Like a lot of people, I fell in love with jazz after hearing Miles Davis and his band on the recording “Kind of Blue.” I was playing with a rock band at the time and never really heard jazz until somewhere between “Blue in Green.”

Since then, I keep uncovering inspiring artists and music that continues to influence my love for music. It’s like time travel, and that’s sort of what I experienced Oct. 17 at Allandale during the first Jazz at the Mansion featuring the Rick Simerly ensemble.

It would have been hard to find a better gig to play music on this Friday night. My friend Kevin Adams and I love to play jazz and when we were invited to participate in this fund-raiser for The Friends of Allandale, we were aglow with excitement.

The clouds moved in late that afternoon and the temperature turned to fall. A large white tent was set up outside Kingsport’s signature landmark and inside, over 200 people were gathered for a wine tasting, a variety of cheeses and live jazz in the parlor and under the tent.

A diverse crowd mingled in many of the rooms as host and hostess were dressed in period attire. Kingsport’s “White House” has been hosting great parties and events since the 1950s and this was another great night to remember.

Just past 8 o’clock, event organizer Charlie Seay introduced the Rick Simerly Ensemble. Charlie heard Rick’s program several months ago and was instrumental in pulling all the pieces together for this remarkable night.

Rick Simerly is a phenomenal trombonist/educator and the talent he organized tonight was world class — a guest vocalist, Maddy Winer, Phil Thompson on flute and sax, Jim Lackey on drums, Fred Goodwin playing upright bass and local legend Charlie Goodwin on piano.

Rick’s performance began with an abridged history of jazz, starting with its early roots. I’m not certain it was the best thing for the evening, because the education was overshadowed by their performances.

Each of the performers in Rick’s band is inspiring. Not only do they bring to the stage a lifetime of effort, but they each have inspiring abilities to improvise. That’s where the magic of jazz happens. Players in a sense are performing many of the legendary jazz standards. What makes the performance unique is the player’s ability to “make music in the moment” — taking the solos to new places and expressing their own style within the context of the song.

It would be rare to find a better trombonist than Rick Simerly. Phil Thompson’s solos on flute and sax were lofty and soaring. There was so much feel in the rhythm section that it was not hard to swing with the music, as Jim and Fred laid down the grooves and Charlie’s performances on the piano continue to inspire me. His lyrical melodies are delight to listen to and his poker face makes me smile every time I watch him perform.

Sharing a glass of Shiraz and a cigar with good friends and good music is one of my favorites ways to spend time on the weekends. The fact that it was at Allandale Mansion with some of the region’s best jazz musicians made this event truly memorable.

There’s lot of different types of jazz from bebop to swing and the Rick Simerly ensemble gift-wrapped the history and the sounds of jazz that night for everyone at the mansion. My favorite song was the Charlie Parker standard “Anthropology.” Phil’s performance on “Autumn Leaves” was spiritual and I enjoyed Charlie’s solo work on “Killer Joe.”

There’s a vibrant jazz scene in the Tri-Cities. You’ll find great players who perform regularly at select venues and small coffeehouses. Don’t miss your chance to see Rick and his band. You’ll never know who will join him, but you’re sure to experience influential players that love to perform.

Jazz has a rich soundscape of inspiring melodies, rhythms and harmonies that continue to lay the ground work for the future. The Friends of Allandale deserve a lot of credit for arranging this rich cultural experience and we hope this inaugural event becomes an annual fundraiser and next year … you’ll join us!

The latest from The Buzz: Live notes from the music scene at

This weekend Buzz performances:

  • Hot Action Cop, Good speed and Running with Scissors at Gatsby’s on Friday.
  • Gretchen and Blindsight at Houston Valley Club on Friday.
  • Hot Pipes and The Rock wells at Heather’s Hideway in Johnson City, also on Friday.

New features:

  • New Mp3s from Downbleed and Foddershock.


David Cate is director of new media for the GoTriCities Network. E-mail comments, tips and news for The Buzz at