West L.A. Jazz Players Society’s Jazz Jam meetups return to Westchester church

Written by Victor Feldman and Miles Davis, “Seven Steps to Heaven” is a classic tune for jazz players looking to test their chops on the song’s seventh-chord architecture.

There’s no more welcoming architectural space to play this and other heavenly standards than Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Westchester. This cozy house of worship on 83rd Street is a sanctuary for musicians and jazz acolytes alike.

Held about every three weeks, evening Jazz Jam sessions at Holy Nativity are organized by pianist Roberto Cordero through his meetup.com group, the West L.A. Jazz Players Society. He took over the group in 2011 when its founder, another pianist, became too busy. Cordero’s group met at different locations on the Westside until a player and church member mentioned Holy Nativity, which presented jazz vespers during the summer.

Cordero attended a performance and asked the rector, Fr. Peter Rood, if he’d consider hosting regular jam sessions.  A jazz aficionado himself, Rood had been inspired during a trip to New York where, as a newly ordained minister, he met a Lutheran priest known as “the Minister of Jazz.” The church rector understands how difficult it can be for aspiring jazz musicians to earn a living and find places to play. Rood said yes.

Cordero’s nonjudgmental approach welcomes musicians of all skill levels.

“I don’t care if you aren’t a great player. None of us are,” he said.

Players must be able to read the lead sheets in “The Real Book” or its corresponding digital app and “know the tune.” Between 12 and 20 players and singers regularly participate.

The CEO of a tech start-up, Cordero honed his chops at the jam sessions and now fronts a quintet that plays the Westside. He recalled one memorable moment at Holy Nativity, which Rood calls a “beautifully resonant” space.

“We were having a jam,” said Cordero, “and suddenly things just randomly flowed.”

The audience in the pews went wild during the 20-minute tune, said Cordero.

“When you get a moment like that you say, ‘Wow, this is why we’re here,’” he said.

Call it a match made in heaven.

— John Conroy

The next Jazz Jam happens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, 6700 W. 83rd St., Westchester. Visit meetup.com/West-LA-Jazz-Players-Society/ for more information.