The Nashville Scene, Best of Nashville 2007

BEST PLACE TO HEAR (AND PLAY) JAZZ: NASHVILLE JAZZ WORKSHOP. Thanks to this terrific organization, jazz has found a secure niche in Nashville. Founded in 1998, the Germantown-based workshop presents concerts every month in its Jazz Cave – unquestionably the most intimate jazz performance space in the city. The reception area, with its maple walls and galvanized steel trim, serves as an appealing art gallery. And the workshop’s directors, Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer, oversee a top-flight jazz school. NJW is grooming the next generation of jazz lovers. Jazz needs nothing more.

John Pitcher

The Nashville Jazz Workshop is so unique! What a wonderful place! Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer, through their great efforts and hard work, have created a very special place where jazz resides in this beautiful city. In all my travels, playing all over the world, I have never seen a school and concert venue such as this. And it is more than just that! It is a community – a community of people — musicians, fans, and students — who love and revere this music and make the Nashville Jazz Workshop their second home. If only every city in the country — no, the world — had a place like this for people to come play, listen, or participate in any manner they choose. Long live the Nashville Jazz Workshop and all those who make it so special!

Marvin Stamm, jazz trumpeter

Fan Reaction

I’ve lived in Nashville for 5 years and went to a show earlier this month for the first time. I fell in love with jazz and this city all over again.

C. Kendrick Watts


The Nashville Jazz Workshop provides an enormous service to all jazz fans and musicians . . . I’ve been hanging out there since I came to Nashville from Boston almost 5 years ago and have found a true jazz family with whom I can learn, perform, and challenge myself to be a better musician. At NJW, I’ve sung with vocal jazz groups, studied the songs of great composers like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, attended concerts and master classes, and even held my own CD release party. With no grades, students are more relaxed and able to have fun during the learning process. The teachers are knowledgeable, experienced, and sincere in their desire to foster growth in the students, who range from absolute beginners to seasoned professionals. NJW’s Jazz Cave provides an intimate setting for us to see and hear world-class jazz musicians right here in our own town! I know we’re all very grateful to have this place and its people.

Christina Watson, vocalist
(CD: All About Love, 2004)

I came to NJW after hearing about it for several years after my move from the Mississippi Delta to Nashville. I had several friends who kept mentioning the school to me and and suggesting that I go down and check it out. Finally, I went to see what was going on there. My first class was an eye opener. Lori Mechem sat down on the piano bench with me and in five minutes, opened the door for me in my search for jazz voicings. Never before had I been taught patterns, methods of recognizing and hearing . . . it was like the proverbial light going on. Roger Spencer did the same in a Horace Silver class. Patterns, listening, and relationships were presented in a manner that made me wonder why I had never seen this before.

In a nutshell, every time I set foot in the building at NJW, I learn something musical. Whether in an accompanying situation, a concert, or a class, I learn something musical every time I go there. That’s what the journey is all about . . . to keep learning and growing. NJW is the catalyst that has rekindled my musical fire. To me, NJW is a gold mine I have discovered in Nashville. I love it.

Jim (Fish) Michie, pianist

I have been a jazz fan in the wilderness for over 40 years. Despite the fact that there has always been a plethora of truly excellent and dedicated jazz musicians(and fans) in Nashville, there has never been a consistent venue for them to play, study or just simply hang together. Lori, Roger and all the sensational volunteers at the Nashville Jazz Workshop have at last provided that haven. A huge thank-you and a wish for long-lasting success and growth. Keep the jazz flame burning (and swinging) brightly.

Mark Edwards, student, instructor, and fan

Being involved at the Jazz workshop has been the most important experience I have ever had. First of all the workshop . . . allows me to be myself and explore music without anyone judging me. The other amazing experience is that the Jazz workshop is a family. I always feel that I am going home — warm, cozy, accepting and yet a place to learn and study. It is a place that I cannot wait to get to as often as possible

Larry Weitz, pianist and clinical psychologist

My only course of study in jazz music and jazz drumming has been at the Nashville Jazz Workshop. Two short years of study at the workshop have taken me in musical directions I never thought possible. The efficiency and speed with which the workshop has enabled me to learn has also drawn compliments. Studying jazz at the workshop is like studying a language by moving to a country where that’s all they speak — the learning is accelerated because you live it, hear it, and do it! I feel confident that I am firmly and securely on the path of proper musical development. My jazz education at the workshop is well rounded and includes not only technical training, but training in performance, repertoire, and purpose. I find a constant source of inspiration and enlightenment by the wealth of world class professionals both performing and teaching at the workshop and by the extraordinary diversity of the student body there.

Peter Gunn, drummer

I had been searching for a way to express my love of jazz. As an adult and non-working musician, it was very difficult to find any jazz avenues beyond listening to music and going to concerts. Then I discovered the Nashville Jazz Workshop and a whole new world was open to me. I have taken classes in every genre of jazz and been privileged to perform with world-class professionals. I have learned jazz history, jazz theory, performance techniques, and a huge amount of jazz standards all while actually performing the music. The Nashville Jazz Workshop is truly a place where the professionals care, encourage, teach, and respect every person that comes to learn. It’s a place for musicians and non-musicians alike; a place for professionals and those just starting to learn about jazz. No mater your ability or interest level, there is a place for you at the Nashville Jazz Workshop.

Laina Stanford, vocalist
Host of “Live from the Workshop”

How do I put into words what the Nashville Jazz Workshop has done for me? I have a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California. USC is known for its jazz department, housing the Thelonius Monk Institute as well. So, it was a great jazz experience. BUT, I can honestly say that my classes and time at the Nashville Jazz Workshop taught me more than four years worth of jazz at USC.

J’Nae Fincannon, vocalist
(CD: Soultry Jazz, 2005)

About five years ago, I got a feeling I needed to sing jazz. I eventually found my way to the Jazz Workshop, and I’ve been taking classes almost without stopping since then. It’s been great learning songs, vocal technique, and performance skills with other students at all skill levels. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to work with professional accompanists. What’s more, I think I’m actually learning how to sing and work through my performance anxiety. It’s getting to be fun!

Luther Ludwig, vocalist and massage therapist

Faculty and Guest Artists

The Nashville Jazz Workshop provides a home base, a sanctuary, a dropping-in and hanging-out place for all the wonderful jazz musicians who have been here in Nashville for years. At long last, a place where we can gather to teach, explore, listen, talk, and above all, play and share this timeless music. Hooray!

Beegie Adair
Pianist, NJW faculty & Board member

Lori and Roger’s dedication and musical expertise lead the way in jazz education. A Jazz Workshop like theirs should be in every major city. They are to be applauded for their continued efforts to raise the bar of quality music in the Nashville, TN area.

Jamey Aebersold
Internationally renowned jazz educator

Thanks for the vision and the opportunity to manifest it through the NJW. It will be an asset not only to those attending but the community at large. Thanks for your dedication.

Ed Thigpen
Drummer, Copenhagen, Denmark
Guest artist, Jazz at the Workshop, 2006

The main strength of NJW’s programs is the direct interaction between students and professional faculty members. Having attended Berklee in the 60’s, I find that the NJW has the same creative vibe I found in Boston — musicians receiving solid, usable instruction and information from those with years of professional experience.

Jeffrey Steinberg
Arranger, conductor, and NJW faculty member

I’ve never seen anything like this!

Houston Person
Saxophonist, guest artist, Jazz at the Workshop, 2006

A jazz oasis.

Bobby Militello
Saxophonist, Dave Brubeck Quartet
Guest artist, Jazz at the Workshop, 2005


NASHVILLE JAZZ WORKSHOP 6TH ANNUAL FUNDRAISER. With the Nashville Jazz Workshop, pianist Lori Mechem and bassist Roger Spencer have managed to build not only a thriving education program, but also a jazz community – no small feat in a city that doesn’t exactly welcome jazz with open arms. NJW’s annual fundraiser at the University Club of Nashville features a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and the evening’s centerpiece, the All-Star Faculty Jam, whose lineup boasts a collective resume that includes stints with Herbie Mann, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Weather Report, Lou Rawls, Frank Zappa, Max Roach, Arturo Sandoval, Aretha Franklin and Sara Vaughan, to name a few. Not too shabby.

Jack Silverman, Nashville Scene
September, 2006

[the NJW Fall Fundraiser] . . . by far the finest assemblage of Nashville jazz talent under one roof in recent memory. It might not exactly be “one night in Harlem,” but if you’re looking to put together an A-list jazz session, there’s only one place you’ll find everyone . . . right here.

Nashville Rage
September, 2005