Jazz Community Bounces Back

By: 
Erika Johnson
SHY BUT FLYY records virtual shows from her bedroom.

Jazz has a sound that connects everyone from within and reverberates throughout the community invigorating people with a new-found energy.

Long Beach is known for its diverse cultures in its arts community. If one part of the art community is vast in its different cultures and styles, then so is the music part of the community.

Shy But Flyy, a well-known blues, jazz and spoken-word artist has always been entranced by the sound of jazz and the thought of performing ever since she was a child.

“I wrote poetry and songs,” Shy said. “It’s funny because I never shared it with everyone until I got older, it forced me to step out and share with people.”

Once the pandemic hit and venues went silent, Shy still stayed afloat by participating in virtual shows. On her Instagram, she has multiple videos of her sitting down with a camera and microphone in front of her.

“I’ve been doing virtual events pretty consistently and I do them all from my bedroom, which is pretty cool,” Shy said.

The Arts Council for Long Beach reached out to Shy right away to help put together Keep Arts Working. She reached out to six other artists to perform a 15-minute set virtually and uploaded it to social media platforms to promote to others to keep people inspired.

“Everybody as an artist has been hit hard,” she said. “I went from playing four to five times a night to doing just a couple virtual events.”

Even though Shy tries to think positively, it still shocks her how her shows started to dwindle down.

“I was not trying to dwell on a circumstance I couldn’t change, instead I tried to figure out how to adapt,” she said.

While some artists have taken a liking to virtual shows and have continued to perform that way, other artists feel it takes away from the performing experience.

Like Minds Quintet, a jazz band consisting currently of three young members, Shogo Ellefson, Dexter Robinson and Max Nguyen, have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

“Everything felt so surreal, it was almost a presentiment of knowing that weeks after another week or so it would get to the degree that we wouldn’t see each other anymore,” Robinson said.

As the pandemic went on, so did the time that the Like Minds Quintet were unable to see each other and play as one again. It has been over a year since the group has seen each other, even just for a quick jam session.

Seventeen-year-old Max, the youngest of the group, has been more exposed to virtual shows since he is still in school. However, exposing the band to virtual shows is something the members agree that it takes away from the overall experience.

“It feels like a rehearsal and it feels like it’s all for personal growth,” Max said. “It just doesn’t feel the same than with an audience.”

Ellefson pointed out that with jazz it fits a social setting because then they are able share their music with everyone.

“It’s a challenge for all musicians because the entire social nature of jazz is just gone,” Ellefson said.

Although, Like Minds Quintet has used this time to focus on their studies and perfecting their craft as the months have passed.

Wes Perry, another jazz musician, has been using this time to record in his home studio.

Perry is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and has been living in Long Beach since 2012. When Perry was in college, he was part of the All American College Band and got the chance to play at Disneyland. He was able to meet different musicians while he was spending time in Southern California.

“There is more of a variety of things to do in Long Beach because the style can be so different so there are just more opportunities,” he said.

Ever since the pandemic hit, Perry found it in himself to stay active by recording his own music. He hopes to get his own music released and to continue teaching.

“I hope to be a positive influence on my community through music,” he said.

Even though live shows have been put on hold, musicians are still finding different ways to share their love for music.

Musicians are all going through different emotions during these times, but the music that they produce is still felt through the soul.

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