THE JAZZ BUFF
FROM THE CHAIR – Stuart Brewster
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy. . .”
What? Summer is over? Must be. The kids are back in school and forest fires are ravaging the state, as they do when fall falls upon us. Once upon a time, Labor Day signaled the end of summer fun and games, but no more. Another tradition gone.
We hope your summer was a good one and you had some rewarding jazz experiences at one of the local festivals, community series, or clubs. Mine were limited due to having to make an unexpected trip to Boston. If you are ever in doubt about the benefits of living on the Peninsula and environs, then make a trip East in July and encounter humidity at 80%. The Dew Projection on TV every morning controls one’s activities—namely, don’t go out of your air-conditioned room or car if you can help it.
I did get to see Taylor Eigsti perform at the Stanford Jazz Festival when I returned. This evening was special, not only due to Taylor’s super effort, but watching how the audience contributed to the event. How? By quietly listening, no clicking of smart phones or the talking that is the norm at outdoor shows. Just the sound of music—magnificent. People held their appreciation until the very last quiet note. Reminded me of the old Maxwell House Coffee motto: “Good to the last drop!”
As I mentioned last time, PAJA has a lot in store for you in the next couple of months, and I do hope you’ll join us, first, at the free member party on Sunday, September 16, at the Palo Alto Art Center. There are a number of you I have never met. Do seek me out and share your thoughts on how we can do more to help keep jazz alive.
Also, take note of our big fall concert on October 6th at Menlo-Atherton High School’s beautiful performance center. The exciting San Francisco big band, the 17-member Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, will strut its stuff, and we are all looking forward to an amazing evening. We’ll need some volunteers to help with various operational matters; please contact me if you wish to help.
Here’s a suggestion that could help grow the audience for jazz—one of our ongoing goals—as well as help with the financing of this costly event. Let each one of you bring a friend or two who is not jazz-focused. My own opinion is that everyone should be exposed to jazz—the American music—since it is such a key element of our culture, loved all over the world. All for a modest price and requiring little investment of time and energy. Give it some thought. End of sales pitch.
In continued appreciation of your support,
Chair, Palo Alto Jazz Alliance
A GREAT DAY IN SAN JOSE
The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest is a weekend (this year August 10-12) for jazz aficionados. There are several genres of music offered, but there’s plenty for the jazz purist. On the Saturday, I decided to sample several of the free gigs, the best being the Monterey Jazz Festival HS All-Star Band, under the direction of Paul Contos. They knocked me out with Bill Holman’s marvelous arrangement of “The Man I Love” and followed that with Coltrane’s “Naima”. The MJF HS Honor Vocal Ensemble was another treat. Also entertaining was a group of five young women from Berkeley and the Sacramento area with the challenging name Gold Lion Arts Cosmic Garden. I then repaired to the Swing Stage and the South Bay big band, Millennium Sounds—some good licks from a group of veteran players, with vocalists Joyce McCullough and Rich Santoro. Fine listening for any swing/Sinatra/big band fan.
Sunday was the big jazz day for me, and what a day it was. It started with vocalist Paula West, backed by Adam Schulman on piano, John Wiitala on bass, and Greg Wyser-Pratt on drums. Paula wasn’t quite at her best, having come off a brief hospital stay with a leg issue. But the pipes were there, and it was all good, especially her rendition of “I Have Dreamed,” that lovely song from “The King And I” which we don’t hear often enough these days. But Paula—why “Short People?”
The next group was the Christian Tamburr-Dominick Farinacci Quartet. Tamburr, a fabulous vibraphonist, is familiar to Bay Area fans, as he was based here about ten years ago, or so. This teaming up with the virtuoso trumpeter Farinacci is a match made in heaven, and it was a terrific gig, with superb music and enjoyable banter. The pianist was quite good too—Alex somebody. My pet peeve—speak clearly when introducing the group, leaders. (He was uncredited in the program.)
Those two events were in the comfortable Hammer Theatre (a great venue for jazz). We then traipsed to the restaurant El Taurino on Market Street for the next two events. The Emmet Cohen Trio and the Eric Alexander Quartet. To my mind, Emmet Cohen is the hottest ticket in jazz. Remarkable chops and fine selection of material (his performances always range over the long history of jazz). (Emmet also sat in for one number with Tamburr-Farinacci.)
The Eric Alexander Quartet rounded off the evening: Mike LeDonne on piano, Michael Zisman on bass, and Pepe Merollo on drums. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Alexander is as good as any tenorman around. He had a bit of a problem with the sound and seemed a bit flushed from performing with a big band in the sun earlier in the afternoon, but he delivered an excellent program.
That big band was the Vincent Herring Story of Jazz: 100 Years, and my sources tell me I shouldn’t have missed it at the Arena Stage. That ensemble included the likes of James Carter, Eric Alexander, Jon Faddis, Brian Lynch and Steve Turre. And yes, I’m sorry I missed it, but it’s a festival, and one has to make choices. Still, what a day it was for jazz!/ Ed Fox
IMPRESSIONS OF SJF
PAJA’s roving correspondent D. Michael Griffin gives us his thumbnail impressions of the gigs he saw at this year’s Stanford Jazz Festival.
CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE’S NEW JAWN
Yikes, this was some of the most modernist, ear-stretching “music” I’ve heard in years. Think Coltrane’s late career jazz. Turns out McBride, one of the world’s premier bassists, performs in several different versions: classic trio, big band, etc. I was surprised by this ensemble, thinking we were going to hear the straight-ahead McBride. Ouch! I should have read the fine print.
SOMETHIN’ ELSE: A TRIBUTE TO CANNONBALL
This was more like it! Straight down the fairway, post-bop perfection, spearheaded by saxophonist Henry Solomon and trumpeter Erik Jekabson. Solomon was unknown to me, but he was impressive and they had Cannonball’s music down pat. And an interesting montage of documentary images was played on a big screen in back of the band for extra interest.
Thanks to PAJA’s Bruce Powell for sponsoring this quite satisfying performance.
RUTH DAVIES’S BLUES NIGHT WITH SPECIAL GUEST ERIC BIBB
Bibb, an African American expat lives in Sweden. A bit too smooth. Not edgy enough for my taste in blues, even though Bibb did bring along an accomplished guitarist, punching up the group’s depth. I just never felt we were listening to the real deal. I longed for previous Blues Night iterations with Keb’ Mo’, Charlie Musselwhite, et al.
AN EVENING WITH VICTOR LIN
Quite the enthusiastic personality is young Victor. Unlike most musicians who aren’t particularly at ease on the mic, Victor interacts well with the audience and we like what we hear. A real virtuoso on piano and violin, he played with a number of other SJW artists, including special guest Regina Carter. At one time there were four jazz violinists and a cellist on stage! Lin is a fave performer at SJW, with reason.
Wow! I’d not seen her before and she was a revelation! Playing the trumpet with muscular authority, she hits the notes hard and on target. She even sings a bit, although I wasn’t as taken with her vocal chops as some. A self-described trad-jazz fan, Bria breathed life into this genre by playing fresh and inventive arrangements. She looks good up there doing it, too! The pianist Mathis Picard was also pretty impressive.
JAZZ BRAZIL: ANAT COHEN/ROMERO LUBAMBO/VITOR GONçALVES
Guitarist Lubambo was the anchor of this group, despite Anat being the headliner. Both of them performed well, and they showed us you don’t have to play the tenor like Stan Getz or shower us with songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim to present good Brazilian music. The real standout here for me was the Argentinean piano player Vitor Gonçalves—who played a classy accordion as well.
DENA DEROSE TRIO WITH ANAT COHEN AND SPECIAL GUEST JIMMY HEATH
These three fave musicians can do no wrong IMO, though Jimmy understandably is showing a bit of slowing at age 91. They played standards, juicing them with nice improv work, so the tunes did not appear the least tired. I got a big kick out of drummer Allison Miller, who wore a perpetual smile all night, while playing her trap set off. . .
JEB PATTON TRIO AND TUPAC MANTILLA’S POINTS OF VIEW, WITH JIMMY HEATH AND MELISSA ALDANA
A double bill. Tupac plays percussion including body slaps. It’s OK, but after the initial novelty, I tired of this shtick. The highlight of this set was Camila Meza’s gorgeous singing of “Cucurrucucu Paloma.” Patton’s piano artistry held our attention, especially when accompanied by award-winning Melissa Aldana (from Chile) on tenor, and of course the indomitable Mister Heath, closing out the evening with his signature “Gingerbread Boy.”
THE ELECTRIC SQUEEZEBOX ORCHESTRA
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6TH — 7:30PM
At Menlo-Atherton HS’s Center For The Performing Arts
555 Middlefield Road, Atherton (Corner Middlefield and Ringwood)
This is your chance to experience San Francisco’s own 17-piece big band, an ensemble led by virtuoso trumpeter Erik Jekabson. Composed of some of the Bay Area’s best musicians, ESO has turned out two highly lauded albums and is working on a third.
Tickets: General $45, PAJA members $35, Students $15
Order online (PayPal): www.pajazzalliance.org or by mail from E.Fox, PAJA Tickets, 294 Tennessee Lane, Palo Alto CA 94306. Or at these outlets (check or cash only):
Peninsula Music & Repair, 4333 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
The Record Man, 1322 El Camino Real, Redwood City
Vinyl Solution, 151 W. 25th Ave., San Mateo
Groove Yard, 5555 Claremont Ave., Oakland
To hear a sample of ESO in action: www.electricsqueezeboxorchestra.com and click on “MUSIC”.
“This band is a perfect mix of heart, soul and feet. Get ready for some fun!”
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
“If the EJO’s goal is disciplined variety, it certainly succeeds, laying bare an affinity for
a wide range of music, all of which it approaches with awareness and respect.”
Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
“A crew that knows how to chart their own courses and bring the funk, swing
and everything else. . . This crew kicks it out like nobody’s business.
If this isn’t big band the way you like it, get your ears checked. Killer stuff!”
Chris Spector, Midwest Record.
NOODLING Thoughts on jazz By Michael Burman
A few months ago, I reviewed the lives of a half-dozen jazz trumpeters who died all too young, including Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, and Booker Little. I’d wondered whether, had they lived longer lives, or even to maturity, would they have scaled to even greater heights. Perhaps we can draw some conclusions by considering some who did. We have enough space in this issue to discuss the towering “father” of modern jazz trumpet. In Part two, we’ll consider Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie.
Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong was the first major soloist in jazz; he changed the music fundamentally from its original New Orleans collective improvisation.
He came to national attention at age 21 in Chicago as a member of Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Two years later he went to New York City, joining Fletcher Henderson’s band, where his influence over the slightly younger Coleman Hawkins—later to be recognized as a master of harmony—is evident. Back in Chicago a year later he formed his Hot Five, and made such classic recordings as “Cornet Chop Suey” (1926), “Potato Head Blues” (1927), and, in duet with Earl Hines, “Weatherbird” (1928). The Hot Five expanded into the Hot Seven (the numbering of which became increasingly inaccurate as yet further members were added).
Louis was one of the greatest jazz singers, someone who proved time and again that, in jazz, a good voice, far from being essential, was irrelevant (his gravelly voice was one of his trademarks): what mattered was timing and ideas. Was there ever a more ebullient performance than “Jubilee”? Simply classic are those duets with Jack Teagarden (notably the perennial “Rockin’ Chair”), with Bing Crosby, and in the mid-‘50s, of course, those memorable albums with Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1960’s he had two mainstream number-one hits, “Hello Dolly” (1964) and in 1968 (in the UK at least) with “What a Wonderful World”.
Louis was born almost 120 years ago now, and has been gone for almost half a century; at this remove, some succumb to the temptation to dismiss him. It is true that his post-1930 work (Louis turned 30 in 1931) was often disappointing and, to purists, too “popular” and not jazzy enough. The “Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra” of the 1930s was really Louis backed by Luis Russell’s band, and I, for one, find their recordings curiously unsatisfactory—separately, each was excellent, but, when added to Louis, the band was a detraction. For the final two decades of his life, he led his All-Stars, which despite the presence of some genuine stars—for a while Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines, and always Barney Bigard—were merely competent.
Regardless, Louis Armstrong remains today one of the ten most significant figures in our music. The brilliance of “West End Blues” (1928) is undimmed almost a century later. Louis’s legacy is audible in the work of almost any trumpeter active today. As Dizzy Gillespie said of Pops: “No him, no me.”
Michael Burman hosts “The Weekend Jazz Oasis” Saturday evenings on KCSM Jazz 91.1
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PALO ALTO JAZZ ALLIANCE
Fall Membership Party
We welcome back the DAVE MILLER TRIO
Featuring vocalist REBECCA DUMAINE
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 16,2018 3-5PM
Palo Alto Art Center Courtyard / 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto