The Jazz Estate in Milwaukee, located on N. Murray Ave, is a unique place where jazz musicians can perform their music for an audience.“If you’re a jazz performer in Milwaukee, it’s kind of a milestone in your performance career,” said Quinn McCafferty, senior and percussionist. “It’s not a place where everybody goes but the people who go there are very dedicated and enjoy whatever the people that perform there can put on.”
McCafferty plays with two jazz ensembles: the SHS Jazz Band and UJAY, a youth jazz ensemble at UWM. McCafferty first started playing jazz in seventh grade. That spring, he auditioned for UJAY, and has been playing ever since.
“I play the drums; it’s one of the more universal instruments out there. Drums can be incorporated into pretty much any genre of music, including jazz,” McCafferty said. “At school, you’re only really exposed to play more classic compositions, and I wanted to try something new. I wanted jazz because there’s that improvisatory aspect to it; it gives you the freedom to express yourself a little more.”
Kyle Stifert, student manager of the UWM jazz ensemble, has a similar opinion.“I started playing saxophone in eighth grade, and they needed a baritone saxophone player for the jazz band,” Stifert said. “I quickly found out that the concept of improvisation came pretty easily to me … and I realized that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Stifert first found out about the Jazz Estate in winter of 2009, as a freshman at UWM looking to get a degree in Music Education and Jazz Studies.
“It was surreal … going into a place like that,” Stifert said. “I was able to project my sound so much better. There’s something about that stage; I felt invincible up there.”
The Jazz Estate state is not your typical performance venue. Compared to other places, it is very small and intimate.“It’s a bit claustrophobic, but it’s got a very warm sound to it. It’s a little more real, in my opinion,” McCafferty said. “It’s got a feel to it that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.”
Curt Hanrahan, director of the jazz bands at UWM, has been a jazz musician for over 40 years. “Through working with many different groups in high school, I began to enjoy playing that language,” Hanrahan said.
Hanrahan visits the estate frequently, about once a week.“It has an old-school, jazz vibe, and a very intimate atmosphere,” Hanrahan said. “[The audience is] not miles away from the musicians.”
“It’s a shame that jazz isn’t as popular as it used to be,” McCafferty said. “It’s one of the true American art forms out there, one of the things that America pioneered. To be able to bring that music to the people of Milwaukee is great.”