Weekly Feature

2018-01-31 / Front Page

Musician part of flourishing jazz scene


Percussionist and composer John Bacon Jr. performs at the 2017 Rochester Jazz Festival. He was recently recognized in the JazzBuffalo Poll. Percussionist and composer John Bacon Jr. performs at the 2017 Rochester Jazz Festival. He was recently recognized in the JazzBuffalo Poll. Musicians are mixing the old with the new and keeping jazz a relevant style of music in the area.

“Buffalo has always had that kind of blue collar mentality but has always been on the cutting edge of the avant-garde at the same time. I feel like the jazz scene is that same way,” said John Bacon Jr., a percussionist and composer. “Musicians are making music work in their lives both as an occupation and as a creative force.”

He added that while musicians are playing at churches, weddings, concerts and other venues, they’re also writing music and getting fresh ideas out there.

A native and resident of the City of Tonawanda, Bacon teaches percussion at the University at Buffalo and is the head of jazz at Villa Maria College.

He has performed with Lester Bowie, Roswell Rudd, Bobby Previte, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bobby Militello, and as a leader in a variety of ensembles.

Bacon’s music is featured on recent CDs, including “Pausa Live” with the Buffalo Jazz Octet on Cadence Records and “Migration” by resAUnance with vocalist Esin Gunduz, cellist Jonathan Golove and pianist Michael McNeill, on FMR records.

On Monday, Bacon was recognized for his talents at the annual JazzBuffalo Poll Celebration, which was held at the Screening Room in Amherst.

As a 2017 JazzBuffalo Poll winner, he took home the categories of Jazz Drummer and Jazz College/University Educator. Groups that he performs in were also recognized at the ceremony.

“JazzBuffalo is an organization that promotes jazz events and just tries to act as a conduit between the jazz community and the public,” Bacon said.

The organization helps bring attention to the jazz scene, whether it’s through jazz news, performances, concerts, festivals, or other forms of media.

“We don’t have a jazz radio station. Generally the jazz scene — although it’s very rich and active — doesn’t garner as much notoriety as some other things that are happening in Buffalo, even dance or theater, which tend to get a lot of publicity,” Bacon said.

“One of the things that’s really great about the jazz scene in Buffalo is that we are rooted in the traditions but we have very much forward thinking musicians, which has really been a significant part of the art scene in Buffalo all through its history.

“It’s very rooted in tradition but is also creating new art, new things. The jazz scene is really doing that.”

According to Bacon, all the groups that he has performed in are not only performing repertoire from the past but performing brand new compositions by all the members of the ensemble.

He describes the feeling as being unforced and natural. He said they’re not trying to recreate the past in any way, but take what’s relevant and showcase it in their own way.

Since he started playing music at the early age of 4, Bacon doesn’t remember ever not being a musician. He enjoys the stylistic variation that he’s able to employ.

“Percussion drums are like the heartbeat of the music. They’re the most basic level of the music … the way that it develops over time and its structure. Because of that, drumming and percussion can fit into virtually any style.”

Bacon is also involved with a project called the Buffalo Jazz Composers Workshop. Its members are writing new pieces for jazz ensemble.

The group meets from 8 to 10 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month at Stamps, located at 98 Main St. in Tonawanda.

“We thought there wasn’t anything like this happening in Tonawanda. It seemed like a natural to maybe take something that was really outside of the sphere and put it there and see if it’ll grow. We’re looking for people to come out and have a good evening with us.”

Next month, resAUnance has a concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the Baird Recital Hall on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. For more information, visit wwww.calendar.buffalo.edu.

For more information on Bacon, visit his website at www.johnbaconjr.com.

email: aderosa@beenews.com

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