Local musicians put jazz on wheels

Ex-Vice President of MCA Records Andre Fischer seeks to educate and invigorate the metro with the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project.

Freeman Ryan, Decarlo Jackson, Devante Jackson, and Zosha Warpeha of the PipJazz Youth All-Stars group play together on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at the Dakota Jazz Club. A fundraiser for the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project will be hosted at the Dakota Jazz club from 4-7pm Thursday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Freeman Ryan, Decarlo Jackson, Devante Jackson, and Zosha Warpeha of the PipJazz Youth All-Stars group play together on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at the Dakota Jazz Club. A fundraiser for the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project will be hosted at the Dakota Jazz club from 4-7pm Thursday.

Joe Kellen

 

Andre Fischer is convinced that a line of melody is equivalent to a sentence.

“It’s another form of communication,” he said.

Fischer recalled when he had a flautist visit his class during his time at University of Southern California.

“After he finished playing, he said, ‘The best way I can explain this to you is that the flute has been my passport,’” he said.

This is the core of what Fischer will be presenting Thursday night at the Dakota Jazz Club. The event features the PipJazz Youth All Stars as well as a legion of seasoned professionals, including Herbie Hancock.

It’s all designed to support young people playing music, an indispensable component of Fischer’s brainchild, the Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project.

Fischer’s produced the likes of Natalie Cole and Tony Bennett as well as played around the world with Chaka Khan. It’s safe to say he regards music as a tool that speaks to everyone, which is why he started the project.

The program aims to expose youth as well as people of all ages in the Twin Cities to the richness of jazz. He’s not interested in holding it in a classroom, though — Fischer’s putting the whole thing on wheels.

“I need to be able to express things to [them] without [them] squirming in [their] seats and feeling that someone is forcing something on [them] or that I’m being preachy or a zealot,” he said.

Inspired by New York City’s Jazzmobile, professional musicians will step onto the Twin Cities “showmobile” every Wednesday this summer and travel to a park in either Minneapolis or St. Paul. There they’ll show their chops with an hour-long concert and a free workshop to let the younger audience try their hand, providing sample instruments and lessons.

Working through the Twin Cities’ Parks and Recreation Board as well as other community programs, Fischer desires to bring neighborhoods together to create a local, unified space out of the parks.

“We’re giving music back on the highest level we can possibly perform to give example to our young people to be able to bring them up to speed,” he said. “Neighborhood thoughts bring neighborhood results.”

Billy Peterson, jazz musician and part-owner of the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul, got involved with the project due to the lack of public access to music education.

“When we were kids, music was in school; it was a big deal. Now you have to go to a special arts school to get what we had in public school,” he said.

Fischer doesn’t only want the role of exposing these communities to what’s available in the music world,  he wants to recruit them for the long haul and nurture the talent.

“We don’t need regrets. It makes for too many people a-wishin’ and a-hopin’ instead of getting off their butts and doin’,” he said with a laugh. “We want to create some musical warriors.”

Fischer and Peterson hope to develop a community that not only appreciates music but places it in the spotlight as a tradition to pass along. They recognize that the project can only do so much, but Peterson says that their role is integral to getting the ball rolling.

“It’s our job to light the fire,” Peterson said.

What: Twin Cities Mobile Jazz Project Fundraiser

When: 4-7 p.m., Thursday

Where: The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

Cost: $75