Downtown Phoenix jazz jewel captures the national spotlight


The Valley a national jazz destination? Why not? According to a prominent, 25-year Phoenix jazz aficionado – and a piano player himself – it’s about time.

The honor is long overdue, according to Joel Robin Goldenthal, executive director of The Nash, a hopping jazz venue on Roosevelt Row in the heart of downtown Phoenix. “The Nash is putting a national spotlight on the Valley. Suddenly we’re a jazz destination. Who would have thought?” says Joel.

The Nash was recently named one of four U.S. “JazzHubs” by the Jazz Forward Coalition, a global consortium of jazz professionals and industry leaders dedicated to the growth and sustainability of the music genre. Thanks to a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Nash will participate with three other jazz venues located in Pittsburgh, Portland and Washington, D.C. in an 18-month pilot program developed to foster professional development and community engagement. The goal of such a collaborative effort is to build an ongoing exchange and establish a viable national jazz network in the JazzHub communities and beyond.

Since it opened in April 2012, The Nash has been on the forefront of the growth of jazz in the Valley, serving as a multigenerational go-to place for those who love to play or listen. Joel calls The Nash’s namesake, South Phoenix native Lewis Nash, “arguably the most respected drummer in the world.” And The Nash was destined for notoriety when world-renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis came to town to play – pro bono – at its grand opening.

Joel points out that such recognition shouldn’t be surprising for Phoenix, the nation’s sixth-largest city. He views The Nash as “very much a part of the economic and cultural advantage” of Arizona. “We are elevating the cultural landscape of our city and making it attractive not only to residents but to people looking to move here.” He adds that jazz is a model for society in terms of  “demonstrating and teaching young people about self-respect and respect for others, teamwork and creativity. There’s a much larger story here.”

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) is one of the largest philanthropies in the U.S., donating millions to causes that improve Americans’ quality of life. The Arts Program of the DDCF “focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theater artists and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them,” according to the foundation’s website. It’s no surprise that The Nash fits the bill for that kind of support.

The Nash also received a grant from Phoenix’s own Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust last year to help build a strategic plan to accommodate its amazing growth. Since 2012, the venue has gone from about 20 to between 300 and 400 events a year. Joel says the grant has helped The Nash to “shore up our resources to make a plan for sustainability.”

The four JazzHubs will also facilitate best practices for presenting and promoting jazz performance and education on a national basis. Since the grant was awarded in September, The Nash has been focused on collaborating with its fellow JazzHubs to develop an agenda for the next 18 months that includes several town hall meetings and specialty workshops. Joel’s goal is to target the first major event for April 2017, in time for Jazz Appreciation Month, or JAM, a national celebration initiated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The excitement in Joel’s voice is unmistakable when he says that The Nash has gone from being “the new kids on the block” just four short years ago to “turning heads around the country, if not around the world. The attention is unprecedented.”

Mary Ann Bashaw, of Phoenix, is a freelance writer and editor.

December highlights for The Nash

These are just some of the more “major” events planned at The Nash this December. For a full listing, go to thenash.org and click on the “Calendar” tab.

December 9: Nash Composers Coalition – Debut Performance!
December 16: Bob Ravenscroft Inner Journeys Trio
December 17: Dmitri Matheny Group featuring Holly Pyle
December 21: Nash Vocal Jazz Ensemble
All Performances start at 7:30 pm.
Admission is $15 for adults with discounts for seniors, students and youth.
The Nash, 110 E Roosevelt St., Phoenix
602-795-0464
thenash.org



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