Jazz trumpeter Steve Eisen founded the BJW in September of 2006 with the enthusiastic support of local jazz performers and aficionados. The first sessions were held in David Zent’s Jewel Box Theater, located at the Hill House Hotel in downtown Bakersfield. Thanks to David Zent, who believed in Steve’s vision for a jazz workshop, BJW was given our first home.
Weekly sessions continued at that site until May 2007, at which time Klarke Garl, owner of the beautifully renovated Nile Theater, a historic movie theater from the 1920s, and manager Frank Cruz, offered us a new home at the newly remodeled Nile Bar & Grill, also located in downtown Bakersfield.
Our weekly Tuesday night sessions at the Nile grew in popularity and support from the community, thanks to Steve Eisen’s boundless enthusiasm and dedication to promoting jazz performance and education via the workshop. Steve also founded the Bakersfield Jazz Orchestra, comprised of outstanding jazz musicians in Bakersfield, who have donated their time and talent to promote and preserve, live big band jazz.
In May of 2007, Dr. Doug Davis, chairman of CSUB’s Music department and CEO of the annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival, invited the BJW to have a booth at the festival and included the Bakersfield Jazz Orchestra in the impressive line up of festival performers. We are also indebted to Dr. Davis for his constant support and numerous outstanding performances at the BJW.
In June of 2007, the BJW awarded the first annual BJW Music Scholarship in the amount of $500 to Centennial High School Senior Jeff Hatcher, a talented drummer whose support to the workshop was invaluable. Jeff attended the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band Summer Jazz Workshop at CSUN with the scholarship funds. He is now attending New York University and majoring in music.
September 2007 marked the one-year anniversary of BJW. We celebrated with the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop First Anniversary Benefit Concert, featuring three-time Grammy Award winner/composer/arranger and renowned jazz saxophonist Tom Scott. The Concert was made possible by Nile Bar & Grill, concert promoter Fred Sanchez, and several local sponsors.
Our growth continued in 2008, with weekly sessions consisting of a Beginning Jazz Improvisation class, followed by Featured Jazz Artist, and ending with an open jazz jam session. We were also officially recognized as a 501c corporation by the IRS and Franchise Tax Board, who approved our application for non-profit status.
We held two more benefit concerts at the Nile that year, the first with Latin jazz master Reuben Estrada. We ended the year with an appearance by jazz guitar legend Kenny Burrell.
However, the Nile changed to an over 21 only club in early 2009 and the BJW was forced to find another location that would allow it to continue providing instruction for young students, as well as providing a venue that could provide food and drinks to adult jazz fans.
At about the same time, You Yea Chiou was looking to add live music to her restaurant, Le Corusse Rouge, in southwest Bakersfield. She had agreed to book a jazz band, Jazz Alliance, that included Eisen and vocalist Linda Mackey to perform every Thursday night at Le Corusse Rouge. During this time, Steve, Linda, and You Yea had several conversations about the BJW and how it was proving difficult to find a place to hold the BJW’s weekly workshop. In February of 2009, Chiou quickly offered the use of her restaurant to the BJW at no charge.
Since making the change of location, crowds of people have been making the trip to White Lane every Wednesday night – some for the instruction, some for the featured artist, and others looking for a place to practice their jazz chops before a live audience. Although not as spacious as the Nile, Le Corusse Rouge has an intimate “jazz club” feel to it, which has helped generate a “jazz vibe” about the place throughout Bakersfield.
We also began a partnership with the Stars Dinner Theater downtown as a venue for our benefit concerts, including a tribute to Grover Washington and a salute to the big bands of the past.
In 2010 we held our first Battle of the High School Jazz Bands competition with huge success. Additionally, we began a series of free to the public jazz clinics, the Clinician Series 2010, featuring world class jazz masters such as Carl Saunders and Clayton Cameron.
We have scheduled another benefit concert featuring Jason Marsalis, and made plans with our partner, The Stars Dinner Theater, to hold a New Year’s Eve party featuring dancing to the big band sounds of the Bakersfield Jazz Orchestra.
We have continued to grow, using the donations of generous supporters of the workshop to continue granting musical scholarships, purchasing musical instruments and sound equipment, and providing the Bakersfield area with a place to learn, perform, and listen to jazz music, free of charge.
If you are a jazz musician, the parent of a music student, or just a fan of jazz music, please come visit one of our events. There is no place better for a great jazz experience than at the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop!