story & photography by Will Hutchison
If my iPhone wears out, it will be on “My Funny Valentine” by Chet Baker. I was first captured by the “jazz sound” as a teenager. Later, it was my good fortune to work my way through college as a jazz musician, doing what I loved, jamming with my best buddies. How cool is that!
So it’s not surprising that today I look for jazz everywhere, especially in my hometown. In my past, jazz music was simply Dixieland, traditional jazz as played by Louis Armstrong and the Dukes of Dixieland; and progressive modern jazz, by such greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. My Gettysburg journey was a search for the latter, in all its current forms.
There are two basic venues for modern jazz: academic and entertainment; Gettysburg is fortunate to have both. The Gettysburg College Sunderman Conservatory of Music is the foundation of the area jazz community. It regularly invites world-class jazz talent to present gala concerts in Gettysburg’s Majestic Theater and sponsors intimate lunchtime “Brown-Bag Jazz” events. Guests have included Delfeayo Marsalis, Paquito D’Rivera, and Kenny Garrett.
Within the conservatory is the jazz ensemble, under the directorship of Paul Carr, a world-renowned jazz saxophonist and festival promoter. He brings his talent and vast knowledge from his Washington, D.C., home to work with the ensemble. The ensemble consists of advanced college students with a keen interest in jazz. They perform locally, at settings like the Majestic Theater, as well as at major events throughout the country and internationally.
Working with Paul, but living in Gettysburg, is Paul Austerlitz, professor of music and Africana studies. He is coordinator of jazz at the conservatory and directs the Jazz Dispatch, a small select group of students focused primarily on jazz improvisation. They perform at the college’s Schmucker Hall, the Majestic, and at venues in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Musicians from the Dispatch play in area restaurants, bars, wineries, and at local functions. Follow local newspapers and social media if you want to catch a performance.
Aside from his college responsibilities, Austerlitz is a prominent influence on the local jazz scene. He plays bass clarinet, tenor saxophone and sometimes flute. He appears locally with the Jazz Doctors. The name reflects that fact that both members of the duo — Austerlitz and pianist Ben Kennedy — hold doctorates in their respective disciplines. Austerlitz blends his background in musical studies from Africa, South America and the Caribbean into an amazing fusion of modern jazz, complemented by the Kennedy’s exceptional keyboard talent. They will touch the soul of any jazz enthusiast.
Karl Held is the executive chef at the Parrot Restaurant, located half a block off the Gettysburg Square on Chambersburg Street. Not only does he oversee an excellent culinary experience, he is also a jazz enthusiast. Moreover, he is responsible for a new dynamic energy on Friday nights with the Jazz Doctors, who entertain at the Parrot from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Reservations are a good idea.)
Tom Colgan is another jazz performer who appears around town and at the Parrot. Tom is a splendid jazz pianist who plays routinely as a single, though he claims to be retired. His sound is rich and flowing. If you have a passion for jazz, you must hear Tom play.
As I was researching this article, I found a hidden jewel. I first heard Pomona’s Trio perform at the Adams County Arts Center, then at an area eatery. I was blown away. Their name is derived from their original home, the Pomona Bakery Cafe, formerly owned by the group’s leader, Marc Jalbert. Jalbert plays guitar, Bret Crawford plays tenor and soprano saxophone, and Lisa Cadigan is the vocalist. Bret is an improvisation master, while Marc lays down a solid rhythmic foundation, with impeccable guitar solos. Lisa has a superb jazz voice, which soars gracefully around the theme of any tune she sings. They have been in existence about seven years, but you would swear they have played together forever. You can hear the Trio at Hauser Estate Winery’s “19 on the Square” downtown and at the Parrot Restaurant. You will not be disappointed.
And what about the future of local jazz? As you can see, there is a recurring theme developing. It appears the Parrot is becoming the go-to place for jazz in Gettysburg.
Also, Karl Held, through his past connections in the New York music world, is contemplating a future culinary and wine jazz festival. There is even a local couple who mentioned the possibility of opening a jazz club in little old Gettysburg. Wouldn’t that be nice!
Other excellent groups around town mix jazz tunes into their performances, but those mentioned here are dedicated to the art form. Check local newspapers and social media for dates and times for “all that jazz.”