According to attendee, Is Karpf, “Ben added greatly to our appreciation of jazz.” The classes were held once a week for eight weeks. Upon walking out of the last class, Is turned to Tom and Connie and said, “Now what?” The words couldn’t end without an answer, so very soon, Is and his wife Edith met for lunch with Tom and Connie. Before the first course of the meal was finished, the diners had decided to create a jazz association. They contacted the other members of the class and CJA was off to a start and began to grow quickly. Tom Glaser was “selected” as the first president and Is Karpf was the first CJA treasurer. Membership began to grow to include Spague Exley, Boo Hornstein, Lee Luckett, Ben Tucker, Teddy Adams and many others. If fact, the membership included many members from the Hilton Head Island, S.C. area (hence, “Coastal Jazz”).
The HHI group eventually generated enough interest and membership to break off and form their own jazz society. In the early days, if you were a member of one of these jazz organizations, you were essentially a member of both.
The newly formed organization began to quickly showcase the wealth of talent in the area: Ken Palmer, Joe Jones, Ben Tucker, Teddy Adams, Sam Gill, as well as other performers from Hilton Head: Terri Rini Powers, Pat Hill, Sam Atkinson, and Joe Hansler. The first Savannah Jazz Festival was held at Grayson Stadium on October 1, 1983. Through twenty-six festivals the Coastal Jazz Association has made certain that all citizens, rich and poor, black and white, performers and non-performers have enjoyed the fruits of playing and listening to America’s own and only indigenous art form, JAZZ.
The Coastal Jazz Association was conceived in late 1982 and came about after eight jazz lovers in Savannah attended a jazz appreciation course given by bassist Ben Tucker at Savannah State College (now University). Those attending the course were Tom and Connie Glasser, Judy Lancaster, Isadore Karpf, Randy Reese, Bruce Spradley and trombonist Teddy Adams, who was assisting Ben in teaching the class.
The Coastal Jazz Association has now grown to hundreds of members, including business and professional people, musicians, educators, students and just plain “listeners”. We share a common focus: to help Jazz thrive in the Coastal Empire by sponsoring live performances, by encouraging Jazz education through our scholarships, and through the camaraderie of others with these interests.