What’s your first thought when you hear the word jazz?
A dark, smoky basement club filled with hip people nodding as a saxophone player is finishing up a solo, just so a pianist can start his part, followed by a cool-looking guy playing the upright bass?
Friday Jazz at the Loft isn’t quite that.
The Loft, 1032 Broadway, is an upstairs venue that’s smoke-free. Yes, there are the hip, in-the-know jazz enthusiasts, but they are mixed with youngsters who are just learning the American musical genre and older fans who remember the old standards.
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Friday Jazz at the Loft is celebrating its third anniversary this month.
And for jazz lovers, it’s packed with musicians from the area.
Best of all, it’s free between 7-9 p.m. every Friday.
Tonight, the featured band is the Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music Faculty Quintet, featuring Paul Vaillancourt, percussion; Amy Griffiths, saxophone; Kevin Whalen, trumpet; Ben Weatherford, guitar; and Jason LeBlanc, bass.
Whalen is interim director of jazz studies and is a visiting assistant professor in the Schwob School.
Donald Tipton, a jazz pianist and a member of the Columbus Jazz Society, has been active with Friday Jazz at the Loft since the beginning.
He says there will be birthday cake tonight.
“It’s going to be fun,” Tipton said. “I’m looking forward to this month.”
Whalen loves Columbus so far, having moved here from Lubbock, Texas, where he was working on his doctorate in trumpet performance from the University of North Texas.
“(The Columbus Jazz Society) is a fantastic organization,” he said. “I like that it is so active in the community, out promoting jazz.”
He is also excited about the Loft’s Music Hall, which is a renovated space adjacent to the club.
“It is an exciting room,” Whalen said. “It’s going to be a cultural hub for jazz.”
On Nov. 15, the CSU Jazz Ensemble, a 17-piece “Big Band,” led by Whalen, will perform in that space.
Besides the student musicians, several of the faculty members will perform. Whalen said some of the selections will include “The Peanut Vendor” from the Stan Kenton Library, “April in Paris” and “All Right, OK, You Win” from the library of Count Basie and “Big Dipper” from the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.
Since Whalen has only been here since the fall semester began, he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “I’ve been at bigger colleges and this one certainly holds its own.” His students all have good attitudes and are willing to learn, he said.
“I’m very happy.”