50th West Texas Jazz Party
May 20 – 22 MCM Eleganté Hotel, Odessa
(Odessa and Midland, Texas – August 31, 2015) — In May 1967, a unique jazz party conceived by local businessmen began in Odessa, Texas. May 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of a one-of-a-kind party that is considered the longest continuously running jazz party in the United States.
“We’re pleased that such a significant jazz party could celebrate 50 years in the Permian Basin,” said longtime Jazz Society president Margaret Gillham, “but we’re just as excited by the quality of musicians coming to West Texas again this year.”
The West Texas Jazz Party Collaboration will be May 20-22, 2016 at the MCM Eleganté Hotel in Odessa, again featuring three musicians with direct links to the original Odessa Jazz Party — Bucky Pizzarelli, Johnny Varro and Ed Polcer. In addition, some of the first musicians from the next generation to attend the party will also return among a group of 20 world-class jazz musicians.
“After 50 years, the Jazz Society is proud to say we’ve upheld the commitment made by the original jazz party founders to bring world-famous jazz musicians to Midland and Odessa each year for the annual party,” Gillham continued.
More than a third of the musicians attending the party in 2016 have been to the party more than 10 times, but only three — Pizzarelli, Varro and Polcer — have ties to party founder Dr. O.A. “Jimmie” Fulcher, who died in 1977. Polcer attended his first jazz party in 1975, while Varro first played in Odessa prior to the first party in 1961 and again in 1965. But the dean of jazz party musicians, Bucky Pizzarelli, first attended in 1968 and participated in some of the earliest clinics and concerts for young people in the Permian Basin. That mentoring tradition continues today in clinics hosted by visiting musicians to instruct and critique performances by local student groups.
A youth transition began during the second decade of the party, when Warren Vaché appeared at the first Midland Jazz Classic in 1977 with his mentor, the trumpeter Pee Wee Erwin. Vaché is here again in 2016.
Most musicians still attending the party from the 1970s and 1980s owe their attendance here to long-time jazz party Music Director Jack Lesberg. Trombonist Dan Barrett, also returning in 2016, remembers visiting Midland in 1984 when Jack Lesberg asked him to replace Trummy Young. Lesberg served the parties concurrently from 1967 through the mid 1990s, and continued to visit the West Texas Jazz Party Collaboration until 2000, when health forced him to retire after 34 years.
Of the others here from previous parties, trumpeter Randy Sandke played Odessa in 1986, the year Billy Butterfield did not attend due to illness. Saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Peplowski played Odessa as early as 1987, and Drummer Butch Miles began attending the Odessa parties in 1984.
(Editors: a complete list(*) of this year’s musicians is below.)
Patron tickets are $225 each and include reserved seating for all performances and the Saturday brunch. General admission for each performance (including the Jazz Brunch) is $50. Teachers with a valid ID are welcome to attend any performance at half price (first come, first served – limited to space available). Students are always $5 per performance for students with valid student ID.
For Hotel Reservations, call 432-368-5885 and ask for the Jazz Party Rate. For Jazz Party or Brunch Reservations, call 432-552-8962. We are now accepting credit cards or you may make your check payable to: West Texas Jazz Society • P.O. Box 10832 • Midland, Texas 79702
About the West Texas Jazz Party
Founded in 1967 by Odessa Doctor O.A. “Jimmie” Fulcher – with assistance from Denver businessman Dick Gibson and local business leaders – the West Texas Jazz Parties of today remain a “must-hear” event for musicians and fans. By unofficial count, there have been about 150 different musicians to attend the West Texas Jazz Parties over the years, and another 100 or so headline musicians to perform at other West Texas Jazz Society events.
The West Texas Jazz Society is a recognized 501 (c) (3) non-profit, and has operated since the 1990s as the organizer and chief fundraiser for the West Texas Jazz Party. The West Texas Jazz Society has no paid staff. Each year, its board and volunteers put on the West Texas Jazz Party. The West Texas Jazz Party Collaboration is sponsored in part by The Texas Commission for the Arts; The Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities; and The Rea Charitable Trust.
Since the early 1990s, the West Texas Jazz Society and its volunteer board has been the behind-the-scenes producer for jazz in the Permian Basin. For more than a quarter century, Margaret Gillham has served on the Jazz Society board, mostly as its president. She claims this will be her last jazz party as president.
* Musicians scheduled to attend the 50th West Texas Jazz Party Collaboration in 2016
- Cornetists – Ed Polcer, Warren Vaché
- Trumpeters – Randy Sandke
- Guitarists – Eddie Erickson, Bucky Pizzarelli
- Trombonists – John Allred, Dan Barrett
- Saxophonists – Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski, Houston Person
- Clarinetists – Allan Vaché, Ken Peplowski
- Pianists – Johnny Varro, Rossano Sportiello, John Cocuzzi
- Bassists – Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Joel Forbes
- Drummers – Butch Miles, Chuck Redd, Tony Tedesco
- Vibraphonists – Chuck Redd, John Cocuzzi
- Vocals – Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, Eddie Erickson