Thanks to music producer Al Strong, the Chapel Hill jazz scene is getting cooler.
Jazz advocacy organization The Art of Cool Project hosted a live jam session that featured local musicians at Jack Sprat Cafe on Friday.
The jam session followed the performance of jazz group the Overtone Quartet at Memorial Hall, which was also sponsored by The Art of Cool Project.
Created by Al Strong and Cicely Mitchell of Durham-based Al Strong Music Productions, The Art of Cool Project is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase the visibility of the Triangle’s jazz scene.
Strong, an adjunct professor at North Carolina Central University and a trumpeter since adolescence, said he hoped the jam session would encourage people to support the local live music scene.
He said the Triangle’s jazz musicians are comparable to those currently playing in New York City.
“We want to shine a brighter light on the quality of the live music scene, whether it’s jazz, R&B or blues,” Strong said.
Friday’s event was the kickoff of multiple jam sessions the project will host in the spring, said Mitchell, who received her doctorate in public health and biostatistics from UNC in 2011.
The Art of Cool Project also sponsored a collection of donations at the event to support the musicians who played.
“A lot of people were very generous with their donations,” Strong said. “The support was there.”
Strong was inspired to create the group last year after noticing how spread out the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill jazz scenes are, he said.
Hoping to bridge the gap between the three scenes, Strong and Mitchell formed the organization. They now publicize local musicians’ events through the project’s website and around the Triangle.
“We want to show how important and vibrant the jazz scene here is,” Mitchell said.
The project’s foundational event is a monthly concert featuring local jazz musicians every third Friday at LabourLove Gallery, an art gallery in Durham.
It was through one of these concerts that Stephen Anderson, a UNC professor, became part of The Art of Cool Project.
Mitchell asked him if his trio, the Stephen Anderson Trio, would play one night at LabourLove Gallery. He said yes and has been connected with the project ever since, he said.
“Before, we (local jazz musicians) were separate individuals,” Anderson said. “Cicely brought us all together under the blanket of The Art of Cool.”
Strong said that he sometimes wonders if the public would miss the live jazz scene if it wasn’t there.
But he is motivated by his passion for the music to create a noticeable place for it in the Triangle, he said.
“People recognize our support for (the music), and like a gravitational pull, people are drawn to it,” Strong said.
“We continue to do it because we love it.”
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