music that went hand in hand with the literature of the beat generation and their aimless meandering, set to a soundtrack of bebop. It’s a style of music used regularly in film and television, and soundtracks are riddled with jazz.
It’s a genre of music that has made a mark on every genre to come after it. Jerry Garcia, Geezer Butler, Mike Watt, and Nels Cline all knew that looking to the jazz players was the route to take for developing their sound. There would have been no improvisation in the worlds of The Grateful Dead or Phish were it not for Miles Davis or Charlie Parker, and there would have been no Minutemen or fIREHOSE without John Coltrane. There wouldn’t be newgrass without the influence of bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Indie-rock, punk, art-rock, the guitar-picking of Chet Atkins or Danny Gatton, The Talking Heads, Fugazi, Fishbone, New Grass Revival, Danny Tenaglia, Squarepusher, or anything else melodic and rhythmic from the last 75 years would not exist without some influence from jazz music. Buddy Rich may have been a chest-beating blow-hard when it came to knocking down drummers from any other genre, but those drummers often look to the jazz dudes as inspiration, especially Rich. Jazz is everywhere.
Fort Lewis College celebrates jazz each year with the Jazz on the Hill Concert, an annual event that serves as a fundraiser for the Russ and Bette Serzen Endowment for Concert Hall Operations, which will help the concert hall continue to offer arts and culture well into the future.
This year’s Jazz on the Hill performer is Storm Large and her band. Large is a member of the Portland, Oregon-based jazz, lounge, and pop band Pink Martini, which has been a staple in the Pacific Northwest jazz and festival scene for years.
As a solo performer, she takes the sultry ideals of a jazz and lounge singer to the next level. She shows great depth and emotion with each song, and at times is beautifully irreverent. She also proves that with a little work, any song, whether from the public domain or a one-hit wonder from a teen star, can be adapted to become a jazz standard. Large made that happen on her last record, 2016’s “Le Bonheur,” a hip dose of laid-back jazz that proves she’s not only a student of jazz, but a music lover whose record collection is all over the map. There’s even a Bad Brains cover, and while Large’s band is not the most traditional jazz group to take the concert hall stage, she’s a welcome performer.
“The cool thing about jazz is that musicians frequently reinterpret all kinds of music, and it covers many styles and cultures. It is hard to pin a label on the music,” said Charles Leslie, director of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. “In some ways, she is very traditional in that a lot of her music is interpreting the Great American Songbook, which are songs written by some of the premiere jazz artists of the 20th century, like George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Rodgers and Hart, while working on new takes of modern songs. Storm Large does that with the Pixies, U2, Black Sabbath, Randy Newman, and more. Perhaps Storm is more like a modern jazz artist.”
Saturday: Jazz on the Hill Fundraiser with Storm Large, 7:30 p.m. $42/$72/$82. Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive. Information 247-7657.
Sunday: Erik Nordstrom and Bruce Allsopp play old country and bluegrass, 5 p.m. No cover. Fenceline Cidery, 141 South Main Street, Mancos. Information 970-533-4005.