As with the music it promotes and provides, when it comes to the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop, the beat goes on.
In this case, it moves on.
When management at Temblor Brewing Co. — where the workshop has been since 2018 — informed workshop organizers that they were changing the brewery's programming and wouldn't be able to continue hosting the event, there were no hard feelings.
"It was an amicable, respectful separation," said workshop founder Steve Eisen. "We totally understood."
The move left the workshop once again in a situation it has been in many times before: looking for a new home like a gang of funky, swinging ronin.
Since its inception in 2006, the workshop has called a variety of venues home including The Mark, Le Forét, Le Corusse Rouge, The Nile and the Hill House. In the case of Le Forét, the workshop has achieved a sense of full circle. While Le Forét is no longer at that location, it now houses the new Petroleum Club at Sundale, which will be the new home to the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop starting Tuesday. The workshop is all ages, free and open to the public.
"It's family-friendly, definitely," Eisen said.
The workshop has developed into a local institution over the last 14 years, helping players of all ages hone their skills, learn to play in an ensemble, and further their musical education with grants and scholarships.
"We really want to keep building upon the success of our annual scholarship program to help with private lessons and continuing music education throughout our area," said Eisen. "(We also want) to keep developing connections with our local music education departments. Because the jazz workshop is basically created to support music performance and education throughout the Bakersfield area; bringing all students, educators and listeners together. So we want to keep that goal. That's our mission statement."
Most valuably, it continues to promote jazz as an artform and emboldens its tradition of improvisation, expression and the ever-evolving approaches of its musicians to their craft. Every person that performs on that bandstand is standing on the shoulders of the giants that preceded them.
Continuing its if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it model, the workshop will meet every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Its motto being, "Hear it. Learn it. Play it … It's all about the music."
The first hour will consist of a beginner's jazz combo class led by saxophonist John Calo that's open to aspiring jazz musicians of all ages. The attendees will run through a number of charts with some of them providing solos. The main prerequisite for anyone wanting to participate is a working knowledge of their instrument. Keyboardist Tony Rinaldi, who is a member of the house rhythm section, has been part of the workshop since its inception.
"We recommend that when you come to the workshop, know your instrument, have a basic understanding of being able to play all twelve major scales keys by memory, be able to play the chromatic scale two octaves by memory and have an understanding of basic sight-reading skills."
The second hour will be a live concert provided by local and out-of-area jazz artists. This Tuesday's artist will be the Jay Smith Trio (disclosure: I will be performing with this group). Acts like Jon Ranger, J2 and the Biz, and Roger Martin will perform in the coming weeks along with BC and CSUB jazz combos scheduled in the fall. For more information, visit the workshop's Facebook page at facebook.com/BakoJazz. (Its website at bakersfieldjazzworkshop.com is currently under construction.)
The last hour will be an open jam where musicians sit in with each other and put into practice what the first hour crew has been learning: control, expression, tone, interaction and mood.
The workshop will observe safety protocols in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic when applicable in consideration of the health of its participants by following California state guidelines.
The workshop's revival isn't the only sign of its reliability and growing acceptance. It's also reflective of a certain enthusiasm of jazz at live music venues in and around town as far as Tehachapi. Certain venues like The Well are embracing jazz shows in a way I haven't seen for years. The southwest bar and grill (7401 White Lane, Suite 7) will host a "Jazz Happy Hour" series on Wednesdays, starting July 14, and the second Saturday of every month starting July 10.
One of the most anticipated shows of that run will feature Los Angeles-based trumpeter/vocalist Johnny Britt on Aug. 12.
But the workshop's challenges with establishing a permanent venue highlights a real-world application of two of the core tenets it teaches in the most profound sense: adapting and improvisation.
"It does in a very odd way," Eisen said. "We've always found a way to survive and keep our head above water and have always been able to find a place that's been supportive in all the ways they needed to be."
"We've been shut down for almost 15 months and then found that opportunity where we had to climb back on that ship and start sailing away again. We were out in the ocean together during the pandemic, now we finally hit land and we're ready to return. It's a breath of fresh air."
Bakersfield Jazz Workshop
When: Tuesdays, starting July 6 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: The Petroleum Club of Sundale, 6218 Sundale Ave.
Admission: Free to the public