A Charlotte-based musician is teaming up Friday with the Columbia Museum of Art to bring jazz to Main Street. Noel Friedline, a noted jazz pianist who also leads a five-piece band, will kick off CMA Jazz on Main.
The program is sponsored by local physician Dr. Steven Serbin, who first met Friedline when his quintet played at a Hilton Head Island venue.
“He came to me one day and said, ‘Hey, I live in Columbia, I support the museum and I would like to start a jazz series. I’m interested in having you perform,’ ” Friedline said.
Once Friedline joined forces with the museum, he became the series’ artistic director. Each performance in the series will have a specific theme, and some will be tied in with the museum’s exhibits. The quintet’s April performance explores the influence of Asian culture on jazz, coinciding with the museum’s “Japan and the Jazz Age” exhibit, which opens in February. The exhibit will feature everything from sheet music to kimonos.
“It was great luck that it all came together at the same time,” said Dickson Monk, the museum’s spokesman. “There’s a lot of jazz at the museum going on right now, so it’s perfect timing … The fact that we have this jazz-oriented exhibit opening at the kickoff of the series is great. We want to have them complement each other.”
The series’ first installment explores the “great voices of jazz,” including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Etta James. While the quintet will be playing a variety of well-known classics, they’ve put their own spin on the songs.
“We’ve taken a lot of the tunes and rearranged them,” Friedline said. “We’ve added elements of improvisation and spontaneity and made it a combination of structure and spontaneity.”
While this is the first jazz series that the museum has hosted, Friedline and his quartet have combined music and art before. Most recently, the group played a set of songs from 1959 at Charlotte’s Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, which had an exhibit dedicated to the same year.
CMA Jazz on Main is just one in a long line of creative events the museum has put on to attract people who may not otherwise visit, especially local college students.
“One thing we’re really hoping is that we’ll bring a lot of younger people in,” Monk said. “We want to make it really accessible for a larger audience of younger people.”
While the partnership has just started, Monk and Friedline both said they expect it to be a success.
“This is the beginning of a great friendship,” Monk said.