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Nashville’s Jazz Scene, Distilled By The Workshop

Jazzmania is the annual fund-raising gala for the Nashville Jazz Workshop, the irreplacable educational non-profit and performance venue supporting jazz in Music City. This weekend, they took the event online like everybody else, with especially impressive results and making the event free to the public to boot. Able to call on major artists from around the city and country with ties to the NJW, they put together a variety show that features magnificent music and production values. It will stream on demand for the next two months.

Nashville-raised, New York-based singer and pianist Kandace Springs, a rising star on Blue Note Records, offers a succulent studio rendition of “Sophisticated Lady” along with a sweet memory of learning the Duke Ellington songbook at the workshop when she was a teenager. Rachael Price, another Nashville native who’s known to WMOT listeners as the singer in pop roots band Lake Street Dive, performs a duet with her guitar-playing, songwriting partner Vilray, reminding folks of the striking throwback album of original jazz songs they released last year. 

Keb’ Mo’ brings the blues roots of jazz with a studio take on “I Remember You” from his 2019 album Oklahoma. Jeff Coffin plays original music from his upstairs studio here in Nashville. Star trumpet player Rod McGaha, a NJW mainstay, plays with the organization’s founders, Lori Mechem on piano and Roger Spencer on bass. Drummer Jeff Hamilton plays an uncanny solo version of “A Night In Tunisia” and Victor Wooten plays impromptu on electric bass. All this and more is held together with charismatic emcee work by sax star Kirk Whalum, who rounds out the night with a solo take on “It’s A Wonderful World.” 

2020 would have been a year of moving and shaking for the Nashville Jazz Workshop even without the tumult of pandemic times. The non-profit celebrated its 20th anniversary and moved from its long-time home tucked away in the old Neuhoff complex in Germantown to a new building on Buchanan St. in North Nashville’s Buena Vista neighborhood. Now classes have gone online for the time being, with robust enrollment they say.

The Jazzmania video has a 30 minute pre-roll with a performance by the NJW Young Artist Ensemble, so you can see who’s coming along next to pick up the music’s torch. 


Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org