Experience two nights of jazz at the Rozsa Center

HOUGHTON – When the Rozsa Center presents a show, most people don’t expect to take their seats on the stage. But for the upcoming Jazz Cabaret, that’s exactly where they’ll be sitting. The stage will be set up to resemble a jazz club with tables for patrons.

Michigan Technological University Director of Jazz Studies Mike Irish is one of the people behind the Jazz Cabaret.

“It’s been going on about 12 years,” Irish said. “This will be our third season where we’ve done it in the backstage at the Rozsa format. The people at the Rozsa close off the stage area and turn it into a jazz club with the effective lighting and they even use some of the stage smoke to give it that underground, New York feel. It’s turned out to be a hugely popular format.”

Irish said that smaller jazz groups tend to thrive in more intimate settings and backstage at the Rozsa provides that.

Rozsa Center Program Director Gary Braun was the person who came up with the idea of holding the Jazz Cabaret in the Rozsa and brought the idea to Irish’s attention.

“When we originally started doing it we turned the McArdle Theatre into a jazz club much the same way, but Gary wanted to try it at the Rozsa Center and ever since we tried it it’s been such a huge success,” Irish said. “It was his vision that by creating this total atmosphere of a jazz club that that would enhance the setting of the music. There’s great sound.”

For those who are unable to make it to the show, it will also be live streamed via the Rozsa Center’s website.

According to Irish, the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra was the first group to experiment with a live stream, which turned out to be a big success. The stream got hits from all over the world.

“It was something that we wanted to pursue to be able to expand our audiences,” Irish said.

While in the fall a live stream was available for the large jazz ensemble, this is the first time it will be done for the smaller version.

There will be three different small jazz groups performing: JazzTec, Djangology and Momentum.

JazzTec focuses mainly on mainstream and more current jazz, Djangology is named after Django Reinhardt, who was one of the promoters and performers in what is today called gypsy jazz.

“That’s a completely acoustic style of jazz that was very popular in the 1930s,” Irish said. “Over the last five or so years it has gained in popularity again. It’s really taken off.”

The third group, Momentum, is primarily a blues, funk and fusion oriented group.

“Songs that are played by (Momentum) are very current,” Irish said. “These three different groups represent three different styles in jazz. There’s a broad spectrum. We like to think there’s something for everybody throughout the night.”

Third year Michigan Tech school of technology student Scott Wambold is a member of Djangology. Wambold said he got involved in gypsy jazz after listening to a lot of it in the summer between his first and second year at Tech.

“The more I listened the more I thought it would be something fun to play,” Wambold said, who plays the guitar.

When he got back to Tech, Wambold found a group of friends to play with and talked to Mike Irish about setting it up.

What Wambold likes about gypsy jazz is how loose and free it is creatively.

“You can be very open with the interpretation of songs and using different instruments to communicate,” Wambold said. “It seems to be a more personal type of music.”

This weekend’s performance will be Djangology’s ninth show. Outside of Tech, the group has played at the Orpheum Theater and The Four Season’s Tea Room.

The Jazz Cabaret will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Rozsa Center. Tickets are $13 for adults and $5 for youth and Tech students.