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August 6, 2013 > To jazz or not to jazz - there is no question!

To jazz or not to jazz - there is no question!

By Sara Giusti
Photos By Courtesy of 510JAZZ Productions

Can you hear it? Listen closely enough and you may hear the croon of a saxophone or bellow of a bass in the distance. A live jazz movement has been thriving in the Tri-City area, providing free entertainment throughout the week at a variety of locations.

Jazz originated in New Orleans within black communities during the early 20th century, influenced by a blend of the blues, folk, swing, ragtime, and African music. As jazz developed in form and spread around the globe, many distinct styles arose. So jazz is not just "jazz" -- it can be Afro-Cuban jazz, cool jazz, soul jazz, West Coast jazz, and so on. While the genre is difficult to define due to regional diversity, it is undeniably famous for its emphasis on improvisation. Great jazz musicians not only need to master their instrument, but know how to interpret and improvise the music itself.

Some famous jazz musicians were Duke Ellington (piano), Louis Armstrong (trumpet), Charlie Parker (saxophone), Chet Baker (trumpet), Billie Holiday (vocals), and Ella Fitzgerald (vocals). Some of the greats today are Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Peter Sprague (guitar), and Sonny Rollins (saxophone). And this is just a handful of some of the greats! Ultimately, the beauty and draw of jazz is that it keeps growing. Now we can see the wonder of jazz at some select locations in Fremont and Newark for weekly reveries.

Love at First Slice hosts Jazz at The Slice every Wednesday. Jazz at The Slice was founded in October 2012 by John Vargas of 510JAZZProductions, a collective of jazz musicians from the Tri-City area. Vargas also runs, a website showcasing upcoming jazz events in the Bay Area. For Jazz at the Slice, alternating groups perform each Wednesday, creating a nice variety without comprising creation of community. Jazz at The Slice is from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and there is no cover. "My sense of things at that time (some two years ago) was that the Tri-City area was sorely lacking in live jazz music events. I started 510JAZZ Productions as a way to build a collective of jazz musicians that can perform at private and public events throughout the East Bay," said Vargas. "I have never seen any other musical genre that makes it so easy for musicians to come together, at the drop of a hat, with no rehearsal, and perform beautiful music like they can with jazz."

The Newark-Fremont Hilton hosts live jazz music every Wednesday. Each week a new group performs, keeping the lineup fresh. Now in its fifth month, experience Jazz Wednesdays at the Hilton's Ginger Bar between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Whether Tri-City resident or hotel guest, the Hilton welcomes everyone to drop by and relax with a drink and good music. Just make sure you are at least 21 years old.

Make your way down to Warm Springs to experience even more jazz. Spin a Yarn Steakhouse offers live music Friday and Saturday nights. When you book a table at Spin A Yarn during the weekend, you'll not only be treated to fine food and drinks, but to jazz performances by the restaurant's regular Rock Hendricks, an award-winning saxophonist. Times can vary, from Happy Hour on Fridays (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) to scheduled performances with special guests accompanying Hendricks.

And don't miss the Jazzinators every other Tuesday at Bronco Billy's Pizza in the Irvington District. The band plays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m, followed by an open mic for all ages until 9 p.m.; there is no cover charge. They also play every second Saturday of spring and summer months at the Centerville Farmer's Market from 9 a.m. to noon. The Jazzinators are a youth band sponsored by The East Bay Traditional Jazz Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, preserving, and educating others on jazz, Dixieland jazz in particular. The East Bay Traditional Jazz Society also provides scholarships for youth jazz musicians, supporting them in their study of Dixieland jazz. "Eight students are attending the Sacramento Jazz Camp at Sly Park," noted John Soulis of The East Bay Traditional Jazz Society.

Fremont's Mission Gold Jazz Band mentors the Jazzinators. Formed in 1980, Mission Gold is an eight piece, two cornet group with band members from all over the Bay Area. They've played at many venues, including Fremont's Art and Wine Festival and the Oakland Coliseum as the Oakland A's Swingers Band for Turn Back the Clock games. Make sure to check out their website for upcoming performances in the Bay Area.

As jazz great Louis Armstrong once said, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." Fortunately for the Tri-City area, now is the time to make sure you know!

The Jazzinators and Open Mic
Every other Tuesday
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Bronco Billy's Pizza
41200 Blacow Rd., Fremont
(510) 538-0121

Jazz Wednesdays
7 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Ginger Bar, Newark-Fremont Hilton
39900 Balentine Dr., Newark
(510) 490-8390

Jazz at The Slice
7 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Love at First Slice Pizza
36601 Newark Blvd. #58, Newark
(510) 797-7300

Live Jazz at Spin a Yarn
Friday and Saturday nights
Times vary
Spin a Yarn Steakhouse
45915 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont
(510) 656-9141

The Jazzinators at Centerville Farmer's Market
Second Saturdays
9 a.m. - noon
Centerville Train Depot, Bonde Way at Fremont Blvd., Fremont
(510) 657-0243

Mission Gold Jazz Band
(510) 657-0243

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