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Arts & Culture

Through collaboration, WNY music scene grows with Jazz Impressions: 1968

Nick Lippa

A new annual region-wide jazz initiative is starting next month. Buffalo area musicians and writers are coming together to put on a series of concerts celebrating and reflecting on the music of 1968.

Last year, percussionist and music educator John Bacon Jr. started his annual initiative with a musical project celebrating the 100th birth year of Thelonious Monk.

That did well, but Bacon wanted to go bigger this year.

“After we completed that, I looked at everything and I said next year, we definitively need to get some more money,” said Bacon. “I also need to get some other people involved to help me.”

Some of those other people are from the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation, who is providing $3,000 dollars to help fund 9 concerts throughout Western New York. The initiative is titled Jazz Impressions: 1968.

Bacon said it being the 50-year anniversary sparked the idea.

“It was a turbulent year. It was a monumental year in America’s history. A lot of important music and events occurred. We’re trying to commemorate that,” he said.

Credit John Bacon Jr.
Drummer John Bacon

You’ll hear jazz standards like Herbie Hancock’s "Speak Like a Child" and an entire concert dedicated to the progressive electronic works of Miles Davis.

“Star People, a group which does all Miles Davis music, is going to be visiting the albums ‘Filles de Kilimanjaro’ and 'Miles in the Sky’ which were record albums that bridged that gap between Miles Davis’ acoustic music and his electronic music,” Bacon said.

But there will also be some interesting interpretations of well-known tunes like "Blackbird"…

The Buffalo Jazz Octet performs/interprets "Blackbird"

…as well as a very saxophone inducing version of "House Burning Down".

The Buffalo Jazz Octet performs/interprets "House Burning Down"

“Everyone who I approached from the Buffalo Jazz Collective to the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, to ultimately the Sportsmen’s Americana Foundation were just so receptive to the idea,” Bacon said. “They were as excited about the idea as I was to organize it and work with the other musicians, composers and literary artists to put it together.”

Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation President Robert McLennan said they’re supporting the initiative because their goal is to expand all americana music across Western New York.

“Americana music is such a big umbrella. It includes jazz,” McLennan said. “Jazz is just as important as country or bluegrass, blues, rock and roll… anything. It’s a big umbrella that encompasses a lot of music. So we didn’t want to be pigeonholed in to one type of music or any one area of Western New York.”

It hasn’t always been easy to get people out for jazz concerts according to Sportsmen’s Tavern Owner Dwane Hall. He’s been bringing jazz musicians in to his venue for the past 20 years.

“It’s tough to get people out see it. Especially in a honky-tonk environment like the Sportsmen’s Tavern,” Hall said. “As the reputation of the bar grew and me being persistent and bringing jazz in, people have started finally coming out to watch jazz.”

Hall believes this is the start of something special.

“Buffalo as a whole music scene has always been very cool,” he said, “but I think that’s what happening with the growth of the city is only going to improve and help the local scene get much more popular.”

McLennan said working with jazz has brought in a new audience.

“Then, when they come here once, they enjoy the place. They’ll be back the next time for maybe something that wasn’t quite in their wheelhouse to begin with, and it expands their appreciation of music as well,” McLennan said.

Bacon said he plans on doing a new theme every year.

“Tentatively next year we’re going to have the theme be jazz at the movies. So we will be looking at all different ways jazz has interacted with the movies and can presently interact with the movies,” Bacon said.

With musicians like Bobby Militello, George Caldwell, and even Buffalo News Music Critic Jeff Miers on board, the jazz scene continues to grow in Buffalo, one collaboration at a time.


JAZZ IMPRESSIONS: 1968  Calendar of Events

Thursday, October 11, 2018, 7:30p

Pausa Art House

Solos and Ensembles


Thursday, October 18, 2018, 7:30p

UB Baird Recital Hall


Friday, October 19, 2018

West Falls Center for the Arts, West Falls, NY


Tuesday, October 23, 2018 11a

Villa Maria Recital Hall


Friday, November 2, 2018 8p

Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium

Buffalo Jazz Octet: The Music of 1968


Saturday, November 10, 2018 7:30p

Taylor Theatre at the Kenan Center


Sunday November 11, 2018 2:30p
Buffalo History Museum

Star People Plays Miles Davis in 1968


Wednesday, November 14, 2018 8p

Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center

The Buffalo Jazz Composers Workshop and Poetry Alliance Featuring new works for poetry and Jazz Ensemble.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018 6p

Flying Bison Brewery

Jazz Impressions: 1968 - Celebration!

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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