Jazz music encompasses many different styles and textures. So much so that defining the genre becomes difficult, even for jazz musicians.

Maine jazz guitarist Mark Kleinhaut acknowledges that the music can be an acquired taste. Attracting newcomers to jazz can be a challenge, especially for those with preconceived notions of what jazz is.

But Kleinhaut remains optimistic. He sees far greater opportunities available today to introduce the genre to youngsters and music lovers with a limited knowledge of jazz. And the music being created today, said Kleinhaut, is better than ever.

“The challenge in jazz is finding the audience and developing the audience for the music,” Kleinhaut said during a telephone interview earlier this week. “There are so many different voices to the music and so many different varieties of jazz. I’ve heard people say, ‘I heard jazz once. I didn’t like it.’ That’s like saying I tried food once in a restaurant and didn’t like it.”

Jazz will be on the menu at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18, when the Mark Kleinhaut Trio and renowned trumpeter Tiger Okoshi share the stage for an evening of intimate music for the L/A Arts Cabaret Series.

With his trio featuring guitar, bass and drums, Kleinhaut was seeking a new dynamic in 2001 for the Key Maine Jazz Festival. Familiar with the horn sounds of Okoshi and his stellar reputation on the Boston scene, Kleinhaut sent him a letter and a copy of his trio’s latest CD.

“I immediately thought of him as being someone who could really add a lot of spark and dynamism to what I was doing with my trio,” said Kleinhaut. “It was a little bit of a shot in the dark. I had never met him before.

“I didn’t figure that there were great odds that I’d ever get a callback.”

But Okoshi responded less than a week later and was excited at the prospect of teaming up. In fact, Okoshi joined the Kleinhaut’s band in the studio and recorded the record “Chasing Tales” before their first live performance together.

Since their debut at the 2001 Key Maine Jazz Festival, Kleinhaut estimates that they have played together roughly 10 times.

“It’s been a year since our last collaboration, the last time we played together,” said Kleinhaut. “(Lewiston) is a nice reunion for us.”

Okoshi, 53, discovered jazz in his native Japan at age 13 when he saw Louis Armstrong perform. Like Armstrong, Okoshi took up the trumpet.

He eventually came to America not knowing how to speak English. But he knew how to speak jazz and eventually hooked up with fellow musicians, who reportedly heard him playing along the Charles River.

“He is such a fabulous musician that he just immediately raises the bar just by being there,” said Kleinhaut. “He just turns on the high voltage whenever he takes the stage. It makes the music more extroverted.

“He’s great talking to a crowd as well as sensing where they are and playing to the audience. He’s quite a master. I may be sort of the director, put the show together and it’s my band, but he’s definitely, when you say guest star, he really is a star.”

Kleinhaut grew up near New York City and went to Rutgers to study pre-med. It was during his sophomore year that he and jazz finally connected.

“As a musician, listening is more important than playing,” he said. “There’s a sense of adventure and creation every time you do it because it’s never the same twice.”

After graduating with a music degree, Kleinhaut went into the banking field. He pursued his musical career in the evening and took his time to develop his craft of playing, singing and performing.

His career path has taken him from NYC to Boston and finally Maine, where he still works in the financial field.

“Being a jazz musician and making a living as a jazz musician are two entirely different sets of problems and challenges,” said Kleinhaut. “What happens is everybody makes a living doing something else besides playing. There’s not a large enough market for jazz to make it a full-time career as a performer except for very very few, very very good and lucky people.”


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