"I made a bet with someone that I could teach these kids to play Charlie Parker tunes", Adams said. "And I was told that it was impossible. And it wasn't but about six months that these kids were doing all these Charlie Parker tunes. The high school kids couldn't cut this stuff. And that's when people started taking notice".
Since those jam sessions in 1992, the Young Razzcals have come a long way. With Bird tunes as their foundation, they expanded their repertoire to include dozens of jazz standards and a few blues numbers. "They learned to improvise on a high level," said Adams, a retired jazz teacher from An Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News, Virginia. "They learned to think in terms of phrases as opposed to notes. It scared them to death at the start, but once they started playing phrases, the phrases got longer until you couldn't believe it wasn't an adult playing."
Adams told the children that if they learned to play Charlie Parker tunes in the right sequence, from simple to more complex, they could learn to improvise. He began with tunes like "Now's the Time" and worked them toward numbers like "Au Privave" and "Ornithology". He played recordings of the songs and required that the kids could hum them before attempting them on their instruments.
Gulf Coast Eatery
Thanks to this fine establishment, and the weekly jam sessions, the musical skills of some very talented youth were recognized.
These four talented boys (now men), were the original children who began joining in the weekly jam sessions at the Gulf Coast Eatery. During a camping trip to Colorado in August of 1995, the group decided to go to the Telluride Jazz Celebration. While jamming on a street corner, they were discovered by the festival's director, Paul Machado, who invited them to play on the main stage. Since then, YRJP has been a frequent guest at the famed jazz festival.
The original "Telluride 4"
Mikey Alderson, Steve Lopez, James Bresslin, and Paul Chavez
Birthplace of Young Razzcals Jazz Project
The Young Razzcals Jazz Project originated in 1992 as a byproduct of a jam session that Director, Dave Adams was conducting for high schoolers and young college students in Albuquerque, NM. Dave was taken aback when a young alto saxophonist, Leon Lewis, asked to sit in. Throughout his long musical career, Adams had never seen a fifth-grader take part in a jam session.
The boy played "Satin Doll", and didn't sound half bad. He showed up the following week with a friend, and soon Adams had nine or ten youngsters, from grades 4 to 6, turning up at his jams. Adams offered to rehearse the children on weekends, provided they bought two books: an "Arbin's" Book and a "Real Book". And so, the Young Razzcals Jazz Project was born.