Since 1995, the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series based in Columbia has been bringing internationally renowned jazz legends to Central Missouri.
“At its heart, the series is an education project,” says Jon Poses, the executive and artistic director. “We want more people to be aware of how great this art form is so that more people want to learn about it, experience it and understand it.”
It had a slow start: “We had thirteen season tickets during the first season,” Poses says.
Now, tickets often sell out far in advance as jazz giants play venues big and small across town. The series has not only gained a following locally but also brought regional jazz fans to Columbia.
This month, the Jazz Series showcases pianist Bill Charlap’s trio. The New York-based modern jazz legend comes to Columbia after a recent residency at The Village Vanguard and a tour in Europe. Charlap will perform a matinee and evening performance one day only, and you won’t be able to hear him in KC or St. Louis.
The bulk of the series’ performances—including the Bill Charlap trio—are hosted at Murry’s, a locally beloved restaurant located in a small strip mall, and one of the only jazz clubs in the city. But for bigger names and large ensembles, which includes post-bop vibraphonist Joel Ross, performances are often held at the Missouri Theatre or The Blue Note.
While the “We Always Swing” Series does have some overlap with the Folly Theater’s Jazz Series, which includes saxophonist Tia Fuller and trumpeter Hermon Mehari this season, “We Always Swing” brings in plenty of acts you won’t be able to see in KC, notably the up-and-coming vocalist Samara Joy on May 7, who is just twenty-two and quickly making big waves with her latest album Linger Awhile.
The series programming is a balancing act, one with variety at the forefront. You’ll find young musicians and seasoned veterans, vocalists and instrumentalists, small combos and larger ensembles, and an unlistable array of subgenres among each season.
But regardless of who or what is playing, one thing remains the same: The artistry is top tier. “We don’t try to dumb it down,” Poses says.
The “We Always Swing” Jazz Series is reliably world-class––and is worth the drive to CoMo.
GO: Bill Charlap Trio, Sunday, November 13. Performances at 3:30 and 7 pm. Murry’s, 3107 Green Meadows Way, Columbia.