Eight jazz bands, ranging from small combos to “Big Bands,” will perform at the Crowne Plaza at 801 Greenwich Avenue Thursday beginning at 5:30 p.m. for the annual Cool Jazz Concert.
The event will feature Jerry Bergonzi, who played with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music. Bergonzi is often referred to as one of the world’s best tenor saxophonists and will perform a song with each band during the show.
“Everybody gets to play with Jerry,” said Byron Siegal, founder of Jazz Vermont, a 5½-day band camp for adult jazz musicians. “Beyond being a great player, he’s a terrific person. I count him as my friend.”
The concert will also showcase trombone player Jeff Galindo, who has been on the faculty at Berklee College of Music. He played with the Ray Charles Orchestra and most recently has been touring as sideman with Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spaulding.
“He’s a tremendous musician,” said Siegal.
The concert is the culmination of work by this year’s group of Jazz Vermont participants. Eighty-seven musicians are taking part.
“It’s not about me; it’s not about Jerry,” said Siegal, who is also a musician and studied with Bergonzi. “It’s about what the musicians can do. We always have a blast. To just play music, have a great time doing it and share that experience with my friends is pretty cool. Everybody dreamt of being a musician, and this gives them one week of that. We give them their dream for one week.”
Jazz Vermont originated in 1985 at the Green Trails Inn in Brookfield, Vt. For 27 of its 29 years it was held in Vermont, with one year in Maine. This year marks the first time its begin held in Rhode Island, where Siegal hopes to host it in the future.
Participants come from all walks of life and throughout the world, said Siegal, including Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Israel, Norway, Canada, Japan and more. While some are more skilled than others, they are required to be able to read music at an intermediate level. Everyone is assigned to a band with its own musical director.
“Musical directors are aware of the ability of their players and select music that fits,” Siegal said. “And there’s usually a lot of experimenting before they plan a program for Thursday night.”
The camp, which has been featured on “The Today Show,” PBS and the nation’s most prominent publications, kicked off Sunday. Each day begins with an optional early morning walk, followed by breakfast. Rehearsals then start at 9:30 and go on through the afternoon, with a break for lunch. Afterwards, they gather for an improvisational workshop Bergonzi teaches. On some days, they then break into smaller groups for more rehearsal before dinner.
Siegal said the Crowne Plaza is an ideal location, as it is equipped with the space they need. They are using all of its conference and function rooms, excluding the plaza ballroom.
“We’re using about 20,000 square feet of their space,” he said, noting that participants and staff members are occupying about 120 hotel rooms. More than 20 additional individuals are taking part in another program Siegal offers, which consists of yoga and painting classes, plus field trips.
The idea for the camp was born when Siegal, a former attorney, was a law student. Siegal was living next to a music company when the owner heard him playing saxophone and asked him if he played clarinet, as he needed a clarinet player for his band. Siegal joined, and by the end of the summer started the Vermont Law School Community Jazz Ensemble and served as director. When he watched a TV interview for a baseball fantasy camp soon after, he decided to create the camp.
These days, he loves offering musicians the chance to do what they love. He also enjoys giving the public the opportunity to attend an inexpensive concert, as the show is $5 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under.
“Can you go to a movie for $5?” Siegal said with laugh.
Visit www.JazzCamp.com for more information, or stop by the Crowne Plaza this week to register for next year’s camp.