Heavy with promise, the stage lit with the soul of youthful visions, a new wave of jazz aficionados embraced the Palos Verdes Coast with a free expression of the legendary Great American Songbook.
Located and sponsored by the Trump National Golf Course, this monthly event showcases the talents of the Palos Verdes community’s hopes and dreams. Orchestrated by Dr. Greg Allen, Director of Freedom 4U, the gifted young unleashed their passion for the purist of American art forms jazz!
Witness each night, as often as you can, our future generation’s concepts of jazz. It’s an encounter that needs no coxing or negotiation. Once fixed in your schedule, the innovation and spontaneity of jammin’ will draw you in.
On stage, this past November evening, was a quartet of fine musicians, seasoned in the whisper of their lives. With dedication and glue to forge their path, the performances far exceeded the perception at the door. Sharing the stage, vocalist Lauren Desberg, whose passionate feel for emotional expression, delivered a capsule of vocal dialogue. The animated swagger and adorned tapestry of cool, Molly Miller’s strings performed at a provocative pulse while bassist Nate Miller staged the foundation with a technique that had high ceilings. On drums, Sammy Miller’s efforts were innovative as he kept sway. Keyboardist Dan Marshak was keeper of melody with personable authority. Combined, they’re the new wave of jazz on display, free of mainstream pure in religious intensity.
When asked to define jazz, Ornette Coleman stated "Jazz is freedom," a sentiment that Freedom 4U architects. Freedom is what they facilitate through all art forms. From music, art, life lessons and lectures, Dr. Allen and staff invest in young people by allowing them the freedom to express. This Thursday evening, the youth were on stage and jazz was the lesson only this time, the youth educate the elders!
Between sets, I explored the unexplored: youthful minds and the beliefs that drove them to jazz as their chosen genre. Why not follow the gravitational pull from the mainstream sphere of the current wave? "The thing I love is the constant give and take," Sammy states. "You have what the keyboard player is doing and you try to internalize it rather than mimic it. You’re trying to figure out your outlook," he says. Lauren’s expressive theory came into play when also asked. "I think the freedom of it, being able to do anything you want, and really having nothing be wrong, because it is almost all improvising. You can do anything...and that’s great," says Lauren.
A musician’s individual zone is a curious place; never truly other than the artist in it. When and how do they know when they have hit that intoxicating balance of their craft? "It is a completely unique feel," says Nate, "unlike anything else I have ever done. It’s a feeling of pure connection with other people. Having this language of expressing yourself, it’s so unique."
Dan has a different perspective. "It’s almost like a runner’s high. You feel like you’re in a different space when there is a perfect mix of challenge and comfort," says Dan, "so you’re with players that are challenging you, but you’re not totally lost being pushed to the extreme limit, but you are still with the music!"
I thought ahead to the future and wondered what the second phase of the Great American Songbook would take form as. The forecasts were very appealing. "The technical aspect has pretty much been pushed to the limit, so the new challenge is to push it in a new sense a push in time and solo length," Sammy examines. "So much of the old stuff has been done."
Molly dissects it differently. "Yes, push the limits more and by fusing a lot of things. Technology like Kurt Rosenwinkel’s, using different gadgets to further his playing. That is one aspect," says Molly. "Another is harmonically; the music can be pushed to greater limits."
Dan actually surfaced his vision and eloquently passed on his predictions for the next generation of jazz. "The way I see it now, there are two streams of jazz--jazz mixed with classical, which is more written out stuff, more ranging like expanding the harmonic rhythm," he says. "Then you have jazz with popular music and funk, making it almost a popular music again, and danceable. These are to two things I am most focused on," he says.
So what has the organization Freedom 4U meant to these artists? What influence has been cast upon them to direct them on their individual course? "Let me say that I have been working with Greg (Allen) since high school," says Nate. "I think he is creating a community of artists and musicians in the community that really need the space to interact. We have had to go outside of Palos Verdes to gain this. Bringing the resources of LA to us," he explains. "Freedom 4U has offered the chance to create a source for musicians to learn from one another!" Molly feels the organization has given her many opportunities. "Through Freedom 4U, I get to teach young, middle school kids and watching them be enthusiastic about jazz it’s so gratifying."
One of the young jazz intellects of tomorrow defines his reason to go down this driven path, embracing his dreams through Freedom 4U. Eight-year old vocalist Jeremy Alder said it best. "It means having fun and enjoying music. It’s important to me. What jazz means is to have fun," he says. Out of the mind of the young comes the purist of defining thought.
"To believe in young people," is the declaration of director Dr. Greg Allen. "Try not to contain them," says Allen. "We have a slogan which says "Releasing Youth." Many people try to contain and control youth. We want to release them through their creative ability, letting their passion flow." Dr. Allen examines it as young people do not have the walls pulling them back like adults do. He believes and demonstrates that this is why they are fun to be around.
That evening at the Trump National Golf Course in Palos Verdes was a prime example of the organization’s continuing stream of success. Freedom 4U is the model every community should examine with open minds. The future is in our hands, but just for an infinitesimal flash of time. Then the torch is passed forever. Making life work is a daily routine. As mentors this is what we strive to teach our future sculptors of history. This is what Dr. Greg Allen and Freedom 4U has set as their calling. Jazz is the purist of American art forms as are our children!
Molly Miller (Guitar)
Nineteen years old and a serious student of guitar since she was age seven, Molly grew up performing in a rock' n' roll band and is the youngest of the Miller musical family in Los Angeles. A few years ago, Molly played the Jimi Hendrix tune "Foxy Lady" on network TV’s "America's Most Talented Kids." Her trio was awarded first place at the Reno Jazz Festival, one of the largest high school jazz competitions.
Molly is currently is a sophomore studying "Studio Guitar" at the USC Thornton School of Music. She performs with a variety of local rock groups and has recently developed a one-woman classical guitar act.
Nate Miller (Bass)
A jazz bassist and music educator based in the Los Angeles area, Nate began performing bass at the age of ten, along with his four siblings, in the Underage rock group. Nate picked up the upright bass and jazz at the age of 13. He attended the Orange County High School for the Arts, touring with the school's top jazz combo all over the United States. While still in high school, Nate performed with smooth jazz pianist David Benoit's trio at benefit concerts across California.
He attended UCLA, studying with jazz legend Alphonso Johnson and performed with a number of groups at the school. Since leaving UCLA, Nate has performed jazz and rock music throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Nate is also an accomplished musical educator. He served as musical director of the Miraleste Intermediate School jazz band for three years and is actively involved in the Freedom4U organization.
Dan Marschak (Keyboards)
A San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles-based pianist, composer and educator, Dan had his first lesson at age seven. The piano became an immensely important part of his life, but his musical aspirations led him to composing. Currently, he is double-majoring at UCLA and plans to finish this year with two degrees in jazz studies and music composition.
Dan studied piano with Bay Area legends Susan Muscarella and Mark Levine and continued his studies with LA greats Tom Rainier, Tamir Hendelman and Josh Nelson.
Dan has played at top venues such as Yoshi’s, the Jazzschool, Jupiter, Catalina’s Bar and Grill, the Jazz Bakery, the House of Blues and the Knitting Factory.
As a composer, Dan has been fortunate to have mentors who are masters and terrific teachers. Professors Paul Chihara, Ian Krouse, Mark Carlson and Roger Bourland have played an immense role in his development. Thus far, Dan has written pieces for the UCLA Philharmonia, the UCLA Wind Ensemble, and smaller ensembles of varying instrumentation.
Sammy Miller (Drums)
Sammy’s musical career began at age five as the drummer and lead singer of Underage, a rock band he formed with his big brother and three sisters. With Sam and his big sister Molly, the Peninsula High School jazz combo won the Reno Jazz Festival in 2007. Sam went on to play for the Colburn Jazz Workshop and the Southern California Jazz Honor Band with David Benoit's jazz trio.
This past spring, Sam toured Alaska for a week with jazz legend Bobby Watson and Lisa Henry. In the summer, he went on the road with smooth jazz pianist David Benoit throughout the west coast (San Jose, Lake Tahoe, and Los Angeles).
Sammy is currently the drummer for LACHSA (the LA County High School of the Arts) top combo and the big band.
Lauren Desberg, (Vocalist)
Lauren is a senior at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts in Los Angeles. There, she is the student director of the Vocal Jazz Ensemble and sings with the big band and the combos. She has been singing since age six, but her main focus now is jazz.
In 2008, Lauren was selected to participate in the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy JazzEnsembles and the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, and was featured in the Young Artist Jazz Series. She has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival and other Los Angeles venues such as Catalina's Bar and Grill, The Jazz Bakery and The Vic.
Lauren has studied with Jason Goldman, Michele Weir, Walter Smith III, Pat Bass and Gretchen Parlato.