House of jazz

Sammons Center for the Arts is home to one of the town's best-kept secrets

The Center has tenants from 14 arts organizations like the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, New Arts Six, Mundo Cultural Hispano, and the Turtle Creek Chorale. Forty other community or arts organizations, such as Children's Charities of Dallas, Kitchen Dog Theatre, and the League of Women Voters, use the Sammons Center's facilities for meetings, rehearsals, or whatever. The center is also available for private functions such as parties and weddings.

In the planning stages is Jazz Dallas, an initiative that will use the resources of the Center to provide the support necessary to increase the public's awareness of jazz, both on a local and national level. The effort has three goals: to establish resources for local jazz artists, to create a membership-type organization for jazz fans, and to present regular jazz concerts, festivals, and events throughout town.

To kick things off there will be a "Jazz Summit" at the Center on Saturday, February 15, from noon until 6 p.m. There will be jam sessions, panel discussions, demonstrations, and workshops at the affair, which is free and open to the public. For musicians, free head shots will be taken (part of an artists' registry that Jazz Dallas plans to set up; artists will receive several copies) and professional PR experts who will review--again, for free--artists' promotional materials and assist them in putting together a pro biography that will then become part of the planned registry.

As for the Sammons Jazz Series, Wednesday, February 5 marks the beginning of the spring season with "Dallas Meets Houston," a reprise of a popular show from the first season featuring local bassist John Adams playing with his quintet, and then Houston pianist Joe LoCascio and his trio, with special guest Shelly Carrol (who, incidentally, can be found Monday nights at Sambuca co-leading the house band with Vicho Vicencio) on saxophone. Other programs are "Guitar Madness" (March 5), a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (April 2) that will be more vocally oriented than the rest of the series, and "Tenor Madness," with Boykin's trio and numerous guests (May 7). The fall season--as yet unplanned--will run from September to December. The programs are held the first Wednesday of each month; doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 7:30. Get there early if you're hungry.

Joining Sammons Jazz will set you back at least $35 per year, but if you attend all eight shows you'll make $32 of that back. You can also give more than that; there are three levels of membership that ascend according to how much you give (over $150 gets you into the Musicians Circle) and offer sundry perks such as tapes and T-shirts. Past shows have included the late Ed Hagan, the brilliant drum ensemble D'Drum, and vibraphone prodigy Dewaylon McCoy. The entire experience--the valets taking your car, the elegant architecture and decorating, the high ceiling and tall windows of the Meadows Room, the superlative music--is a bargain, an excellent date opportunity, and an evening that usually gets you home in time for the weather on TV (or gives you time for a late movie or some other adventure, if you're so inclined). It deserves your support.

For more information on Sammons Jazz or the Center please call Cynthia Flynn at 520-7789. Tickets for Sammons Jazz are available from ARTTIX at 520-ARTS(2787).

Street Beat welcomes any data, information, rumor, or ghost story at Matt_Weitz@dallas-observer.com

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