J-WORD IN THE HOUSES: “Feast or famine,” roughly and broadly speaking, is the policy by which jazz makes its way into the 805 scene these days, and suddenly within a space off a couple of weeks, the j-word is making its presence known, and from three markedly different artistic angles. Last Sunday afternoon, the incurably hip veteran singer Sheila Jordan — scatting, jesting, and warming hearts and minds at age 84 — showed up at SOhO for the Santa Barbara Jazz Society’s monthly confab. This Friday night in the loveably dress-down venue of the Piano Kitchen, ex-L.A. hero and now NYC-based Billy Mintz, a wily poet of the drums, brings his fine quartet to the close-up and personalizing room. And next Thursday, we get an overdue progress report from SF JAZZ Collective, possibly the “best in the west,” jazz ensemble-wise, returning after a few years away from Santa Barbara, at Campbell Hall.
Sunday at SOhO, New Yorker and legendary jazz vocalist of note Jordan, nicely aided and abetted by pianist Ian Bernard, bassist Richard Simon, and drummer Paul Kreibach, bubbled over with humor, bebop-infused muscle, and a setlist that included standards, Abbey Lincoln, Charlie Parker, and more. We got a strong taste of the Jordan story, from her jazz-obsessed teen years in Detroit to her rebirth after battling biochemical demons, embedded in her spiritual-like original of an encore, “The Crossing.” But a prevailing breeze of bittersweet spirits in the house added a melancholy air, given the recent, shocking cancer death of Kathryn Stockbridge, that energetic pillar of a Santa Barbara Jazz Society president for the past few years. It’s hard to believe Stockbridge is gone; such was her life force for the cultural good, the most recent example of which was connecting the complex dots making a show by Jordan possible in this room, in this series.
From the more adventurous-meets-avant side of the jazz spectrum, drummer-bandleader Mintz returns to Santa Barbara, where he has made artful noise and fans through appearances at the great old “Santa Barbara New Music” series at Muddy Waters. Friday at the Piano Kitchen, the subtle-witted drummer, who naturally invites comparisons to the late, great Paul Motian, has a strong and diverse quartet — including his wife, pianist Roberta Piket, saxist John Gross and bassist Putter Smith — and a wonderful new CD to share. Surprisingly, it’s his first under his own name and leadership. It’s inside. It’s outside. It’s Monk-ish. It’s funk-ish. It’s Motian-esque balladic. It’s wild and free. It’s some damn fine music.
SFJAZZ, a decade-long experiment turned into one of the hippest institutions in contemporary jazz, has graced Santa Barbara stages (the Campbell, the Lobero) several times, but has been conspicuously absent since 2010. The group returns in the same year of the much-buzzed-about opening of the new $64 millions SF Jazz Center in downtown San Francisco, the most lavish new jazz-centric structure this side of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Columbia Circle HQ.
The group, currently including alto saxist Miguel Zenon (a MacArthur “Genius”), formidable tenor player David Sanchez, trombonist extraordinaire Robin Eubanks, pianist Edward Simon, and trumpeter Avishai Cohen, vibist Warren Wolf, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Obed Calvaire, most recently recorded a tribute to Chick Corea’s music. That project is in keeping with its tradition of creating new arrangements of legendary musicians — i.e. Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Stevie Wonder — along with tasty original concoctions for a pocket-sized big band.
UCSB Arts & Lectures is doing us the favor of bringing them back to Campbell Hall on Thursday, October 17, in what should be one of the hottest jazz nights out this season.
TO-DOINGS: Catching the unplugged, source-based pickin’ and grinnin’ splendor of the Masters of Bluegrass show at Campbell Hall recently, with Del McCoury at the center of an all-star veteran posse, local appetites may have been duly whetted for the annual treat that is the Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention, this Sunday at Goleta’s mighty old Stow House. In fact, in its true blue state, the “old-timey” musical predates the new-fangled sound of bluegrass, but musicological hair-splitting only goes so far at this remarkable autumn music tradition in town. Those who have been, tend to go again, and newcomers ought to be amazed by the day-long convergence of good vibes, traditional music, and an ideal, vast and vintage acreage where it all comes together, in pre-War Goleta. WWI, that is.
L.A. LOGBOOK: Keith Jarrett fans, and there are plenty of them everywhere, tend to be a faithful bunch, willing to make treks to catch jazz’s most eloquent virtuoso in live action. Never mind his quirks and sometimes irritating eccentricities: Jarrett, at 68, continues to play piano and capture an essence of musical profundity all too rare in the present state of things, jazz and culture-wise.
One day, we trust, Jarrett, who in the past has played at the Arlington, Campbell Hall, and even the Santa Barbara High School auditorium, will return to perform in Santa Barbara — the Granada would seem a likely, like-spirited room, for instance. But for now, we can be thankful that Jarrett pays nearly annual visits to L.A., including UCLA’s Royce Hall, where his “standards” trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, 30 years into it, stopped two Saturdays back. It’s an agreeable space for what this trio does, and Jarrett was in a noticeably agreeable and affable temper, teasingly introducing the set by saying “fasten your seatbelts and put your seats into the upright position.”
A rubato solo piano intro led into “Green Dolphin Street,” and the first set also included a sultry rumba-ish rumble on “I’m a Fool to Love You” and a ravishing balladic ride on “All the Sad Young Men,” dynamically delicate in the signature way Jarrett can have in ballad mode. After intermission, Jarrett led his trio through soul-jazz neighborhoods, the suave vampland of “Fever” and a heart-melting version of JJ Johnson’s great “Lament.” Generosity continued in the land of encores — three count ‘em — from the muted glow of “You’ve Changed” through the swing slink of “Things Ain’t What they Used to Be” and a common Jarrett trio show denouement, “When I Fall in Love.”
If short of the more venturesome, free-ish, or more dissonant asides of some Jarrett concerts, this Royce Hall visit won love the easy way, through warm and flowing musicality of the sort you can’t buy off any shelf that I know of.
In a local angle once or twice-removed, the most recent Jarrett release, in his hefty pile of albums for the ECM label, is the luminously fine Bach due with former Santa Barbaran violinist of note, Michelle Makarski. Makarski has been based in New York for several years now, and has appeared on various ECM albums, among other work. But her partnership with Jarrett on the two-disc Bach set, Six Sonata for Violin and Piano, is a recent zenith for her, not to mention a poised and masterful return to the classical realm for Jarrett after a decade away from classical work, and sounding refreshed and deepened in his Bach.
Perhaps the pair could perform this music at the Granada. Ok, columnist is now shutting up and signing out.