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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011

Milwaukee Jazz Vision’s Eastside Jazzfest

Brian Lynch headlines growing music festival

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The second Eastside Jazzfest isn’t actually being held on the East Side, but rather Downtown, on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Still, the organizers feel the name fits. “The Jazz Estate is the hub for the musicians, and it’s on the East Side,” explains Jamie Breiwick. “The club has consistently provided the city with high-quality jazz.”

But the club is small and the organizing group, Milwaukee Jazz Vision, has big plans. Last summer’s inaugural Eastside Jazzfest was held in the Miramar Theatre, which seats 300. With Grammy-winning Milwaukee expatriate Brian Lynch headlining this Saturday, Breiwick and his partners hope to fill the Todd Wehr Conference Center with 500 concertgoers.

Although the Jazz Age is history, Breiwick’s day job as band director at Maple Dale School gives him hope for the future. Under his guidance, no less than five jazz combos have been organized among the school’s fifth- through eighth-graders. “Jazz isn’t something they’re exposed to in the media—it’s something you have to seek out,” Breiwick says. “The interest from my students is a testament to the music itself—the feel of it, the groove. Jazz was originally dance music, and when students hear it, there’s a connection.”

Also, unlike the music customary to school bands, jazz involves more than playing notes on a page. The improvisation allows students to feel they can be more creative.

Some of the Eastside Jazzfest’s performers are students. The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music Jazz Institute Student Combo and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Jazz Studies Combo are on the bill. The other groups are more seasoned and constitute a history of jazz from the 1950s through the present. Milwaukee’s Kevin Hayden Band represents the experimental thrust of fusion; the Neil Davis Quartet revisits ’50s hard bop; the Sons of Daughters Trio conjures mid-’60s Coltrane; the Steve Peplin Sextet plays modern chamber jazz; and Snaarj explores groove-based funk jazz. Several of the performing bands are based out of state but include Wisconsin expatriates.

“Milwaukee offers lots of opportunities for performers,” says Breiwick, a trumpeter who finds regular gigs at the Mason Street Grill, the Jazz Estate, Caroline’s and Sugar Maple. “And plenty of great players decided to stay here and make a life in Milwaukee.”

Along with co-founders Kevin Hayden and Neil Davis, Breiwick created Milwaukee Jazz Vision to forge a mission to “draw attention to what’s already going on in the city—to draw more attention to the scene and help build it up,” he explains. Proceeds from the Eastside Jazzfest will go toward establishing a scholarship fund for music students pursuing jazz studies at Milwaukee colleges.

Eastside Jazzfest will be held Feb. 26 at the Todd Wehr Conference Center, 1047 N. Broadway. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For more information, check esjf.eventbrite.com.
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