Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center

A Best Bet from Margaret

If you are a jazz fan who’s not heard of Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center, you’re in for a treat. Founded in 2014 by Bellingham drummer and educator Julian MacDonough to teach improvisation, group playing, and jazz history to youth, the organization hosts concerts throughout the year with seasoned and regional performers from around the Northwest and beyond, usually on Wednesday evenings. Performers have included Harold Mabern, Jimmy Heath, Kelley Johnson, The Small’s All Stars, Greta Matassa, and Kevin Woods. Woods, a trumpeter, composer, and assistant professor of music and jazz area coordinator at Western Washington University, will usher in the 2017-2018 season at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at a new, vibrant venue in downtown Bellingham: the Sylvia Center for the Arts, at 209 Prospect St., next to Whatcom Museum’s Syre Education Center. WJMAC started its performances at The Majestic on North Forest Street, moved to Unity Church last season, and now has its permanent home at the Sylvia Center, the first organization outside of the iDiOM Theater to be a resident company at this venue. Bellingham jazz historian Milt Krieger, author of “The Less Subdued Excitement: A Century of Jazz in Bellingham and Whatcom County, Washington,” says that “WJMAC‘s move to Sylvia returns jazz to previously sacred ground. Turn-of-the-millennium WWU jazz students lived, rehearsed and jammed upstairs. WJMAC stalwarts Julian MacDonough, Roger Yamashita and Kevin Woods were on that scene.” Dave McConnell, chair of WJMAC’s board of directors, adds that the Sylvia is the kind of space the group’s been searching for. “Jazz is a ‘downtown’ art,” he says, “and arriving on the ground floor of this new space is a perfect fit.” Chuck Eberdt, also on the board, says “There is so much about this that is exciting that it should be difficult to choose.  But it really isn’t – I think the coolest part about this is joining forces with a group who have the drive to create a arts center for the community.  That is at the heart of WJMAC – trying to inspire young musicians from Bellingham area who are interested in this most American of arts forms while bringing together music fans for regular live performances.” He adds “I think this move will make WJMAC more visible to community as well – both because of the association with the theater folks as well as the great downtown location.  I like that we will give folks another reason to frequent the Center; that we will help to make it a vibrant place where people want to be – as performers as well as audience.” Wednesday’s concert is a tribute to hard-bop pianist and composer Horace Silver. Woods will be joined by Cory Weeds on tenor saxophone, Tony Foster on piano, Michael Glynn on bass, and WJMAC artistic director Julian MacDonough on drums. Tickets at the door are $10 general, $5 students, and free for WJMAC members. Doors open at 6:30  p.m., and the Sylvia is handicapped-accessible. To get  to the performance space, go down the side entrance between the Syre Center and what was once was the Cascade Laundry Building. Beer, wine, cider, and soft drinks are available for purchase eventually, but not at this concert. On his Facebook page, MacDonough offers more on the Sylvia Center: https://youtu.be/ohlaHI6h-TA. For details on the Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center, go to wjmac.org or search on Facebook.