JAZZ STATUS REPORT: Jazz fans in Santa Barbara, at least those who crave the live, real-time thing by some of the world’s finer artists in the field, have learned to live leaner recently. We have resigned ourselves to the unfortunate trend of diminishing resources and forums for America’s greatest music, even on the local calendar. It’s an old song, and an old problem, but true to the adage, jazz may be down but never out.
That said, the prospects have brightened for Santa Barbara’s jazz calendar next season, as seen in schedules recently gone public. UCSB Arts & Lectures, which bowed out of its long-standing jazz programming policy last season (necessarily heeding the governing influences of lagging ticket sales and the large-ish 900-seat Campbell Hall venue needing butts in seats), is at least modestly back in the game in 2012-13. There is still a gaping hole where the words Jazz Series used to live in the A&L program book, but on March 10, 2013, at the Granada Theatre, we’ll get a return visit by Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, always a good listen and one of the jazz world’s thankfully institutionalized entities (swing by the Jazz at Lincoln Center compound, on Columbus Circle, when in N.Y.C.). Bobby McFerrin, for whom jazz is one driving musical force, brings his spiritual-based project Spirit You All to the Granada (Apr. 2, 2013) and Afro-Cuban jazz is part of the menu of Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars (Campbell Hall, Feb. 26, 2013).
Jazz action remains strong in the Lobero Theatre, one of America’s finer “jazz rooms,” in an impressive four-pack of action spread throughout the season. Things launch with artful fervor on September 27 with Pat Metheny’s impressive new Unity Band project, one of the more definitively jazz-fueled of the guitar great’s ever-changing roster of projects of late. Metheny, whose last Santa Barbara visit was in 2010 at Campbell Hall, in his innovative and gymnastic one-man “Orchestrion” operation, has teamed up with one of the greatest tenor saxists alive, Chris Potter, along with ally Antonio Sanchez on drums (heard at the Lobero in 2005, the Metheny trio, with bassist Christian McBride), and bassist Ben Williams, a young, potently talented old soul jazz star who is breathing life into the music, whatever it’s state of commercial acceptance.
Dianne Reeves, another favorite here, brings her deep vocal riches to the Lobero on October 19. On January 14, 2013, the Lobero stage is given over to the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration, which might seem like a casual road-tour package, but whose cast of characters includes some of the music’s upper echelon, including young trumpet phenom Ambrose Akinmusire, Potter again on sax, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, McBride, drummer Lewis Nash and pianist Benny Green in the rhythm section.
Rounding out the jazz series on May 3, 2013, is a wowing double-header with two of the prime jazz acts that matter, and which have previously enchanted this room: the Brad Mehldau Trio and The Bad Plus. There’s a genuine calendar-marker. As it happens, The Bad Plus will be returning to the 805 a month later, when they appear as jazz ambassadors in next year’s Ojai Music Festival. But calling this bright, witty, strange, and thrilling acoustic piano power trio a jazz band tells only part of its ongoing story: No doubt, in Ojai, they’ll tap into their recently released arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
ACADEMY NOTES FROM ALL OVER: At roughly 8:05 p.m. at the Granada last Saturday night, the Music Academy of the West (MAW) summer festival officially bolted out of the starting gates, and to the tune of John Adams’s hypnotically, seductively insistent Short Ride in a Fast Machine. One beauty of the MAW season is its programming of interesting, contemporary-esque sounds, and next week’s fare includes Saturday’s ride through Olivier Messiaen’s spicy cool Couleurs de la cité céleste, between Mozart and Copland. Stay tuned. Listen up.
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