New York City-based jazz pianist Emmet Cohen and his trio – bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole – will be joined by vocalist Samara Joy for a performance for the Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society’s Jazz Affair 2021. (Photo courtesy Taili Song Roth)

New York City-based jazz pianist Emmet Cohen and his trio – bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole – will be joined by vocalist Samara Joy for a performance for the Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society’s Jazz Affair 2021. (Photo courtesy Taili Song Roth)

Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society present online ‘Jazz Affair’

New York musicians headline annual jazz education fundraiser

Jazz students, teachers and professionals are coming together to present an evening of music benefitting jazz education.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society was forced to cancel last year’s Jazz Affair, an annual event that raises money to support jazz education in the Nanaimo school district.

This year, the group presented a monthly series of virtual jazz concerts, culminating with an online Jazz Affair happening on May 28. Headlining the event from New York City are pianist Emmet Cohen and his trio – bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole – along with vocalist Samara Joy. Marcus Morosan of the FNJS said Cohen and Joy are “amazing musicians” and thinks they’ll inspire students.

“When putting this event together, we knew that it had to be something special for the students as well as the community,” he said in an e-mail. “Emmet has been a staple of the jazz scene, especially during the pandemic where he has live-streamed music from his Harlem apartment every Monday evening throughout the last year or so. Samara is an up-and-coming vocalist … she has worked with many amazing artists despite still being very young.”

The headliners will be performing from Smalls Jazz Club in New York City, which Cohen calls “the most important jazz club in the world.”

“We put together a beautiful set of meaningful music to us played from our hearts,” he said.

Cohen said jazz has always adapted to the times and he’s “amazed” at its ability to occupy an online space and continue to bring people together.

“It’s been this incredible thing that’s showed us that even when things can’t happen in person and even when things are locked down and people can’t leave the house and see each other, there is a way to connect through this music,” he said.

Also performing during Jazz Affair is a VIU faculty band composed of saxophonist Ben Henriques, vocalist Rosemary Lindsay, bassist Ken Lister, keyboardist James Darling and drummer Hans Verhoeven. Also on the bill are students from Wellington Jazz Academy, John Barsby Secondary School and, for the first time, Alberni District Secondary School.

Cohen said a jazz is “one of the great art forms” and offering a jazz education from a young age can enable people to view their lives in a more meaningful fashion.

“I think it really helps to develop different ways of thinking about life and different concepts and values that I think many people with good hearts align with, and those include inclusiveness and joy and togetherness and acceptance and humility and community and love,” he said. “And there’s all these things that jazz represents and when you listen to the masters who created the music … you hear all those things and you understand your own life in another way.”

WHAT’S ON … Jazz Affair 2021 takes place May 28 at 6 p.m. Tickets $30, available here. Video available on demand until June 1.

RELATED: New York jazz trio support Nanaimo jazz students with online concert

RELATED: New York jazz duo support Friends of Nanaimo Jazz Society with online show

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