4th Annual Jazz Fest: It’s a Zoot!

By Amanda Schreck
SC Staff Writer

The fourth annual Zoot Fest filled East Stroudsburg’s Innovation Center with classic jazz music in commemoration of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims from noon until 6:00 PM last Sunday.

The event showcased four groups of musicians, starting off the afternoon with Matt Vashlishan stepping in for Bill Dobbins, and recounted Dobbin’s experience with jazz and Sims. Vashlishan also played cassette recordings from Dobbins of Sims and Jerry Mulligan solos.

Matt Vashlishan said, “I think jazz in particular benefits the community just because of the strong jazz heritage that we have in the area is honestly unique. For ESU to be connected into that whole scene is pretty beneficial.”

He went on to say, “You get all those musicians interacting with the university, which I think is a really good thing. That only strengthens the program because then eventually you’ll have students coming because of the people from the community being involved, and they get to spend time around them and hear them.”

Then the first performance of the night introduced up-incoming Patrick McGee Group featuring: Patrick McGee, Vaughn Stoffey, Mitch Cheng, Connor Koch, and Tyler Dempsey.

Then an open panel discussion was led by Bill Goodwin and featured four others who recounted their stories about their experiences making it in jazz music alongside Sims.

Bill Crow said that during one performance Sims said, “You can have a lot of fun with these musical instruments.”

“Even in this area, being as rich as it is in jazz and creative music, there are still a lot of people who don’t know about it. Things like this on the university campus are one of the ways to get different people involved,” said Vashlishan.

After a break for lunch, the “Jazz Jam Session a la Zoot” began with host Bill Goodwin, followed by the main performance, “Celebrating Zoot Sims.”

Larry McKenna, Bill Mays, Steve Gilmore, and Tom Whaley jammed to classic Sims music and jazz solos.

Guest singers also made an appearance including jazz musician Pam Purvis. The night came to a close with “Recreating the music of Al Cohn’s The Natural Seven”.

Warren Vache, Lew Tabackin, John Mosca, Spencer Reed, John Ballantyne, Bill Crow, and Bill Goodwin wrapped up the event with stirring recreations from Cohn’s LP record.

Vashlishan said that his main goal is to spread the word about the Al Cohn Collection.

“The collection is massive. It’s not just focused on one thing. It’s a huge resource open to the public. It’s in the basement of the Kemp Library, and there are books, CDs, DVDs, 2000 LPs, cassettes, oral history, interviews, and thousands of photographs. We’re going to make the audio recordings searchable online, and then we’re going to add to it as we get that accomplished.”

“Next year is a big year because Al Cohn and Zoot Sims will both be 90 years old. So, it’s got to be something big! I want to come up with something that properly acknowledges both of these guys and celebrates what would be 90 years of their legacy,” said Vashlishan.

Look out for next year’s 5th annual Zoot Fest and join in on the jazz festivities!

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