Among the younger musicians working along with Pearson to promote jazz in Columbia is Rapp, a trumpeter born in Florence, S. C., who spent his early years as a jazz musician ‘following Wynton Marsalis around.’ Holding an undergraduate degree from Winthrop College and a master’s in jazz from the University of New Orleans, Rapp performed and recorded in New York City and traveled and lived in Europe before returning home to South Carolina.
In researching the jazz scene in Columbia, Rapp immediately met tenor saxophonist Robert Gardiner, who has been playing for more than a decade at the Speakeasy downtown on Saturday nights, and Pearson, who could be found playing at Le CafÃ© Jazz on Fridays and Saturdays. (Pearson isn’t playing much in public now, Martin said, due to his health issues associated with advanced bone cancer.)
‘Both these guys were so warm and welcoming,’ Rapp said. ‘And I became more aware of the other great talents in Columbia. I lived in NYC and toured the world and played with some of the best musicians in the world, and I’d put these musicians right up against them. They’re phenomenal.’
That led Rapp, who now performs regularly at Pearlz in Columbia, to spearhead a project to record all the jazz band leaders around town. ‘We wanted to highlight and bring awareness of these musicians and composers so that other venues will open to jazz and create more work,’ he said, adding that Paul Bodamer’s Jangly Records studio in Columbia rivals any recording studio he’s ever seen. The amazing compilation of jazz music is currently featured on ColaJazz.
Rapp, who has performed with Branford Marsalis (who’s a principal in the jazz scene in Durham, NC, these days) and Hootie and the Blowfish, has also been able to fulfill a long-time dream of his since he’s been working, playing and teaching in Columbia.
Under the auspices of Harbison Theatre, his jazz ballet ‘Woven’ premiered in January 2015. ‘Columbia made that happen for me ‘ something you’d think would only be possible in a big city,’ he added.