Space Coast Jazz Society: We Dig It
Saxophonist par excellence Dan Wilborn loves the concerts hosted by Space Coast Jazz Society.
“The best gig in town,” Wilborn said.
He is right, for Space Coast Jazz Society connects jazz aficionados with outstanding talent in a setting perfect for grooving on a Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a great place to showcase your craft and they really let the musicians play with freedom,” Wilborn added.
Artistic freedom is indeed what drives the Society, which hosts monthly Sunday afternoon “late lunch” concerts with a killer view at Veterans Memorial Center, 400 S. Sykes Parkway, Merritt Island. The audience is invited to bring a picnic and enjoy the air-conditioned setting surrounded by Indian River. The music is as great as the view.
“We are always looking for professional musicians who can give their own flavor to the music,” said Gigi Gordon, who along with Bobbie Vance and Rose Marie Wiley comprise the small but energetic board of directors.
Jazz runs through Gordon’s veins, for her father worked as drummer for Josephine Baker, the legendary American-born French dancer and singer. Gordon grew up in Paris and later moved to Greenwich Village in the Big Apple.
“I’ve always been surrounded by musicians,” she said.
After her husband passed away, Gordon took a friend’s advice and moved to Brevard County. A few months later, she joined the Space Coast Jazz Society. As the lady says, she needs to be surrounded by musicians.
For four decades, the all-volunteer Society has made true the promise “to keep jazz alive and well on the Space Coast” not just through concerts, but also with scholarships that nurture young talent.
This year, the Society presented scholarships to Viera High senior Jon Louis Pinela and Titusville senior Ethan Broom.
In his musical career, Jon has performed with the Space Coast Big Band, participated in the Brevard Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Brevard Youth Big Band. He will attend Florida State University in 2024.
Ethan has been accepted into the Florida State University College of Music as a jazz major with a dual degree in biology. As a high school freshman, he was accepted into Titusville High’s jazz band, a group otherwise composed of seniors. The lead players invited him to join them in a jazz combo with gigs in restaurants and other venues.
Membership fees and concert admissions help pay for the Society’s annual scholarships. Memberships, which start at $30 for individuals and $50 for couples and go up to $500 and $750, include discounted or free admission to concerts. Students 25 and under can join for $5 a year and attend concerts for free.
Every month, with a hiatus during June, July and August, the Society hosts a two-hour Sunday concert that begins at 2 p.m. Admission to concerts is $15 for Society members and $20 for non-members, payable at the door.
For bassist Ron Pirtle, the Jazz Society concerts can’t be missed.
“Performing for the SCJS has always been a highlight of the year,” he said. “Great positive people that appreciate music.”
As an early holiday treat, the Society has scheduled jazz vocalist Maddy Winer and the Les Brown Trio for its Dec. 10 concert. Winer has headlined at Lincoln Center in New York City, the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and the St. Louis Symphony, among others, and has opened for Dave Brubeck, Lou Rawls, David Sanborn, Ellis Marsalis and a host of others.
Vocalist Sybil Gage, a frequent performer at Jazz Society concerts and a popular torchbearer for jazz, perfectly describes the group with just three words.
“They dig it,” Gage said.