Jazz community small, but active in Columbus

Back in 1986, Sid Kamensky, Jan Hyatt and Paul Vander Gheynst put out a call to everyone who loved jazz.

They wanted to start the Columbus Jazz Society.

I remember going to that first meeting in the ballroom of the Ralston Hotel.

It was very well attended. I was kind of surprised because I knew that Columbus was a country music town. R&B was also big, but country music reigned.

Rusty Taylor is one of the big proponents of jazz in Columbus, even though Sid, Jan and Paul are still very much involved in the CJS.

Jazz in Columbus, Georgia?

“Columbus has a really groovy musical history ranging from Columbus native Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, who coined the term ‘blues,’ to Blind Tom Wiggins, who was one of the most influential American pianists during the 19th century,” Rusty wrote to me in an e-mail. “However, the Liberty Theater (813 Eighth Ave.) has a wonderful jazz legacy. It was the first black theater in the city, and at the time of its construction in 1925, it was the largest movie house in Columbus. It served as an influential venue for entertainment until it was shut down in 1974 as a result of desegregation and general deterioration of the building.

“In 1984, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1993 a $1 million grant helped restore the building. In 1996, the Liberty Theater reopened as the city’s first African-American arts institution and musical playhouse. Today, among its other responsibilities, the Liberty Theater is home to the Columbus Jazz Society.”

The CJS exists to promote live jazz music as well as promote jazz education. The organization has established an education fund that provides grants to students in the Columbus State University jazz studies program.

If you’re new to the city, or want to learn about jazz, the CJS meets the second Sunday of each month in the Liberty. The meetings are 6-9 p.m.

“Generally, a core band plays a set of music, but afterwards, the floor is opened to any musician or singer who desires to display his or her talents to an approving audience,” Rusty wrote.

The August Jam, Aug. 14, will be hosted by Tom Chadwick, who is the keyboard player and arranger of Southern Standard Time.

I haven’t been to a CJS Jam in many years, so I need to start going again. Sunday night is the Okamoto Movie Night, and I usually have dinner with the family. But that shouldn’t stop you from going.

Off to see the ‘Wizard’

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will show the “The Wizard of Oz” on the big screens in the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park in Alpharetta at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 14. The ASO, led by conductor Jere Flint, will accompany the movie with the live musical score.

The semi-finalists of the Atlanta Symphony Songster 2010 competition will sing and those in the audience can vote for the winners.

Tickets are $27-$59, and are available at or by calling 800-745-3000.

Sandra Okamoto, or 706-571-8580.

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