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The art of jazz in the time of social distancing

By ThisIsReno

Submitted by Chuck Reider

We are all coping with COVID-19 as best we can so I thought today I would share how some local musicians are keeping jazz and more importantly our spirits alive and well.  Let’s start with Dallas Smith. 

Multi-instrumentalist Smith has been a professional musician as long as I have (that’s a long time…), played in the showrooms and has performed with his harpist wife Susan Mazer as long as I have known them (not quite as long a time).  They founded Healing Healthcare Systems, but that is a story for a different day.

They both do a lot of traveling and India is one of the regular stops where they have met, bonded, and performed with many Indian musicians. At one of those performances last year their friend Manish Savant shared the concert on Facebook Live. Savant has been in artist management for twenty years and instituted a weekly Facebook concert promoting artists and giving them a chance to get their name out in the world.

It seemed to Smith that Indian musicians are much more active on Facebook Live. This inspired Smith to do the same during the shelter in place pandemic restrictions. When they asked their employees at Healing Healthcare to work from home during this time, he and Mazer performed a concert just for staff online using Microsoft Teams. 

This time Facebook Live. May 10 at noon they turned on Facebook and performed for their European friends. Their online concerts run about thirty minutes.

Smith is working with his good friend and For the Love of Jazz (FTLOJ) President Scot Marshall to encourage local jazz musicians to perform online. They both host a Saturday evening jazz program on KNCJ as well the Reno Little Theater once a month jazz concerts. When the theater closed as a result of the pandemic they began to reach out to local jazz artists to perform online. 

Bassist Hans Halt is a jazz instructor at UNR and when the University was closed, all classes had to move to the internet. Lecturing on Zoom, though not preferable, is feasible.

However, teaching jazz combo improvisation classes is truly a challenge. There is this thing called latency which means there is a slight delay from the time one musician plays a note and the others hear it through Zoom or other similar applications. So, synchronous activities like live music are not practical.

Halt relies on asynchronous teaching, meaning students prerecord a solo send it to him to review and comment. Sometimes Halt will share the solos. The individual combo classes have become more of a jazz theory class and the Friday class where all the combos attend is now a Zoom session. Halt will assign a video for the students to watch and then discuss at the Friday meeting.  The YouTube video “Ramblin Boy” about bassist Charlie Haden was a recent assignment.  Looking for something to do? Check it out.  

Chuck Reider

Chuck has been a professional trombonist for over 45 years. He moved to the Reno-Tahoe area in 1978 where he played his first casino gig at the Cal-Neva and performed as a showroom musician with all the great entertainers from Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. to Diana Ross and Willie Nelson. He performed with the Reno Philharmonic for over 30 years, retiring in 2018.  He is a founding member of the Reno Jazz Orchestra and has been the Music Director since 2006. Chuck also worked as an engineer at NDOT for 18 years, has been married to his wife Candy for 33 years and they have two sons, Charlie and Matt.