OWATONNA — Local jazz aficionados can listen — or even play a few numbers — Sunday at the Steele County History Center during the Steele County Historical Society’s Jazz Jam.
This is “a growing event for us, and it has broad appeal,” said James Lundgren, executive director of the history center. “In true jazz jam fashion,” those in attendance will have an opportunity “to hop on the stage and play a song or two,” if they choose.
The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by Kim Cosens — Edward Jones, and the history center will have beverages for sale, Lundgren said. Weather permitting, the jazz jam will be on the history center patio, from 2-4 p.m.
The piano, bass, and drums trio is a family affair, led by patriarch Eric Heukeshoven and rounded out by his two sons, Max and Hans. This is the fourth year of a summertime jazz jam on the history center patio.
The H30 jazz trio began performing together when Max, the bassist, was only 14, and they play a wide variety of jazz styles including original music, according to Eric Heukeshoven. The trio hosts the monthly Jazz Jam at Island City Brewing Company in Winona, usually on the third Sunday of every month from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and it’s “great.”
H3O is always thrilled to be joined by other musicians, said Eric, who began playing jazz at age 15. “We’ll go […] with the player,” and “the audience gets a big kick out of that.”
On Sunday, H3O will have a set list of numbers “we like and know audiences like,” but “we strongly encourage” others to join them, he said. Last year, for example, at this event, “a young man came up with a baritone sax, and he was phenomenal.”
“Bring your instrument,” he advised. “Bring your voice.”
Eric, a published composer, is an assistant professor of music and director of Jazz Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Hans, a software engineer, is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s with degrees in music performance and computer science, and Max is a 2019 graduate of Saint Mary’s who plans to attend law school.
“They’re both good players,” Eric said of his sons. “Hans is a really fine drummer,” and “Max has what we call ‘a good ear,’” meaning he “doesn’t need notes in front of him to know what’s happening.”
Music has long been the coin of the realm in the Heukeshoven household, as, in addition to the musical exploits of Eric, Hans, and Max, Eric’s wife is also a music professor at St. Mary’s, and a classical flutist.
Because of their familiarity with one another, the members of H3O have “sort of a sixth sense” when playing together, Eric said. “You know what the other person is going to do.”
That’s paramount, because, in jazz, especially with a small group, “there’s lots of nonverbal communication,” he said. “They’re good kids, and they know their stuff.”
Jazz is “the ultimate expression of freedom,” he said. “We never play the same song the same way,” so “it’s fresh every time.”
“Freedom of expression and creativity are ingrained in jazz,” he concluded. Those who play and listen to jazz “appreciate that what is happening is spontaneous.”