Over the last two years, the Jazz Artists of Charleston achieved impressive artistic, financial, and fellowship goals — and they did it without losing their rhythm. A nonprofit organization aimed at serving the Charleston jazz community, the JAC has adjusted to the economic realities of recent times, and already has its sights set on reaching new goals in 2010.
"The JAC actually got started after the current economic downturn in early 2008," says advising member of the board of directors Jack McCray, who also writes a jazz column for The Post and Courier. "We went in with our eyes wide open, though, basing the decision to undertake our general goal of advancing the local live jazz scene on the fact that it was the right time — and a crucial time — in the evolution of our scene and the faith we had and still have in our community to make this happen."
In short order, the JAC established itself as a local entity to be taken seriously — a dedicated group of like-minded artists, movers, and shakers determined to reach high levels of artistry with each step. From 2008 through this spring, the group's elegant big band concert performances have been consistently dynamic, and its small-combo events have sparked with local talent.
What started out as the Charlton Singleton Orchestra (led by trumpeter and conductor Charlton Singleton) quickly turned into the more broadly named Charleston Jazz Orchestra, and made its debut on the Charleston Music Hall stage in late 2008 with a program called "Holiday Swing."
As the economic times continued to get worse and worse, JAC redoubled its efforts at gathering resources to carry out its mission. Lean, efficient planning has allowed it to maintain a high quality of production — a choice of venues, technical complement, repertoire, and artistic integrity.
McCray and his colleagues have survived the recent economic storm through sacrifice and innovation. "[The board members] provide free-of-charge service, such elements as office space and equipment, production skills, use of sound and light equipment, use of pianos and other instruments, marketing skills, and community organizing skills," he says.
Next up on the JAC's 2009 calendar is a Latin Night at the Music Hall (the third concert in its 2008-'09 season) on Sept. 4. With Singleton's orchestra on hand, the Latin-jazz program will feature a gallery of talents from the local music scene, including Bobby Alvarez, Duda Lucena, and Fernando Rivas, and others. A November concert with a holiday theme is already in the works, similar to last fall's presentation of Duke Ellington's "Nutcracker Suite."