MISSOULA - April is International Jazz Month and Missoula is honoring the holiday with what some locals call the biggest jazz festival in Western Montana.
Jazzoula kicks off Wednesday night, April 26, 2023, at the Zootown Arts Community Center and ends Sunday, April 30.
The event will allow different bands and vocalists to perform their best jazz and blues sets.
MTN spoke with two of the musicians opening Friday night.
Patti Nolan will be hitting the stage with the Undeniables and says they’re ready to set the tone.
“It’s the jazz festival of Montana,” Nolan said.”We’re all very similar, even though we may look different. And I want to bring the spirit of being a Black jazz vocalist to Missoula.”
Raised in the Garden City, the Hellgate High School graduate followed the tune of her dreams to the Big Apple 50 years ago.
“I did my first gig in 1973 at a place called ‘The Bushes,’ in New York City on 72nd Street across the Street from Central Park. That was my first gig as a jazz vocalist headling a group,” Nolan said.
Nolan recently moved back to Missoula after leaving five decades ago and has continued performing on stages across the city.
“Missoula is my home. I’ve been to Europe, California, I stayed in New York for that amount of time and everywhere I go I tell everyone you need to go to Missoula, Montana, and see the Rockies.”
She loves being home surrounded by peers and doing what she loves, but keeping Jazz alive is what's more meaningful to her.
“The reason they’re called classics is that they never get old,” Nolan said. “So, it’s important for me to bring them to the forefront and put my own interpretation on them for the audience to hear.”
It's a team effort to have a good show. She’s surrounded by like-minded musicians who learn often from one another.
“Very talented artists that are world-renowned still record songs from the 40s, 50s 60s because the melodies are so strong,” Ben Schuberg said. “With Patti [having] such a strong voice and interpretation of those, I’m able to just be inspired.”
Schuberg is a local Western Montana musician who plays many instruments. He and Nolan work together.
It would appear that she only sings, and he just plays the piano. But, their rehearsals and sets are a much more gainful experience.
“It’s just very special for me to be able to play this music with Patti,” Schuberg said. “I didn't live when those recordings came out. She’s definitely a conduit for me to just hear it and in such a strong presentation.”
When those curtains open on the stage, you probably won’t be able to tell that Nolan is 74 years old. So, what’s her secret?
“I think you have to find something that makes you want to get up and function and go,” Nolan said.
Clearly, there is something about Jazz that has given Nolan some youthful harmony throughout her life.
“It’s a need. It’s a passion. It kinda gives me purpose, and I think It keeps me young,” Nolan said.
Patti Nolan and the Undeniables will take center stage Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at the ZACC.
Ticket prices for Jazzolua are $20 for adults and $17 for seniors and children. Click here to buy tickets.