(Jazz pianist John Toomey is the backbone of the Attucks Jazz Series) 

By Jeff Maisey

If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of jazz concerts scheduled at various venues around Hampton Roads in the past few years there’s a good reason — it’s popular.

Like most music genres jazz isn’t a one-size-fits-all style. 

Characterized as “America’s classical music,” jazz was born from the seeds of ol’ ragtime and blues from the late 1800s in New Orleans’ African American communities. 

Over the course of the next one hundred years jazz evolved with regional influences from such cities as Chicago, Kansas City, and New York. Other musical styles melded to create new sub-genres like Gypsy jazz, Bebop, Cool jazz, jazz-rock fusion, and Latin/Afro-Cuban jazz. 

There’s also swing music from the roaring 1920s, Dixieland, acid jazz, and European jazz.

Among the greatest jazz artists spanning the decades: Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Max Roach, Stan Getz, Weather Report, Stanley Clark, Wynton Marsalis, Ramsey Lewis, and Charlie Parker.

Smooth jazz sprang up during the early 1980s, often mixing jazz, R&B, and soul. The sub-genre is both loved and disliked (by “purists”) but remains arguably the most popular with live concert audiences. Smooth jazz artists include the likes of Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Grover Washington Jr., Kenny G, Dave Koz, and Boney James. 

Many of the contemporary jazz artists have performed in concert venues throughout Hampton Roads. They may also have played the long-running Hampton Jazz Festival (marking its 53rd year June 26-28, 2020) and Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival (celebrating 38 years in 2020 with guitarist George Benson headlining).  

For those who travel, several cities offer a plethora of jazz clubs. In New Orleans, there are old school traditional hotspots like Preservation Hall and Fritzel’s European Jazz Club but also Sweet Lorraine’s and Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse. While in Paris, try Jazz Club Etoile, Le Duc des Lombards, Le Baiser Sale Jazz Social Club, La Cave du 38 Riv, and New Morning. 

In Hampton Roads, bars/restaurants/clubs dedicated to jazz music have come and gone just like clubs entertaining fans of other genres. Given our population size and diversity it seems like the region could sustain one jazz venue with a mix of local, regional and international talent. For a variety of reasons this does not appear to be the case — at least not yet. 

That said several local jazz enthusiasts have worked to to create a season worth of concert programming. These include the Attucks Jazz Series presented by the Virginia Arts Festival, the Church Street Jazz Series produced by Blue Pyramid Productions, and the Miller Jazz Series at Sandler Center. 

Back in July, the Phoebus Summer Jazz Series debuted with performances by Queen Esther Marrow, Cyrus Chestnut, and Randy Brecker. The series was programmed by local jazz radio host Jae Sinnett of WHRV-FM’s “Sinnett in Session” program. Sinnett, who is also an internationally-acclaimed drummer and composer, sat in during these concerts at the American Theatre. 

(Jay Lang of Hampton University’s 88.1 WHOV-FM also programs the Church Street Jazz Series)

To get some input from locals in the business of jazz, I reached out to several concert promoters, musicians, and radio programmers to gain some insights into the state of the jazz scene in our region. Taking time to participate in our virtual roundtable were Jay Lang (President & CEO Blue Pyramid Productions/station manager and on-air personality of Hampton University’s 88.1 WHOV-FM)), Jimmy Masters (jazz bassist/programmer of Sandler Center’s Miller Jazz Series), Karen Scherberger (CEO, Norfolk Festevents), Rob Cross (Executive Director/Artistic Director, Virginia Arts Festival), Richard Parison (Artistic Director, The American Theatre), John Toomey (jazz pianist, Old Dominion University music professor, Attucks Jazz Series collaborative partner), Bruce Bronstein (Executive Director, Ferguson Center for Performing Arts), and Elizabeth Terrell (local jazz singer/musician/Zeiders American Dream Theater, Company Manager).

Here’s our Q&A session. 

VEER: There seem to be more national level jazz concerts booked in our region than, say, 20 years ago. Do you think this is true and if so why? 

Jimmy Masters: There are. I credit events like the Attucks Jazz Series, produced in conjunction with the Virginia Arts Festival. Now in its 11th season, it features a who’s who of internationally known and regionally known jazz artists. The concerts are held once a month Sept-April [skipping December] and have featured some of the most legendary jazz artists. All the shows have sold out, almost since inception. John Toomey and I choose the artists for the series.

Additionally, the Diehn Concert Series at ODU brings in the same type of artists once a year. When Havana Nights Jazz Club was open in Virginia Beach it featured these same caliber artists on a monthly basis.

Also, I started a series at the Sandler Center in the Miller Studio Theater. It does not feature the artists that might play the Attucks Series, but rather I bring in players from Virginia who I know and have worked with over the years. The shows are themed: Art of the Trio, Broadway & Film, Nashville, The Songwriters…all done in a jazz setting and jazz arrangements. In the first three years of the series all of the shows have sold out.

Jay Lang:  Absolutely! Especially now nationally due to the growing success of the Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Fest, The Church Street Jazz Series, The Virginia Arts Festival and Jazz Legacy Weekend on a large scale, Hampton Roads, Norfolk in particular, has become a growing hotbed for smooth and contemporary jazz over the years. The Ferguson Center, American Theatre and a few local venues adding to that pie has made this a place musicians internationally, nationally and regionally want to come to to perform. A large number of jazz enthusiast live in this Mid-Atlantic region of the country.

Richard Parison: I think this is an accurate assessment.  Ultimately, the market makes demands on performing arts center and their artistic directors – and in my view, part of my job, is to be responsive to my community and region as relates to their desires for experiences in the cultural tapestry.  I can only respond to my time here in the last five years – and I know from my engagement with audience and patrons that Jazz is an important part of what they want to see, hear and experience.   

John Toomey: One thing that has helped is the expansion of the Jazz at the Attucks Series.  We used to present four artists in one month, but now we are presenting 7 artists spread out from September thru April.  Coupled with this addition the Virginia Arts Festival has also added free clinics with several of the artists that are presented in public schools in the mornings, then hosted by the Diehn School of Music at Old Dominion University.  Our students now get a chance on a regular basis to play for and receive feed back on a regular basis from artists such as Bobby Watson and Lori Williams.

Karen Scherberger:  The increase in national level jazz concerts has increased over the past 20 years as more entertainment venues have come on line, especially venues that are able to accommodate smaller and more intimate shows.

Elizabeth Terrell: I think what has changed is our exposure and awareness of the shows that are being booked. With the age of social media we have access to information much more frequently than in the past. Jazz has always thrived on the East Coast. 

Rob Cross: Yes, there are a lot more presenters and venues available than there where 20 years ago.

VEER: Is jazz music gaining in popularity overall in your opinion and if so, why? 

Jimmy Masters: I don’t believe so. I think there has been an audience for jazz in this area for years. Back in the ’80s when the Judges Chambers was happening it was crowded every night. Then there was Harvey’s, the Norfolk Airport Hilton, the Bienville Grill and other venues. There have been periods if time when we did not have an available venue, but by and large when we have had a venue it was supported…my opinion. Additionally, the Diehn series always has a good draw. Chandler Recital Hall is usually full for those concerts.

Jay Lang: First of all, it never died. The stations did. Not because people did not like it corporate sales departments didn’t know how to market, expand it and sell it to those who love it. So the bottom line numbers didn’t reach expectations. When the Smooth Jazz format virtually disappeared from dozens of markets around the country all at once, that audience never died. They were just in stunned disbelief, scattered and displaced. It’s like the amusements park was shut down but people still enjoyed being there and they still due. Sirius XM and the internet were a huge help in keeping Jazz alive and exposing the genre to a whole new generation. Having Smooth 88.1 WHOV in Hampton Roads and WHRO’s more traditional jazz programming has locally given the jazz listeners a place locally to find what they love to hear on the radio.

John Toomey: I do see more students coming in with an interest in jazz, and a desire to perfect their playing.  I think that series such as the Miller Jazz Series, the Attucks Jazz Series, and the Jazz Residency every April at ODU helps to get the word out.  Jae Sinnett also offered a new series this summer as well.

Karen Scherberger: Jazz music is a very broad term that covers a multitude of different Jazz styles, from Big Band, Traditional to Smooth and Latin Jazz, and several more Jazz genres.  I have seen an increase in Smooth and Latin Jazz popularity, as these genres appeal to a broad range of ages, cultures and musical interests.  These two forms of Jazz seem to be most popular with large audiences, such as with outdoor music festivals.

Rob Cross: There has been an increase in popularity in the region. We are lucky we have two radio stations that program jazz on a regular bases and the fact that Veer Magazine has knowledgeable writers that cover jazz. This has helped build awareness for the genre.

For the past 11 years the Festival has produced the Attucks Jazz Club, a monthly series at the historic Crispus Attucks Theatre.  We started with four concerts, and due to the popularity, we now have seven concerts in the series that regularly sell out.

Bruce Bronstein: We attribute any increase in popularity to the era of digital distribution and the ability of artists to reach a wider audience than ever before.

Elizabeth Terrell: I do think it is experiencing a resurgence and that is largely due to the shift in the way music is sold and listened to these days. Streaming services have thrown the doors wide open for all genres and with this current generation of jazz musicians pairing their talent with their internet savvy the dots are being connected from new music that is being created in the genre all the way back to its roots.

(Jazz great George Benson will headline the Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival in 2020)


VEER: In terms of demographics, who is the primary audience for live jazz performance? 

Richard Parison: For us at The American Theatre, our demographics remain diverse across ethnicities, races and generations – and that is exciting to me.    It is what I strive for as artistic director – I program a season to include artists, in this case jazz artists, that are going to reach across demographic divides and unite them all through the art. 

Jimmy Masters: Middle age and older. We don’t see many younger people attending concerts. I think some of this is driven by not having a really strong jazz program at a college or university. ODU is finally improving, has actually started a legitimate music school, so this may help, but without an active student body studying jazz you won’t see many younger people out listening to the music.

Jay Lang: 62% male and 38% female. The age demographic is 35-55+ years old. Income levels averaging about $65,000 to $1 million a year. And because jazz is considered a higher class specific sophisticated genre of music, I’m seeing a growing number of progressive successful 25-34 year olds in the audience at jazz performances. The ethnic composition varies depending on the popularity of the artist featured and music style.

Karen Scherberger: Each style of jazz has its own demographics.  Big Band and swing appeal primarily to an older adult/senior audience, yet you also see many young adults enjoying these sounds as part of the popularity of Swing and Ballroom Dancing. Traditional/contemporary jazz also appeals to an older audience, while Smooth and Latin Jazz in all its forms has a broad range of ages from young adult to older adults.  I’ve seen an increase in teens and young adults performing with smooth jazz bands and orchestras.

John Toomey:  I see a mixed audience of older jazz fans, younger professionals in their 30’s, as well as students.  Quite a mix.

Elizabeth Terrell: It has been an older generation for a LONG time. When I attend shows myself I’m often the youngest audience member by about 20 years, but I think we’ll see that continue to shift over time as well due to the massive exposure that streaming and social media offers. 

Rob Cross: It depends on the artist. There are groups that are die-hard jazz fans dedicated to the genre, and then there are those that look for vocalist or specific instruments.


VEER: From a promoter’s point of view — whether for concerts, festivals, or a local club show — are live jazz performances doing good ticket sales? 

Bruce Bronstein:  We typically present well-known artists, and attendance continues to meet or exceed our expectations. For example, we’ve presented Dave Koz for many years now, and at this point if we weren’t able to include him in our season we’d have a lot of disappointed fans on our hands. His holiday concert has become a Ferguson Center tradition, selling between 1,500 – 1,700 tickets. Jazz luminaries we’ve presented in recent years also include Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea, Ravi Coltrane, The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6, Boney James, Brian Culbertson and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Jimmy Masters: From my perspective they are. Again, reference my comments above regarding the Attucks and my Sandler Series and how well they are doing.

Jay Lang:Five years ago it was tough and took a lot of promotional leg work to sell tickets.It still does. It’s gotten better here in our area because the audience is constantly growing. Largely because unlike the days of a few local radios station that were formatted specifically, partial to and focused on jazz, now finding the right places to capture your audience for any concert has expanded. You still have to find the right local promotional avenues, and there are so many platforms to zero in on, to reach the right audience of ticket buyers when it comes to smooth and contemporary jazz.

Cyberspace and cell phones have provided so much to choose from these days to be entertained at the push of a button. With the support of Seven Venues and the city of Norfolk I’ve been producing the Church Street Jazz Series now for five years. And each year the audiences continue to grow larger with each concert.It still surprises me as to how many people attend concerts and shows in Hampton Roads in places that have been there for decades that they never knew existed. The Attucks Theater in downtown Norfolk on Church Street is in my opinion the only true “House Of Jazz” in Hampton Roads. The Virginia Arts Festival does very well with their intimate Attucks Jazz Club series on the 2nd floor. It’s got a New York jazz club feel.

Karen Scherberger: Speaking only from the perspective as an outdoor venue promoter,  ticket sales for our Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival and attendance at our free admission Latin Music Festival, have been increasing each year.

Rob Cross: Yes, both Attucks Jazz and Sandler Center jazz series in the Miller Studio consistently sell out. For higher profile artists like Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, also sell well in the right size venue. 

John Toomey: The Jazz at the Attucks Series and the Miller Jazz Series almost always sell out.  The Jazz Residnecy programs at ODU are often standing room only.

Richard Parison: A robust yes!

(Pieces of a Dream will perform January 11 at Attucks Theatre)


VEER: Are jazz music fans more interested in attending big name performers or are they also willing to attend shows by lesser known or up-and-coming artists? 

Rob Cross: Jazz fans are willing to do both. We work with John Tommey, Jimmy Masters, and Jae Sinnett to find lesser-known artists and curate programing for the dedicated jazz fan base. There is a loyal jazz community in our region.

Jimmy Masters: Again, based on my examples of the Attucks and the Sandler Jazz Series it would seem that the audience will support shows for people who are not as well known. Many of the artists who come to the Attucks are not -exactly household names yet the shows sell out, and the Sandler Series brings in only Hampton Roads, Richmond or Charlottesville players and they all sell out. I think it depends more on the type of event and how it is marketed.

Jay Lang: The big names always sell tickets faster but it costs a great deal more to secured them. Bob James and Jonathan Butler, two of the Church Street Jazz Series season finale concerts the last two seasons at the Harrison Opera House were sellouts in terms of attendance. On the other hand, at the Attucks Theater, the lesser known artists have a more realistic price point, but my advertising and marketing budget is double that needed for the more established names. If it weren’t for the sponsorship dollars offsetting the expenses and making it possible to make those shows available at a lower ticket price, the Church Street Jazz Series would not have survived and matured to it’s current sustainable posture.

Lesser known artists are known by their music but not their names. A much harder sell, but you have to take a chance on them to grown your base of artist to feature or you’ll keep bringing the same artists over and over. That can get stale. not many artist can play a market three times in a year like a Brian Culbertson. Each one of his shows is a a brand new experience.

I’ve got to mention Lindsey Webster at The Attucks. Smooth 88.1 WHOV was the first radio station in the country to play her first single, “Fool Me Once.” When I booked her at The Attucks with Marcus Anderson she was a newcomer to the industry just releasing her her first CD which lead to a Billboard Magazine Smooth Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award in 2016. I knew she had what it took to become the smooth jazz superstar she is today. I’ve had her back twice and the second time 300 more people showed up to see her than the first time, and thousands more last year at The Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival. We’ve become great personal friends ever since that day.

Karen Scherberger: For the large outdoor music festivals, fans are looking for big name performers; while smaller indoor venues are more inclined to include both lesser known as well as big name performers.

John Toomey: I see very positive results from both approaches.  The ODU Residency tends to bring in name artists, yet the Attucks varies.  Both do quite well.

Elizabeth Terrell: I’ve found both to be true! A big name performer will always have their own draw, but I have played several jazz nights around the area that have garnered a slew of loyal patrons. I think jazz simultaneously has a nostalgic yet mysterious appeal to it, and that will always be true for both the seasoned jazz listener and someone who is just sitting down at the table to explore the music.

Richard Parison: I also find signature artists are extremely interested in up-and-coming artists.  Whether performing a duet or as a supporting/opening act.   This often integrates a signature headliner’s performance with a new jazz artist or act – and audiences welcome and embrace it.


VEER: How important is the “experience” for concert goers in terms of the environment/atmosphere of the performance? 

Rob Cross: We take pride in the experience for the patron. The Attucks Jazz club does well because of the atmosphere of the show – it’s set up like a jazz club with a bar and general admission seating at bistro tables, a very different feel from a traditional theater style seating experience.

Richard Parison: The American Theatre prides ourselves on being a boutique performing arts center that puts the focus on artists – in an up close and intimate experience.  So yes, an experience for us at The American Theatre combines world class Jazz artists with first rate acoustics in an intimate venue.  Audiences love it – and return often for it.

Jimmy Masters: It matters if it’s a concert. I think the expectation is that the production will be at a high level and professional. It should be a different experience than playing in a club.

Elizabeth Terrell: It is crucial- a year or two you may remember your favorite song from the concert, but what will stand out the most about the experience is the FEELING you had that night and the environment sets that tone from the minute you walk in the door. 

Jay Lang: The Church Street Jazz Series is a musical experience, not just a concert. I believe breathing life into the stage presentation to compliment the energy and feeling of the music. Not just can lighting. So my production team does a great job infusing light with sound, experimenting with moving backgrounds, robotic lighting and digital effects.

At every performance there’s a VIP Meet-and-Greet Reception with delicious catered cuisine where you can mingle with sponsors, patrons and guests a hour before the concert, meet the performers, take pictures with them, purchase merchandise and get into the mood for the performance to come.

I believe strongly if you pay more you should get more. I value the fact that a person chose to support our presentations instead of something else that night to keep the Attucks Theater active and the performing arts alive and flourishing in Norfolk and Hampton Roads. With that thought in the forefront, I give my stage and production team creative license to do all they can to I make attending one of our events a special night out to remember.

Karen Scherberger: The “experience” is certainly important for concert goers. For outdoor events, Jazz fans prefer seating options from reserved seating, to open spaces for lawn chairs, and in some cases, open fields for shade tents.  Quality food and beverage options are preferred, as well as various VIP experience options.


VEER: The local market has always seemed to struggle to support a jazz club hosting a mix of local talent and occasional nationally touring performers. Why has that been the case and do you see that changing? 

Jimmy Masters: I’m not sure this is true. The problem with Havana Nights, to use a more recent example, was not the jazz club. It always had a good audience for the jazz shows. The owner was overly ambitious in opening three venues under the same roof: a high-priced, “exclusive” restaurant that did not bring in customers, and a cigar club with private membership. He had member enroll but after the first couple of months the members stopped coming there. Of the three venues operating under that roof the jazz club was the only one that was successful. The Bienville Grill was always crowded. Mike Hall, the owner, simply grew tired of running a restaurant and decided to get out of the business. The problem isn’t the community supporting a jazz club, it’s that most places are just restaurants or night clubs that decide to offer jazz on a certain night or nights. They fail to promote it and expect the musicians to fill their seats.

Woody Beckner has held court at Cafe Stella on Thursday nights for five years and it always draws a good house. Five years in a local venue and very popular.

Jay Lang: Absolutely! A change is coming. Maybe sooner than you think! I truly believe that. Those who have tried to sustain venues that feature live jazz have approached the concept with a lot of the wrong reasons. The venues have been too small or the location is wrong. The service or food is lacking or the sounds not right. The atmosphere anemic or the artistic quality is suspect at best. A lot of those errors in execution have been the case because the people who tried it either did not know how to do it right or how to market or promote it properly. And many have just done it for the wrong reasons. They chose to do it without a commitment to it.

Karen Scherberger: I believe the local market struggles to support most types of entertainment oriented clubs.  There are a few exceptions, but the music in these venues have a broader and in most cases, younger fan base.  As long as our area continues to host the large number and variety of jazz music experiences in the current venues and festivals, I think it would be difficult to sustain a jazz only oriented club.

Elizabeth Terrell: This area is quite unique in that there is a wealth of working musical talent. Hampton Roads is not nearly as over-saturated as other places like New York or Chicago, but we are far and above many other regions on the East Coast. On any given night of the week you can find jazz at local restaurants, bars, and clubs, so, with little to no effort or planning on the patrons end they are exposed to excellent music wherever they decided to spend their evening. I think this directly affects the “middle-man” venues, but with continued education in the community on how to be a productive patron of the arts I think we’ll continue to see a shift. Things are already in motion with our cities supporting places like the ViBe and NEON districts and new venues like Zeiders American Dream Theater- it’s just a matter of time. 

John Toomey: I think it could be a positive venue and successful.  The last one we had in Virginia Beach tried in my opinion to do too many things at once, yet the jazz club portion did well.

(Jae Sinnett’s Zero to 60 Quartet have garnered international acclaim for their new album, “Just When You Though..”)

VEER: From the radio side, what do listeners want most from tuning in? Old school classics, contemporary smooth jazz, or a mix? 

Jimmy Masters: I think that Jae Sinnett does a great job programming jazz, and his Sunday show, Sinnett in Session is fairly broad-based in the music presented. There is an audience for all styles of music that fall under the “jazz” heading…although I hate the term Smooth Jazz.

Jay Lang: A mix in my opinion. The right mix of information, sincerity in delivery, music and feeling. At Smooth 88.1, we are locally programmed, owned and operated and Hampton University supports what we do. This is not corporate radio and everybody you hear in every day part lives here. Our families live here, or kids live here, or volunteers work here. Our families live here. I still believe in the hometown feeling when it comes to radio, but on a worldwide scale because you can also hear us all over the globe on the internet and via I-Heart Radio and it’s apps. We created a vibe, a feeling, a mood and a smooth sophisticated attitude. I believe people are draw to and love to hear a lifestyle feeling.


VEER: What makes a successful jazz festival and/or series these days? 

Karen Scherberger: The formula for success for an outdoor jazz festival is a strong line up of national acts, paying special attention to the overall programming and flow of acts, providing a quality listening experience with little distractions from other activities at the event, seating options from reserved seats, to space for lawn chair seating to tents for shade.  Providing options for ticket purchases, single day to multiple days, as well as tiered pricing that includes VIP experiences.  For outdoor shows, providing a suitable rain or adverse weather location is key, as many fans travel from all across the country to attend. 

Marketing the event using traditional to social and digital outlets is key to reach target Jazz markets.   Jazz fans appreciate good food and beverage options.  Out of town fans appreciate a variety of hotel accommodations in close proximity to the venue.

Jimmy Masters: It should be well thought out, held in a good, convenient venue…and marketing, marketing, marketing. That is what has made the Attucks Jazz Series and the Sandler Jazz Series so successful.

Jay Lang: A healthy marketing budget, a festive atmosphere, a great lineup, consistency, good quality sound and feeling appreciated, happy and courteous personnel working behind the scenes, punctuality and the right mix of artists and vendors are a must. People show up where you influence them to believe a crowd will be. Then you must deliver the goods.

John Toomey: Performers who connect with the audience. and also building trust with an audience by consistently presenting solid performers.

Rob Cross: For VAF, it’s the artists on the series,  the right venue, and collaborating with savvy marketing partners.


VEER: What are the toughest obstacles in expanding today’s jazz audience — whether listening audience or butts in seats? 

Richard Parison: Living in the largest MSA in the Commonwealth has pros and cons.  A rising tide lifts almost all boats – but competition is still competition.   For us at The American Theatre we have a fixed seating capacity of 388 seats.  That can be a plus and that can be a con.   It can be defeating when a larger capacity venue secures a Jazz artist (or any artist for that matter) due to my limited seating.   However seeing Branford Marsalis or David Sanborn in The American Theatre has a magic that can’t be replicated in a larger venue.  So there are trade-offs.

Jimmy Masters: Again, we’ve had great success with the series that we’ve been a part of, but it takes a multi-faceted approach…marketing in print, radio and digital mail. The reason our Attucks and Sandler series have had sustained success is because of great marketing efforts, excellent presentation [which creates an incentive for the audience to return based on the positive experience], nice venues, professional environment.

Jay Lang:  Targeting your audience and getting them to buy tickets early. In too many medium and small markets, especially this one, smooth and contemporary Jazz lovers wait until it’s almost showtime to buy tickets. Advance ticket sales go slow and all promoters hate that because we have a lot on the line financially putting these shows together. They will go to a performance in  Washington, DC, New York or Atlanta and buy tickets right away along with a hotel room and dinner.

Years ago this area has been tarnished by a lot of jazz promoters, from both in and outside the area, who were in it for only the buck and not to enhance the growth of the genre here. As a result, concerts were being cancelled at the last minute, late starting, lacking the artist advertised or poorly executed for so long it had the area gun shy. So why buy a ticket early? It’ll take time, but that’s changing now due to a unified front of organizations and promoters dedicated to getting back the respect putting on memorable performances deserves.

Karen Scherberger: While great for fans, there is a saturation of outdoor jazz oriented events within our region, and up to Richmond and the DC/Maryland market.  Trying to find national acts that are not also playing in our target market area becomes a major obstacle each year.  Jazz fans will travel, but they want to see new acts where ever they go.  Many national acts are also on international tours that limits the available pool of talent to work with each year.  It’s becoming more and more difficult each year to avoid repeating acts that have either played our venue within a few years, or repeating acts that have recently played at other venues within our target market.

John Toomey: Cultivating new venues to present the music.


VEER: Any additional thoughts on jazz in Hampton Roads? 

Jimmy Masters: I think that based on my experience it is alive and well in Hampton Roads. I think it would be nice to see the Attucks and Sandler Jazz Series be added to the Veer Awards for best series. John Toomey has been the artistic director of the Attucks since inception, it sells out every show. I can’t think of a better music series in out area. And to start from scratch with a new jazz series at the Sandler and sell out every show in the first three years is pretty strong I’d say. These series should be recognized.

Elizabeth Terrell:  There is a THRIVING jazz scene in Hampton Roads. Jazz is a living and breathing art form and it’s being regularly performed and new music is constantly being written and released. Get hip and go find it! You’ll find yourself listening to some of the most talented and esteemed musicians our area has ever known, and remember- every national level artist we know today all started out at their local bars, restaurants, and clubs playing for their friends, family, and neighbors.

Jay Lang: To all who may be reading this, keep supporting smooth and contemporary jazz shows, the quality promoters in the area and the Church Street Jazz Series. We have four more concerts left in this out 5th Season with the next one being the legendary Pieces of a Dream, Saturday, January 11th, 2020 at The Attucks Theatre, keyboardist Gregg Karukas, March 14th, 2020 at The Attucks, saxophonist Najee, May 23rd, 2020 at The Harrison Opera House and the grand finale with award-winning guitarist Norman Brown on July 25th, 2020 at The Harrison Opera House. All concerts start at 8 pm. I’m extremely anal about that. After 27 concerts, not one has ever started late. My staff knows how I am about that. If you get there at 8:05pm, trust and know the show is underway. So don’t be late and if you’re on time you’ll never have to wait. Thanks so much for your support and patronage. The best is yet to come!

Karen Scherberger: Jazz, in all its forms, has been the most consistent type of music to stand the test of time at outdoor shows.  The Norfolk Waterfront Jazz festival, for example, is the longest running music festival produced by Festevents, started in the summer of 1983.

Rob Cross: VAF makes it a priority each season to program  lesser-known/up-and-coming jazz artists. The audience really seems to enjoy the interaction with the artist on stage. Jazz allows you to have that connection.

Bruce Bronstein: All ships rise with the tide, and it’s promising to see both established and emerging talent presented and supported in the market. The region also benefits from strong music programs at area schools and universities, committed to fostering future generations of jazz artists.

John Toomey: We are lucky to have several series that are successful and consistent.  A jazz club would be a wonderful addition to these offerings

(Jon Batiste to perform at Sandler Center January 17)



Jae Sinnett’s Zero to 60 Quartet Holiday Concert, December 14, Zeiders American Dream Theater

Pieces of a Dream, January 11, Attucks Theatre

Winter Blues Jazz Festival, January 16, Lawn of the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg 

Jon Batiste, January 17, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, January 17, Ferguson Center for the Arts

Lena Seikaly, January 18, Attucks Theatre

Arturo O’Farrill w/Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, January 19, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts

Her Melody Lives On: Justin Kauflin & John Toomey Jazz Piano Duets, February 7, Diehn Fine & Performing Arts Center/ODU

Robin Eubanks, trombone, February 8, Attucks Theatre

The Jazz Side of Aretha Franklin featuring Desiree Roots, February 22, The American Theatre

ODU Jazz Combo & Jazz Orchestra, February 25, Diehn Fine & Performing Arts Center/ODU

Marquis Hill, trumpet, March 7, Attucks Theatre

George Karukas, March 14, Attucks Theatre

Veronica Swift (vocalist) w/ODU Jazz Choir, April 19, Diehn Fine & Performing Arts Center/ODU

Najee, May 23, Harrison Opera House