And all that…

Jazz & Beyond series continues with Jimmy Leach Jazztet at the Dayton Art Institute


Jimmy Leach brings his Jazztet to the DAI.

By Gary Spencer

There’s an old saying that if something isn’t broke, you don’t fix it. That certainly seems to be the case for the annual Jazz & Beyond series at the Dayton Art Institute. Its formula for success is rather simple but effective.

“Each year we offer six live music shows that primarily feature jazz bands,” says DAI Sponsorship & Special Events Manager Elaine Gounaris. “We strive for a diverse offering each year while still featuring crowd-pleasing favorites.”

Another element that has been instrumental in the series’ longetivity is DAI’s long-standing dedication to music, which is just as valuable an art form as any painting or sculpture on display.

“The series dates back to 1994, so it’s been a regular tradition at the Museum for almost 25 years,” Gounaris explains. “Music has been an integral part of the museum since its early days including regular community concerts and the long-running Vanguard Concerts chamber music series. Dayton has a rich tradition of a vibrant and active jazz community, so it was a natural extension to add a jazz series.”

The 2018 edition of Jazz & Beyond takes place in the intimate yet atmospheric surroundings of the Shaw Gothic Cloister inside the DAI Museum. According to Gounaris, it’s the perfect space to enjoy live music and has also been a key element of the series’ success.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous, historic setting with good acoustics, and very well suited to the ‘cabaret style’ seating arrangement we use for the concerts,” she explains. “The Gothic Cloister is certainly a premier event space in Dayton, and there really isn’t another venue like it for live music.”

This year’s Jazz & Beyond offers a little bit of everything that falls into and slightly out of the jazz genre. The 2018 series kicked off in March with Puzzle of Light and continues on select Thursdays through early November with Beatlejazz featuring the Phil DeGreg Trio, Bright Moments Quintet with Felita LaRock, the Central State University Jazz Band Ensemble, and others. The April 12th edition of the program will feature the Jimmy Leach Jazztet starring Oakwood-based trumpeter and singer Jimmy Leach.

Born in Oklahoma, Leach first picked up the trumpet at age 11 and was thought to be a prodigy with a natural ability to blow the horn. A few years later, the trumpeter discovered jazz and was drawn to it instantly. His love for the music and his uncanny ability to sing and play it at a young age led to much early musical success. Leach went on to earn a doctorate degree of Music from Boston University and has taught music all over the country, including a stint at Harvard University. Along the way, the trumpeter has performed with artists such as Johnny Mathis, Marlena Shaw, Thelonious Monk, Jr., Shirley Jones, and others. These days, Leach teaches jazz at the University of Dayton and performs music with his Jazztet, who will be making their Jazz & Beyond debut.

“I would describe the core of our sound as classic jazz,” Leach says. “Whether a person loves to listen to Michael Bublé and Chris Botti, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, or Miles and Coltrane, they will enjoy this show. We’ll have old and new tunes in swing, Latin, Bossa Nova, ballad, blues, and pop styles. The musicians in my group are all jazz professors at UD and the top players in Ohio. I would compare this concert to going to a fine restaurant. Everyone in the audience will be served the most delicious, thoughtfully prepared musical amuse-bouches, hors d’oeuvres, main courses, and desserts prepared by six of the top jazz chefs in Dayton, in an elegant atmosphere guaranteed to please the most refined and demanding musical palates.”

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising element of the Jazztet’s show is when they focus on the vocals. Leach’s concerts regularly feature songs performed in French, Hebrew, Japanese, Portugese, German, Italian and Spanish.

“Because of my classical training and experience singing in foreign languages as a soloist and in choirs, I love to sing jazz songs in their original language – Besame Mucho, Autumn Leaves, The Girl from Ipanema, etc.,” Leach explains. “A few jazz singers have included non-English lyrics over the years, but it is a fairly uncommon practice for American singers.”

No matter which night you decide to check out Jazz & Beyond, it is a sure-fire way to enjoy music and the DAI all in one evening.

“It is a terrific way to see how great our local music scene is in Dayton,” Gounaris says. “Admission to the concert also includes admission to our collection galleries. Where else can you hear great music and see amazing fine art from around the world?”

Jazz & Beyond takes place on April 12 and select Thursdays through November at the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park in Dayton. Admission is $8 to the general public and free for members. For more information, call 937.223.4278,
or visit daytonartinstitute.org

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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