One of the most improbable musical events to ever be held in the middle of a Texas desert turned 50 in May, and documentary producer David Leonnig made the 50th party count – for two reasons.
“I love the West Texas parties and the musicians, but this year had a special significance. The party turned 50, and a documentary about the party is long overdue,” Leonnig said. “Completing the documentary to include the 50th year highlights is a big priority.”
This was a preview for the documentary featuring stills of video for the project.
This is not in the final documentary, but will likely be one of the special features should the documentary ever be released on DVD.
Listen to a music feature on the late Jazz Party pianist Ray Kennedy:
About the West Texas Jazz Parties
In 2016, the West Texas Jazz Society presented the 50th Annual West Texas Jazz Party Collaboration…
marking it as the oldest continuously running jazz party in the United States!
It was during a visit to Dick Gibson’s famous Aspen jazz party that Dr. O.A. (Jimmie) Fulcher first conceived the idea of bringing world-class jazz to West Texas.
Dr. Fulcher wondered why West Texas couldn’t be host to a similar party. While in Aspen, he talked the idea over with some of the country’s top jazz musicians. They liked the idea. Then Jimmie returned home and immediately set about the task of selling the plan to a number of his friends. The Odessa Jazz Association was formed and the rest is history. The First Annual Odessa Jazz Party was held in 1967. For five nights the old Terrace Room of the Golden Rooster Club high atop the historic Inn of the Golden West provided the setting for some of the nation’s best jazz performers.
During the first party 124 stalwart jazz enthusiasts thirstily absorbed every note and the legacy of West Texas jazz was born. By the 5th annual party in excess of 350 energetic patrons from coast to coast were drawn to the jazz Mecca of the Odessa Jazz Party. In just 5 years the concept had grown from what many had considered to be an impossibility on the staked plains of West Texas into an event of national significance. In 1977 Max Christensen and a group of Midland jazz enthusiasts formed the Midland Jazz Association and the Midland Jazz Classic was born. Over the nearly 50-year history of the events the two parties have hosted jazz greats from around the world.
More about the West Texas Jazz Party which will be in the documentary:
Breakdown of the number of musicians attending the West Texas Jazz Parties across the years (1967 – 2016) by instrument (current total is 166 musicians – if you don’t see one on the list at the linked page below, please speak up!)
This does not include the hundreds of other musicians who have visited as the guest of the Jazz Society to play at other events.