Nashville: Not Just A Country Scene But A Place To Go For Jazz

Aug 23, 2018

"It used to be: 'Nashville — that's where you come to play country music.'"

Joe Spivey is voicing a prevailing view of his adopted hometown, one that has endured for the better part of a century. But Spivey — a fiddler in The Time Jumpers, the swingingest band in Music City — knows better. He definitely plays his share of country music, but he's also one of a burgeoning number of musicians who make up the robust and soulful Nashville jazz scene.

Jazz Night in America had been hearing great things about that scene, which largely flies under the national radar. A couple of years ago I did some recon at ground level, meeting with players like Spivey, guitarist Andy Reiss and saxophonists Jeff Coffin and Evan Cobb. Everybody told me the same thing: that Nashville has always nurtured a small but serious jazz culture, and that its constituency, like so much else in this booming city, is growing at a prodigious rate.

Our host, bassist-composer-bandleader Christian McBride, who's performed in Nashville several times, had also flagged it as a place for further exploration. So the Jazz Night team hit the road to scope out the scene and meet up with some of its enterprising artists.

In this episode of our radio show, we'll spend time with the musicians mentioned above, as well as trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick; bassist John Estes and saxophonist Doug Mosher; and the twin brothers Rahsaan and Roland Barber, who respectively play tenor saxophone and trombone. We'll hear music from Rudy's Jazz Room, the happening new club in town, featuring bands on Coffin's label, Ear Up Records. We'll get a crash course in Nashville's hidden jazz history, at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Oh, and we'll hear what happens with McBride sat in with The Time Jumpers on their legendary Monday-night gig at 3rd & Lindsley. Nashville — that's where you come to play jazz. It may not be the case for everyone, but it was true for Jazz Night, and it's getting truer all the time. — Nate Chinen

 Copyright 2018 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.