Jazz in Arizona has been keeping the genre alive in Phoenix since 1977. But this month, the nonprofit behind The Nash is hosting its first gala to raise funds for education and performance programs.
“This is a momentous occasion for us,” says Joel Goldenthal, The Nash’s executive director.
The Bash for the Nash is an evening of cocktails, a live auction, music and dinner at The Heard Museum on Saturday, April 23.
The evening will feature the sound of saxman Houston Person in an all-star quartet with Eric Gunnison on piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass and namesake Lewis Nash on drums, plus Italian-born jazz vocalist Roberta Gambarini.
The evening will include additional performances by students of The Nash’s education programs, including Phoenix Jazz Girls Rising and The Nash Legacy Ensembles.
Person is known for his longtime association with legendary vocalist Etta James, as well as collaborations with dozens of jazz luminaries and more than 75 albums as bandleader.
“Houston Person and Lewis Nash are leading the group,” he says. “Houston is world-renowned tenor saxophonist, who plays at jazz parties and cruises around the world.
“He played for 30 years for Etta James. Lewis Nash is the gentleman whose name is on the building. He’s had 500 CDs and performed with every jazz luminary.”
Gambarini was introduced to jazz during her youth in Italy and moved to the United States, where she received a scholarship to The New England Conservatory of Music. She has a stellar career, forming musical associations with jazz giants including James Moody, Hank Jones, Jimmy Heath and Roy Hargrove.
Youth in Phoenix have an extraordinary opportunity to take classes in jazz helmed by college-level educators, thanks to Jazz in Arizona.
“Our education programs are unique in that they are offered at no other institution,” Goldenthal says. “Our niche is ensemble programs. If you are a high school student who wants to play as an ensemble, there are few options. There is no opportunity in the system for musicians to get together and play in small ensembles, which is, in fact, what a musician does in the bulk of his career, typically.”
The ensemble programs are 14 weeks of meetings. The product of their work is performances, but, during COVID-19, it pivoted to recordings.
“They were able to put together first-rate, studio-quality recordings,” Goldenthal says.
“This added experience for the students. They all became their own recording engineers and developed communication skills that might not have happened in the other setting.”
Phoenix Jazz Girls Rising another program, this time geared toward girls 10 to 17 years old.
“It’s no secret that the jazz world is a good old boys network,” he says. “From the get-go, young girls are in a very nurturing, all-female environment. It’s so successful that we have two different programs and the music they produce is astounding.”
The Bash for the Nash
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23
WHERE: Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix
INFO: 602.321.1459, thenash.org/event/the-bash-for-the-nash-gala