West Texas, being the heart of cowboy country, is probably not the first place one would guess where the longest running jazz party in the United States would take place but indeed, Odessa continues to be the host of the performance.
Since 1967, jazz music has found a home in the hearts and ears of music-loving West Texans in the Permian Basin and this year’s 55th annual Jazz Party will be held over the course of three days at both the Odessa Marriott and The Ector Theatre.
This year’s party will begin with a performance from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday at the Odessa Marriott Ballroom.
Friday will feature a free concert from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Ector Theatre, which is sponsored by the Odessa Arts Council’s Hot Summer Nights.
Saturday’s performances will be back at the Odessa Marriott Ballroom 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., respectively.
Thursday and Saturday’s performances will go for $25 per person.
Over 20 performers will square off each day to play.
“This is the 55th performance and it started many years ago and now is the longest running jazz party in the United States,” CVA Advertising and Marketing President Craig Van Amburgh said. “That’s what makes this so very special. Since we had to cancel it last year because of the COVID situation, every artist that we’ve asked to come back this year jumped on the opportunity. This year, realistically, this is an all-star year. We have some of the greatest jazz players in the world that will be here.”
The performers this year will include Harry Allen on tenor sax, John Allred on trombone, Peter Anderson and Will Anderson both on reeds, Dan Barrett on trombone, Rebecca Kilgore as a vocalist, Ricky Malichi on drums, Eddie Mertz Jr. on drums, Nate Najar on guitar, Nikki Parrot on double bass and vocals, Russ Phillips on trombone, Brian Piper on piano, Chuck Redd on drums, Randy Sandke on trumpet, Richard Simon on double bass, Daniela Soledade as a vocalist, Rossano Sportiello on piano, Frank Tate on bass, Warren Vache Jr. on trumpet and cornet and Johnny Varro on piano.
Van Amburgh weighed in on this year’s lineup, including the Anderson twins who are among the best woodwind players in the country and are also no strangers to the Odessa area.
“I was fortunate enough to see the Anderson twins when they were here in ’19,” Van Amburgh said. “They were child prodigies playing woodwind instruments and they’re very energetic and fun to watch. They’re very talented. They’re some of the younger talent that will be coming to the party so we’re always excited to see them come back.”
Peter Anderson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard and has performed at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis and was featured in the 2014 Grammy-winning soundtrack of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks.
Will Anderson, who’s been called a “virtuoso on clarinet and saxophone” by the New York Times, was a featured soloist at the 2020 Newport Jazz Festival.
Just like Peter, he has performed at the Lincoln Center Orchestra and was also heard in the Boardwalk Empire soundtrack.
Along with his twin brother, Will has headlined at Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival, just to name a few.
Another highlighted performer includes Parrot who is a celebrated bass player and vocalist from Australia.
“Nikki sings like a bird and plays the upright double bass while singing,” Van Amburgh said. “She’s Australian and has spent the last several years in New York City and she was the bass player for Les Paul at his club in New York City called the Iridium. She played for Paul for many years and she is a great solo artists.
Like many of the performers this year, Parrot has played in Odessa in the past.
“She was here in 2018 and is coming back,” Van Amburgh said.
Talk about a great performer.”
Playing on guitar, Najar is making his return to the Jazz Party after a two-year absence.
“Najar is another good artist that will be here,” Van Amburgh said. “Nate is an incredible guitar player. He was here at the last jazz party in 2019 but I also saw him in 2018. What’s cool, he’s married to Daniela Soledade. She’s an incredible singer from South America. She sings bossa nova like nobody else’s business. It is so much fun.”
Van Amburgh said that an interesting feature of this show is that the 20 artists will rotate about five to seven at a time on stage and play a 15-20 minute set before the next group follows.
“The band is constantly changing and you get to see these incredible players,” Van Amburgh said. “It’s one of the times of the year where they can jam with other jazz musicians and really let loose. This is a big thrill.”
The Jazz Party’s history has included flopping locations back and forth between Odessa and Midland.
“Over the years, each city has hosted the Jazz Party,” Van Amburgh said. “But when it began, it was a party that was almost for jazz enthusiasts only. It was almost like a private party.”
However, in the last 20 years, Van Amburgh said it has transitioned to where it opened up to the general public.
“This year, this is what makes it very special, two of the nights are going to be in the Marriott Hotel in Odessa and then Friday night, it’s pretty specially because it’s part of summer nights with the Odessa arts association. They’re putting on the jazz party on the stage at Ector Theatre and it’s free to anyone who wants to attend. They will need to get a ticket but they can go online and get that or drop by the Ector Theatre. They are free and they will be able to see all these incredible jazz players Friday night for free.”
For more information, visit https://www.wtjs.org/.