|2 News Articles – W. Texas Jazz Party – Midland, TX – May 2009|
"Musicians to bring 'universal language' to annual Jazz Party"
Today, decades after the comments were made, drummer Joe Ascione remembers what parents said to him after a competition.
"When I was in the fourth grade doing a town contest, many of the parents came up to me and said, 'Boy, you've got soul on those drums,'" Ascione told the Reporter-Telegram in a telephone interview. "That was a nice experience for a young fourth-grader to hear."
Ascione's passion for drums dates back to his childhood.
"All of my male cousins in my extended family at one point or another played the drums, and when I saw one of my cousins playing, it was like the heavens opened up and I knew just what I had to do," said Ascione, who is among the world-class jazz musicians performing here for the 43rd Collaboration Jazz Party at the Midland Hilton Friday through May 17. "It's a great instrument. Besides the human voice, it's probably the most important instrument. Early on it was a form of communication, probably the second most important form of communication besides the human voice."
John Cocuzzi, who performs here for the 43rd Collaboration Jazz Party, also traces his interest in music to his childhood.
"I do play the drums," Cocuzzi told the Reporter-Telegram in a telephone interview. "I also play the vibraphone and piano and I sing. The drum background came from my father. He was in the Marine Band back in Washington, D.C. I grew up with the drums and marimba and timpani in my house, and I thought every kid had that because I didn't know any different.
"That's how it worked for me, too," Cocuzzi said, referring to how similar his story was to Ascione's. "I was banging on the drums first, and then I moved to everything else. Just because my dad was, I figured that's what I'm doing.
"Without really knowing it, I was always playing an instrument. We had a piano in our house. I found an old picture when I was 6 months old. My parents put me on the miramba. I just grew up with all these instruments. I was always banging something. Music was a form of family life. The way I express myself when the chips are down is by playing music, and it picks me up."
The West Texas Jazz Society is hosting the 43rd Annual Collaboration Jazz Party May 15-17 at the Midland Hilton. This jazz event is the longest running jazz party in the country and the only one in Texas.
The event features such well-know musicians as Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar; Dan Barrett and John Allred on trombone; Ken Peplowski, Allan Vache, Harry Allen and Jim Galloway on reeds; Johnny Varro, Rosanno Sportiello and Cocuzzi on piano; Cocuzzi also on vibes and vocals; Randy Sandke, Warren Vache and Ed Polcer on trumpet; Ascione and Jake Hanna on drums; Frank Tate and Nicky Parrott on bass; and Aaron Weinstein, May 17 only, on violin.
Cocuzzi has performed in the Permian Basin for the West Texas Jazz Society but this marks the first time he's performed at the Jazz Party.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Cocuzzi. "Twenty years ago I started doing jazz festivals and parties with a lot of these same people -- Ed Polcer, Johnny Varro, Joe Ascione, Allan Vache, Ken Peplowski. ... It's going to feel great to get to create music with all these people that I had actually learned from 20 years ago."
Four of the musicians -- Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Ascione and Varro -- will be performing a Benny Goodman tribute this summer at a festival in Ascona, Switzerland. "It just so happens we are going to be in Texas as well," Cocuzzi said.
Also in attendance at the Jazz Party will be Dan Morgenstern, curator of the Jazz Institute of Rutgers University. Rutgers recently acquired the past 42 years of live recordings of this jazz party, which will be mastered and accessible to all music students. As part of the WTJS's mission to introduce jazz music to young people, a clinic for high school jazz bands will take place on May 16 at the Hilton.
Patron tickets, priced at $195 per person, include reserved seating for all sessions, the Patron's Brunch and access to the hospitality suite. General admission tickets, priced at $45, may be purchased at the door for each session. The non-reserved seating is based on availability.
The annual event includes performances May 15-17 and a brunch on May 16. Reservations and additional information can be obtained by contacting Margaret Gilham at 432-550-0996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The spirit of this kind of jazz is just letting it happen," Cocuzzi said. "And this particular group of guys and gals, that's part of the kind of jazz that we play. To have the freedom and the willingness to let it go and let it happen, that's when we get the response from people who come to hear the music. They feel like they are part of it with us."
"Some of the best jazz listeners attend that party, and they are faithful and very educated jazz listeners," Ascione said of those attending the Jazz Party. "They know their music. They know their jazz."
"Music really bridges gaps, and music is a universal language," said Ascione. "I could be in the far East, and the music we played would put a smile on someone's face. I could be in the far west of Texas, and, hopefully, the music again would put a smile on the listener's face. Music transcends and bridges boundaries and it brings people together. It's a very heart warming medium with which to work. I'm very fortunate to be able to play music and share that with people."
What: 43rd Collaboration Jazz Party
Patron tickets: $195 per person, include reserved seating for all sessions, the Patron's Brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and access to the hospitality suite.
General admission tickets: $45, may be purchased at the door for each session. The non-reserved seating is based on availability.
Reservations: (800) 458-2878 or call Margaret Gilham at (432) 550-0996 or email@example.com. Mail checks: WTJS, P.O. Box 10832, Midland, Texas 79702.
Information: This jazz event is the longest running jazz party in the country and the only one in Texas. A special performance for patrons and students, Johnny Varro's Swing Seven, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, an Area High School Band Clinic, Midland Hilton.
Sponsored, in part, by: City of Midland, Abell-Hanger Foundation, Odessa Council for the Arts and amp; Humanities, Reporter-Telegram, Odessa American. WTJS is an all-volunteer non-profit organization.
"Celebration of Arts, jazz party entertain Midland"
At Hilton Midland Plaza, jazz lovers were enjoying a Saturday brunch and listening to an impromptu jam session during the 43rd Annual Collaboration Jazz Party, hosted by the West Texas Jazz Society. Known across the country as being among the best professional jazz artists, the musicians played sets from 8 to midnight Friday and Saturday and will do so again from 1 to 5 p.m. today. Prior to the band clinic they offered for area high schools Saturday afternoon, a number of them played during the brunch.
All 19 musicians are not on stage at the same time. Instead they break into different groupings of three to six or so players. As they began to play "Rosetta," an Earl "Fatha" Hines tune, John Cocuzzi, who was on the drums, motioned for drummer Joe Ascione, then visiting with bassist Nicki Parrott, to take his place. Parrott received a similar message. Both moved on stage.
Ascione clowned around with Cocuzzi for a few minutes -- holding his hands over Cocuzzi's eyes and pretending to tamper with the drums. The two then changed places without missing a beat while Parrott deftly took over from bassist Frank Tate.
The audience loved it.
Later Tate insisted the switch really wasn't "that big a deal," recalling when years ago he was on the way to Stone Harbor, N.J., with his mother and watched two motorcyclists change positions at 60 mph -- the driver moved back and his rider moved to the steering position. So, Tate said, "This (switching players mid song) is not that difficult."
Maybe not, but the moment will be held in memory and told time and again by many of those attending the brunch.
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