JazzBabies…I took a little unintended vacation over the past three weeks. I didn’t go anywhere…wasn’t ill…had nothing much going on, but once in a while it’s just good to get away, even if it’s only in your mind’s eye.
I worked on some paintings and read and listened to music. Maybe that was it. I finally got tuned in to San Diego’s jazz station, KSDS – 88.3 FM – and what a great trip that’s been. This is, of course, the same frequency as my favorite late night east coast jazz station, WBGO.
For a couple of weeks, KSDS featured someone entirely new to me – a horn man by the name of Frank Wess. (None of us can know everybody.) I laughed when I heard the name as I had a tough professor in grad school by the same name who loaded us up on Derrida and deconstruction and made our heads hurt.
This was about the time I first started to write about jazz and now I wonder…Which came first – Derrida or Dizzy?
No matter…I’m spinning some Frank Wellington Wess for you to kick this off. Wess was a master of both the alto and tenor saxophones and – my favorite – the jazz flute. His long career began in the early 50s, and he went on playing right up until the end of his life in 2013. He was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007. Here he is with his Frank Wess Quartet from the 1960 album by the same name. The quartet included Wess on flute and tenor saxophone, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Eddie Jones on double bass and Bobby Donaldson on drums. Listen to way these guys just weave this tune together. “I See Your Face Before Me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n5OySxsF24list=PLU3_470uHgeQlwQlZtWeJyPMP6IVVwQgH
Good news for San Diego in February. We have a lot of terrific jazz talent right here by the sea, but now and then it’s a treat to hear an old friend from a distant place without even having to leave town. In this case, that old friend is vocalist Rebecca Kilgore and I’m truly excited to know she’ll be here. Becky wrote the blurb for my jazz novel so she’s naturally dear to my heart, but I was a serious Rebecca Kilgore fan long before that. Her home base is Portland, Oregon, but her gigs take her everywhere, including a particularly great one in Manhattan back in 2012. Here’s what the New York Times said about her: “It’s difficult to imagine two more disparate sensibilities than the singer Rebecca Kilgore and the subject of her new show, “The Jazzy Side of Judy Garland,” now playing at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. Ms. Kilgore… has an invariably light touch. Wearing a half-smile of pure enjoyment, she sails from one number to the next like a butterfly in a field of flowers.”
And songsmith Johnny Mandel says, “When Rebecca sings, the sun comes out.”
She’ll be in San Diego in February. And I’ll be there to see and hear her. Here from her 2014 I Like Men album is one of the tunes from the Judy Garland show…”The Man That Got Away.” With a light and slightly ironic touch. She’s onstage with the Harry Allen Quartet: Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes and Kevin Kanner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTTAoGRj4Es&index=15&list=PLvjvZltiutoemdK5mNHBIueUvI7LCpyoa
But wait! There’s more. Rebecca will in town for a Jazz Party in Del Mar on Saturday and Sunday, February 20 and 21, and on Monday, she’ll be appearing in San Diego at the Handlery Hotel with one of our San Diego musical masterminds (and stylin’ surfer), – wait for it – the one and only jazz guitarist, Peter Sprague. Could we ask for anything more?
Like Rebecca, Peter has a homebase – his is Spragueland here in San Diego – but he travels everywhere. On a trip to the Canary Islands a while back, Peter fell for the place and commemorated it with his beautiful composition, “Islas Canarias.” Here he is live from Spragueland (and the Canary Islands). February 22 is going to be a fine day in San Diego!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sby0SVij_0A
I don’t remember when I first heard Chet Baker, or what the tune might have been, but his trumpet and his voice have captured many a heart over the years. I think it was the documentary of his life, Let’s Get Lost, though that brought home to me the full measure of his brilliance and the great tragedy of his life. This is not an unfamiliar story in the jazz world, but familiarity doesn’t lessen the power. I know there are young potential greats coming up every day, but somehow – to me – an edge has disappeared from a lot of the music, an edge that keeps us returning time and again to an earlier day for the jazz we love. Here’s a sample. Chet Baker and Gershwin’s “But Not for Me,” a studio recording from 1982. Words and oh-so-beautiful music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_f_mMJAezM
Gershwin may have noted that love songs were not being written for him (or whoever was doing the singing), but Ernestine Anderson makes no bones about being madly, truly, deeply in love with her audiences. Ernestine has been on the Seattle scene and elsewhere far and wide for years. She’s sung at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, six times at the Monterey Jazz Festival and at jazz festivals all over the world. In the 90s she hooked up with another ragin’ Seattle jazz talent, Quincy Jones on his Qwest Records label. She and Quincy are both graduates of Garfield High School in Seattle which has produced a steady string of talented jazz cats. Fans love her because she loves being with them. Here she is live on her signature tune to tell you just what she means: “I Love Being Here with You.” Give it up, JazzBabies for Miss Ernestine! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLg-1i2XQds
I’m closing on a little different note this time…One thing that did happen over the holidays was the loss of a dear old friend. We went back to the 70s and the days of Carole King, James Taylor, Blood Sweat & Tears and the rest of that music of the time. James Taylor sang one of our old favorites at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2009. This is not jazz, but if it’s good enough for the North Sea Jazz Festival, it’s good enough for me, and Taylor’s introduction is perfect: “I’m going to play a cowboy lullaby because I love you and I want you to get some sleep.” This one’s for you, Jimmy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8fYdnRSr0k
And that’s it for tonight, JazzBabies. Life is a string of loves, losses, laments and more love. What we do is we just keep on keepin’ on.