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The Federal Jazz Project Starts in San Diego

Posted: May. 3rd, 2013  |  By Michael Pearse

Jazz really doesn't get the love and attention it deserves from Americans: As one of the only truly American cultural creations, you'd think we'd eat up jazz like Mexico takes in mariachi, but we don't. However, every once in a while, something significant in jazz happens and people take notice. San Diego is going to be the home base for The Federal Jazz Project, which is a celebration through performance of jazz and its influence on American culture.

Imagine San Diego circa 1939—an underground jazz club south of Broadway, where drinks flow freely, cigarette smoke swirls through a dimly lit room, and the moody riff of a saxophone serves as the soundtrack for romance, bar brawls, and more. This is the inspiration for The Federal Jazz Project, a new world premiere production opening April 6 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

Fast-forward to the late ’90s, in a speakeasy-type joint near 15th and Market streets, and that’s where playwright/actor Richard Montoya got an idea. The San Diego native was struck by the nightly jam sessions that showcased amateur musicians improvising alongside the regulars—sort of like an open-mic night for jazz lovers. 

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