The Bumble Bee's View of the Garden:
Opinions on Jazz and other topics
The Bumble Bee flew south and west for awhile this winter, but he never left the Jazz garden.
Since the writing of my last column I have been traveling to the south and the west, and I have found, yet again, strong evidence that the art of Jazz is far healthier and relevant than a scanning of one's radio dial or the plethora of cable channels would lead one to believe. My first stop was New Orleans, admittedly one of the most important places in the history of Jazz, and the 27th Conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators. There were 8500 people attending this little gathering, and although most were from the United States, there were over thirty different countries represented. There were teachers from all levels of education, some with their students who had been selected to perform for the Conference; there were performers from the famous to the obscure; there were scholars and merchants of the music. Many of these folks fit into more than one category. For any one who struggles to help keep Jazz alive and growing the sights and sounds and interaction were a vindication.
In addition to workshops, clinics and panel discussions on topics of interest to the entire spectrum of attendees, there was so much wonderful music that one person could not take it all in. From the finest of student ensembles, from all over the world, to evolving professionals, all of them excellent performers, to distinguished, well-established artists. Add to this the fact that these people are performing for their peers, almost of whom are players, singers and composer/arrangers themselves, and you have what amounts to a most exceptional Jazz festival. Membership in this fine organization is not limited to educators, and if you would like to know more about it contact http://www.iaje.org.
Next I went to The South West; first to Albuquerque, NM to visit my son, who lives there. One does not think of Albuquerque as a hot bed of Jazz activity, and yet there was a radio station, at the University, passionately devoted to this music. This station, WNMU, can be listened to on the web. Listed in the entertainment listings of the various arts-oriented newspapers were at least a handful of local jazz venues which I did not have time to visit this time around. Next, I stopped in Phoenix, AZ, but only for only a day, so I could not get a measure of the scene there. Years ago, I lived in Phoenix. In the summer, when no one would want to go there, there were three simultaneous jam sessions every Sunday, with enough musicians to keep all three going. Next time I am there I will have to see what is going on now.
On the train to my final destination, the San Francisco Bay area, I had a very nice conversation with a young guitarist from Oregon on his way home from recording session somewhere near Los Angeles. He described his influences as the Jazz Avant Garde and 20th century European Art Music. He is working on his Masters Degree and aims to teach music at the Community College level and to try to encourage people in general to listen more openly to all types of music. He has a lot of good ideas and I wish him success in his endeavors.
The Bay Area has long been a center of Jazz activity. On my first evening there I had dinner with a pianist who had worked with me when she lived in the Boston area. After diner she took me on a walking tour of some of the near by places that presented Jazz. At one, I heard a good young singer with a piano trio that included veteran drummer Vince Lateano. If you have a serious Jazz record collection you will find him I the liner notes of many albums. I went around the corner and heard a cooking big band (keep in mind this was a Monday night). I ended my evening at another place that was having a jam session, where I enjoyed both music and some good conversation with the musicians. The next evening I went to another jam session across the bay in Berkley. Although primarily a singers night, there were several excellent players, including pianist Ed Kelley who, like Vince Lateano, is a veteran of many recordings. Yours truly had the pleasure, and I do mean pleasure, of playing a couple of tunes with maestro Kelley. Later in the week I went up to wine country, Sonoma county, where friends of mine are part of a Jazz listening group. These folks get together to have diner and share recordings with each other. Out of this informal gathering has developed the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, a small but very high quality yearly event. There was more, but I think you get the idea.
All of which brings us back to the local area. In the last issue I told you that there are Tuesday night Jazz performances at the Worthen House, 141 Worthen St, Lowell 978-459-0300. Recently I had the opportunity to spend a Tuesday evening at the Worthen and I had a great time. On hand is OWT, the Olde Worthen Trio, led by guitarist Evan Goodrow, with Joe Faria, bass, and Stanley C. Swann III, drums. I met Evan last summer while jamming with my old friend Ray DeMarco at the Oar House in Portsmouth, and enjoyed playing with him then. He is a very fine musician with a joyous spirit. Joe Faria plays with an authority that belies his youthful appearance. Stanley is a dear friend and the drummer I call first. Lately it seems that many others call him first as well. You can hear him on my CD The Things You All Are. These Tuesday night performances are jam sessions and, naturally, the sit-ins will be of varying capability, but Evan has a good understanding of how to run things so that all the players are comfortable while the audience is still entertained. There was a good crowd there for a mid-week night, and the place still had the feel of a full room even when it was time for everyone to go home; and that was well after midnight. A Tuesday evening at the Worthen is time well spent. I know I'll be back.
Paul Combs, Vyü Magazine, vol. 4