Twenty-eight years of uninterrupted jazz ended in March 2020 at the Mizell Center. For the leader of “Dick Broadie’s Jam Session,” that meant a loss of purpose and community. But Broadie and a rotating group of musicians are back in the swing of things these days, and there’s no place else they’d rather be.
“That was devastating,” Broadie recalls of the temporary closure of the Mizell Center due to COVID-19. “With no place to play, there’s no way to get together.”
Broadie has been getting together with musicians for the past 60 years. He’s played in front of everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ralph Bellamy. And while he can technically play between 10 and 20 instruments, for now he sticks to the saxophone, clarinet, bass, and piano when he leads the band most every Wednesday.
The people who make Palm Springs like no place else
Broadie blames his father for his lifelong devotion to jazz. He recalls him listening religiously to WWL Radio out of New Orleans — famous for playing Dixieland jazz — and sparking his interest. After attending just one jazz concert, Broadie says he was hooked for life.
His relationship with Mizell predates the center’s existence. He played at the Racquet Club for Charlie Farrell and eventually met the founders of Mizell — Aaron “Bud” Mizell and his wife, Judge Ruth Mizell. They liked how he played so much they hired him to play at their fundraisers.
Decades later, he’s still using his talents to help the center and its members and doesn’t know what he’d do if it weren’t there. When the center reopened after its pandemic-related closure, it reinvigorated Broadie, motivating him to practice his craft again. He couldn’t wait to get back to the center.
“If it wasn’t for the Mizell Center, I wouldn’t be playing, and I wouldn’t have an enjoyable life,” he said recently. “Mizell means so much to me.”
Broadie isn’t alone in his connection to the Mizell Center. The other musicians he performs with — a core group of about 30 — feel similar. They also feel passionate about jazz. “We’re bonded very strongly together by our love of music,” Broadie says.
Some are so passionate about the jam sessions they drive each week from Hemet. Others relocated to Palm Springs just for the weekly gathering. Even during the pandemic, when most of the musicians are at high risk, they refuse to give up the gig. Most came back immediately after in-person events resumed.
The jazz jam is more than just a performance. For the musicians and the audience, it’s a moment carved out of the week to reminisce and lose themselves in the music of their youth.
Broadie sees the power of music every time he plays at the Mizell Center, such as the time a member approached him after a performance saying that he and his wife shared their last dance at one of the performances. “It’s like a family,” he says.
Broadie’s jazz family got a little smaller over the pandemic. Some moved away, others became sick, and one passed away. Broadie wants nothing more than to rebuild the jazz jam, hoping to bring in new musicians just as passionate as his bandmates.
“It’s something special,” he says.
Attending one of the jazz jams, you can see the whole room tapping their feet. When Broadie gets up from the piano to greet people, he’s met with warm embraces from a community that missed not just his music but his personality.
If you’re lucky, you might get to hear Broadie use an instrument he says he hasn’t broken out during the two years of the pandemic — his voice.
Get to know Dick below.
Occupation: Jazz musician
Neighborhood: El Rancho Vista Estates
How long have you lived in the desert? 51 years. I paid less for my house than the price of a used car right now!
What brought you here? Working in property management for a large company brought me to the desert.
What keeps you here? My wife loves the desert, and I love my wife.
Do you have family here? I have three sons that all live in the desert.
What is your favorite time of the year here? Fall, because we’re escaping summer.
How do you beat the heat? If you can’t beat it, enjoy it. If you can’t enjoy it, ignore it.
Do you have a personal philosophy by which you live? See above.
What’s your favorite place to eat? Wally’s Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage, Jack in the Box, and McDonald’s. I’ve played a lot of restaurants in Palm Springs that have since closed — 40 different restaurants over the years. I don’t even like free restaurant food anymore – I prefer hamburgers.
What’s the biggest issue facing our community? We need schools that reflect the goodness of our country.
What’s your favorite thing to do or place to go in the desert? Baseball games in the summer, and watching the Palm Springs Power play.
What would you tell people about Palm Springs that they might not already know? Palm Springs has a baseball team! And that there’s Jazz Jam on Wednesdays at the Mizell Center.
What’s your guilty pleasure? When you’re 82 years old, you don’t feel guilty about things.
Know somebody we should feature in Palm Springs Profiles? Reach out to Kendall Balchan at [email protected]