I’m a jazz neophyte.
I know very little about who performs the genre or how it’s performed. I know even less about where it is performed.
That being said, I know enough about music to know that a suburban bowling alley isn’t usually the top booking spot for local jazz musicians.
But Tuttle’s Eat Bowl Play in Hopkins isn’t just any suburban bowling alley.
While true that Tuttle’s is a far cry from the dimly lit, smoky cafes that I envision host emerging saxophone players or raspy singers, it possesses a love of local music and is home to Fladcast.
Every Friday evening from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fladcast, a self-described weekly showcase of Minnesota talent, introduces Tuttle’s audiences to local musicians.
Singer-songwriters, guitarists and other performers get to test out new material in a relatively nonjudgmental environment; people are generally involved in side conversations or watching whatever game may be on.
The performances are recorded and placed on YouTube.
It’s not only a great place for newer musicians to try out the material, but a good place for newer listeners to experience it.
So, bowling alley to my left and basketball game to my right, I sat at the bar eager to hear Calley Bliss serenade the crowd.
Like improv, jazz is a form of art that changes every time it’s performed. And when it’s good, it’s great. But when it’s bad, it’s … rough.
From the start, it was clear that Bliss’s performance was anything but rudimentary.
I knew going into the show that Bliss was a seasoned singer, and I was happy to learn she is also a charismatic performer.
The songs felt relaxed and easy, as though they hadn’t been practiced before, but were just naturally coming to her on stage.
She herself looked at ease behind the keyboard and did her best to interact with a distracted crowd.
Sometimes I find that jazz all sounds the same, but each of Bliss’s songs had a distinctive personality. The first was very funky with a strong baseline.
She then moved to songs with a softer, more melodic sound, followed by an almost indie-sounding jazz with strong keyboard strokes.
At times the band was a bit overwhelming, but with a slight change in acoustics this became clear it was simply a volume issue not a voice issue.
Bliss’s vocals were strong and clear. Her alto was smooth and sexy, and she kept her songs smartly within a range that complemented her voice.
My favorite part, however, was the jam session after.
Bliss and her accompanying musicians had not worked together prior to her show, but you wouldn’t know it.
As with any jam session, there were a few times the group got off track, but once they found a communal beat they easily slid back into a rhythm with one another.
It was the best part of the show because you could see on each musicians face how involved they became with the music and how much fun they were having.
Bliss is a Minnesota native who traveled to Texas to learn about jazz.
After studying the art of jazz, Bliss sang and performed alongside Dallas/Fort Worth musicians. She moved from Texas, to New York City and to Idaho performing her own work, contributing to music companies and teaching.
Currently, she has immersed herself in the world of business by starting her own company, Entertainment Jill.
I think jazz is often seen as unapproachable because it’s a bit hard to understand.
Unlike pop or rock, there’s not a hook or chorus for people to grasp onto. And unlike classical music, the parts aren’t generally written beforehand.
But perhaps the answer to that is pairing it with the casual environment, as with Tuttle’s.
And, really, who doesn’t want to go cosmic bowling after a sick jam sesh?