Jazz-Play Studio Opening Party/Jam Review - Jazzin’- em in Evanston

If you weren’t at 1042 Wesley in Evanston on Sunday May 26th between 4 and 7pm, you missed a great event, the opening jam session/party celebration of Jazz-Play Studio at Space 900.



Space 900, an artist collective of more than 30 years currently situated in a storefront with a large window facing the street, is perfect for showing off the spectacular artwork of Space 900 members: Joanna Pinsky, Ken Avick, Colleen Conley, Judy Freilich, Clark Ellithorpe, Peggy Robinson, Dustin Harris, and Lea Pinsky. Its first musical artist member is guitarist/composer Donovan Mixon, who brings years of experience as a performer and academic having taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston and in the music department of Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey.


Jazz-Play Studio - Istanbul, began during the last years of Mr. Mixon’s residency in the former Constantinople. 



The jam session at Jazz-Play Studio – Evanston started at 4pm with a trio that featured guitarist Donovan Mixon, bassist Rich Armandi and drummer Danny Reese. The first tune was a moody version of John Coltrane’s Equinox. The disparate personal styles of the three musicians worked to produce an evolving emotional delivery of this famous theme. The audience loved it and the applause grew more and more after each solo, as the crowd grew.



Many of the Space 900 members were present in solid support of their studio brother Donovan, as well as several musicians from Evanston and as far away as Hyde Park-Chicago. Trumpeter John Adkins, who lives just a few doors from Barack Obama’s home, was in attendance and in rare form. A master of playing with silence, he wowed the audience with his signature angular and often surprising phrasing. Young bassist John Lauler, thoroughly taken by the veteran, urged Mr. Adkins to close the jam with “Bye Bye Blackbird” –– a tune on which he is known to burn.




At around 5 pm all eyes turned towards two gentlemen who’d apparently arrived together: saxophonist Walter Clark, and the distinctive persona of Froggy Daniels, a blues pianist and vocalist. Before you could say “hot barbeque”, Froggy had sat down at the keyboard and was deep into “Sweet Home Chicago”.



A bit later, local Pianist Peter Schwendener came in the door and the mood shifted entirely. Mr. Schwendener is a master and recording artist in his own right. Everyone appreciated his solo on “Jeanine” while accompanying the vocalist Maja Rios.


Cory Biggerstaff, a bassist in demand on the Chicago scene, managed to make the set after an afternoon gig. He said that he wanted to make sure the Donovan was covered for a bassist. Of course, the role was aptly covered by Armandi and Lauler.  But it went to show that Jazz-PlayStudio has already earned fans in the professional musician community.

In the works for the studio are private and group lessons in guitar, improvisation, music theory and performance studies. Jam sessions, workshops and regular performances open to the public are planned for the near future. For info, write to Donovan Mixon at: [email protected]. Keep an eye on donmixon.com,www.facebook.com/space900, and other public notices spaces for updates.



Photos: Diana Anton

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