Jazz enjoys rich roots in Tallahassee

The newly built Jazz Man statue in Railroad Square. Photo courtesy Jordan Forbes

Jazz flows through the streets of Tallahassee, and its impact shines through the community. With this sultry art form’s rich history in the state capital, many still don’t know about the importance jazz brings to Tallahassee.

Primarily known for their contributions to jazz, the Adderley brothers are dearly loved in Tallahassee, as shown by the newly renamed Adderley Amphitheater at Cascades Park. Cannonball Adderley, saxophonist, and his brother Nat Adderley, trumpeter, formed a quintet in 1959 and according to Britannica, “Adderley was also a forceful and articulate spokesman, serving on several university and government committees for the advancement of jazz.”

Where to find jazz

B Sharps Jazz Club has been around for about 15 years, and its location on Brevard Street in Frenchtown is one of significance. As the only official jazz club in Tallahassee as well as a nonprofit, there is much to know about this historical location.

It is owned by Gerri Seay, who bought the property in 2008. She has cultivated her space towards practicing the true art of jazz and honing that skill.

Traveling with her husband, a jazz musician, Seay originally came to Tallahassee to teach at Florida A&M University. Noticing Tallahassee had no jazz club, she fulfilled her dream of opening her own.

Wanting to own a club after seeing the lack of respect musicians were treated with Seay wanted to cultivate a space where artists felt safe and could freely play to their heart’s content.

Knowing she was in an area surrounded by universities with their own music departments, this property was a “transitioning space between being a student and a professional musician.”

“I think we offer serious jazz in terms of a listening audience; we’re a traditional club,” Seay said. “It’s not a bar. Music is not in the background. The music is why people are here. There is no talking while they are performing.”

B Sharps is open to the public including students in the area to hear jazz traditionally and guide students toward professionalism, Scotty Barnhart would visit quite often to either play himself or “just listen.”

Often visiting local clubs as a pastime, he frequents Blue Tavern, Waterworks and B Sharps to name a few.

Jazz royalty in Tallahassee

Barnhart is a critically acclaimed, two-time Grammy award-winning jazz trumpeter, leader, composer, educator, arranger, author and the director of the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Now a jazz trumpet instructor at Florida State, Barnhart spends his days teaching his award-winning knowledge and skills to students.

Knowing the importance jazz brings to Tallahassee, he appreciates how the music brings people together. Noting that wherever he plays, there is no age or gender barrier; the music is for everyone. Barnhart’s contribution to the representation of jazz and its influence in Tallahassee is one to remember.

“I’m just fortunate to be able to be a part of it. We try to make this city a great place for people to come to hear real live jazz,” Barnhart said. “That statue shows that the city understands they want to help to preserve it and to inform people about it.”

Explaining how glad he was to be a part of the jazz representation in Tallahassee, Barnhart modeled for two hours for the Jazz Man statue in Railroad Square and was involved with the renaming of the Adderley Amphitheater.

Legacy of jazz

Young and upcoming artists are plentiful in Tallahassee and are the ones to carry the legacy of jazz onward. With the talent that has come from Tallahassee and that still resides in the area, new musicians will never be short of inspiration.

The first tenor of the FAMU Jazz Ensemble, a 23-year-old senior studying music, Woodson Toulete has always loved the outlet music, specifically jazz has given him. Using jazz to paint works of art with his mind, Toulete uses the art form to connect what he’s feeling with others.

“[Jazz music] you can understand, it’s that universal language. It’s something that everyone can connect to and understand easily,” he said.

Performing multiple times at the Adderley Ampitheater, Toulete is appreciative of what this performance space means to Tallahassee and what it brings to the area. Toulete says the amphitheater really ties in and revives the history of the town and what the music does to people.

“Jazz is one of the earliest styles of music; it connects the older groups of people we live here with the younger groups and brings them all together,” Toulete said. “It’s a music that’s been around for centuries and has such a rich history, especially in this town. It brings people together and allows them to dance.”

There is no shortage of this sophisticated rhythmic sound in Tallahassee. Jazz will always be heard at the varying venues and clubs available for artists to perform and sharpen their craft. From statues to young, upcoming jazz musicians, the imprint of this lively genre will stay strong.