OSHKOSH – A new musical series aims to break down generational and gender barriers to what might come to mind when someone hears the word “jazz”.
Passionate jazz fan and local graphic designer Kyle Knoke said he wanted to promote music accessible to all.
“The (jazz) genre is like code for ‘a license to break certain rules’,” Knoke said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
While stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Knoke envisioned a new musical series featuring a wide range of musicians at venues in Oshkosh, Fox Valley and central Wisconsin.
Of the, Coterie Jazz was born. The pop-up concert series brings together performers from across the country in various venues across Wisconsin.
“Jazz is alive and well, and there is a new wave of great and young artists,” Knoke said. “I want to help the next generation adopt it.”
Vibraphonist Joel ross will headline the next Jazz Coterie concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Stevens Point Country Club, 1628 Country Club Drive, Stevens Point, and Thursday at the Howard, 405 Washington Ave. in Oshkosh. Knoke said he was monitoring the local COVID-19 situation and would contact ticket holders with updated guidelines, if necessary.
Ross is a Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based musician who in 2017 received a residency commission from the Jazz Gallery in New York City, one of the youngest artists to do so. He topped the annual DownBeat International Critics Poll 2021 in the vibraphonist and songwriter categories.
Jazz Coterie started in January before shutting down due to COVID-19. As restrictions eased this summer, Jazz Coterie is back. Ross will be the fourth performer in the series.
So why are all these big names heading to central Wisconsin? Knoke said he was in contact with places to promote “route booking” artists – artists who are scheduled one weekend in Chicago and the next in Minneapolis, or vice versa, can add shows by midweek en route to the next location.
Knoke also wanted to encourage local talent. So he reached out to the jazz departments at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, and Lawrence University in Appleton to collaborate in offering master classes when artists are in the area during the ‘school year.
Marty Robinson, director of jazz ensembles at UWO, said he hopes to do a master class this school year and is thrilled with the impact Jazz Coterie has on young jazz students.
“They benefit from knowing the performers given the privacy of these shows and the ability to speak with the players before and after – things that are difficult to do at big clubs or jazz festivals,” he said.
Thanks to the generosity of private donors, Knoke said tickets are also free for students pursuing jazz studies at any of the three universities.
Robinson sees Jazz Coterie as a great experience for students, but also to attract more well-known artists nationally and give the community a broader understanding of the genre.
“The Jazz Coterie concerts really bring national artists among us,” he said. “It’s also a reflection of Oshkosh in that these national performers share the stage with local musicians (for some shows) and… let others know about the caliber of professional musicians in our community.”
“Even I am amazed at the talent that comes out of this thing,” Knoke said. “The fact that someone can see (these artists) in an intimate setting like this is a big deal.”
Places may change, but that, Knoke thinks, is part of the excitement – “You have to keep watching to see where it’s going to go.”
A calendar is available on jazzcoterie.com/events.