It’s the “little jazz series that could,” as dubbed by Jon Poses, executive director of the “We Always Swing Jazz Series.” And it will have achieved a real coup when Paquito D’Rivera, a 2005 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, comes to Columbia on Thursday to lead a workshop and perform at the Missouri Theatre.
As a jazz master, the Havana-born clarinetist, saxophonist and recipient of both American and Latin Grammy awards has toured the country for the “NEA Jazz Masters on Tour” since mid-2005. The tour, which provides performance and educational opportunities for jazz musicians and audiences across the country, chose sites rich in jazz appreciation to act as hosts of the jazz masters in all 50 states.
Columbia’s Jazz Series was chosen as a tour site through a combination of an invitation from the National Endowment for the Arts and a review of the Jazz Series’ proposal by a panel of what Christy Dickenson of Arts Midwest, the administrative organization for the tour, describes as “jazz peers.”
To make a longish story short, the “We Always Swing Jazz Series” rocked the “jazz peers” panel and was named one of two host sites in Missouri. This is relevant because the Jazz Series is a community-based program, said Poses; most tour sites are in larger cities and/or affiliated with universities.
The Jazz Series has used the $5,000 NEA tour site allocation for two Jazz Master functions: a Milt Hinton exhibition early this year and D’Rivera’s visit. Poses said that as a legend who has never performed in Columbia, D’Rivera was a prime candidate for the Jazz Series.
Making the occasion more special is that it’s the Dr. Carlos Perez-Mesa Memorial Concert. The annual performance is hosted by a native Cuban musician in honor of Perez-Mesa, a longtime supporter of the Jazz Series.
“We’re trying to expose the community to a great artist,” Poses said. “This epitomizes what the Jazz Series is all about.”