Hail Mary? More like ‘Hail, Miles’ at Jazz Church

I’m not much of a church man.

Ten years of Catholic school coupled with endless news reports of religion-fueled violence and topped with ignorant opinions from the far right and even farther left has cured me of any Sunday habits.

But I do like churches, and I often admire their architecture, stained glass and historic beauty.

I also respect and will defend the right to worship whomever you want, no matter who you are. I don’t want to worship God, Buddha, Jah or Flying Spaghetti Monster, but if that’s your thing go for it.

But please, leave me out of it.

However, one church I can get behind is Jazz Church. It’s a gathering of music lovers and music lovers only, people with little interest in changing how you worship, but a great interest in broadening your musical palette. Jazz Church is a weekly gathering of music made by local musicians each Sunday at Moe’s.

It’s the brainchild of local musician Travis Dalenberg. He was looking at places to host an informal jazz jam, and after some venue difficulty, it landed on the patio of Moe’s. Although it’s an open event in name, where you can find musicians like Dalenberg on guitar, Chris Ross on trumpet, Ryan McCurry on keyboards or Neil Hemphill on drums, it’s not necessarily for the beginner. That’s good for us listeners, because there’s much to be found aurally within the jazz spectrum.

“All those guys there are not novices, but while we are open for just about anybody to play, we do recommend some experience,” Dalenberg said. “You can come down, listen, and say ‘OK, I’m going to learn how to play ‘So What’ and next week be practiced, and come up and play that one tune. We can make it nice and easy for you, and then sometimes the experienced guys are up there so we get a little crazy. It’s been open to Latin, funk, fusion, straight ahead, bebop – we even had a guy come up and freestyle, so we’ve been doing a lot of stuff.”

Jazz Church has recently adopted another trick from its liturgical namesakes – the passing of the collection plate. Dalenberg, who also teaches guitar at Katzin Music, is interested in growing Katzin’s scholarship program. For years, Katzin Music has collected money to help students take lessons. Money collected at Jazz Church will go toward the scholarship fund, and Moe’s donates a dollar from every drink purchased during the “service.”

“The nice thing about Travis doing this with Jazz Church is, it will help diversify the type of student that we get,” said Jim Gillaspy, owner of Katzin Music. “We might get some drummers that get a scholarship, or more guitar players, trumpet players. It’ll broaden the spectrum a little bit.”

It’s also an effort to help the teachers keep teaching. As many music teachers at Katzin also are musicians at Jazz Church, it’s a way to give back to the performers to sustain their day jobs.

“We really need to give back to the teachers,” Gillaspy said. “We have 25 to 30 teachers at one time, and 350 to 400 students a week. It’s a big responsibility to keep teachers employed and keep students playing.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.