The Jazz Year that Was and Is

by Josef Woodard

nervous-making, last-minute replacement scenarios yield gold.
Trumpeter/funny man Jack Sheldon’s planned guest
artist slot on Monday’s City College Jazz Ensemble concert was
canceled on short notice. A well-placed call later, the spot was
filled by none other than flugelhorn-trumpet master Clark
. All the better: Terry is one of those last-link
legends through whom to connect historical dots. The humble and
comedic jazz titan’s résumé traces back to Charlie
and Count Basie in the swing era,
sweeps through bebop, a ’50s stint with Duke
, work with Miles Davis, and
beyond. At a concert appearance at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
in Idaho two years ago, Terry (1920-) played beautifully from his
wheelchair and took the microphone to address the audience: “Ladies
and gentlemen …” he paused for effect. “The golden years suck.”
Maybe so, maybe not. But when Terry plays, life is beautiful.

JAZZ QUARTERLY REPORT: Santa Barbaran jazz fans
are accustomed to tides of bliss and feelings of abandonment. Last
Saturday’s Lobero concert by Eliane Elias, sadly,
was one of the final official jazz shows of this concert season
(John Pizzarelli closes Jazz at the Lobero on
April 6).

Yet it has been an unusually strong “year” for jazz here,
especially in the piano and vocal departments. On the piano front,
Brad Mehldau’s trio, at the Lobero in January,
showed why the 35-year-old is a champion of his generation, mixing
adventurism with deep, classically tinged lyricism. His take on
“She’s Leaving Home” is the most potent Beatles cover in recent
memory. Chick Corea may have nearly twice
Mehldau’s years, but his youthful spirit and creative curiosity are
alive and kicking, as demonstrated through his flamenco-flavored
group Touchstone, lighting Campbell Hall afire
last month.

Also there, Dee Dee Bridgewater dazzled with
chops, charisma, and lived-in wisdom and sexiness, dishing up her
ripe tribute to Ella Fitzgerald with a fine
L.A.-based big band. The part-time Parisian also snuck in a French
chanson for good measure (from her luminous new album, J’ai Deux
Amours). Everybody loves vocalist Tierney Sutton,
returning to the Lobero Theatre in January, a year after first
taking that house by storm. The jazz singer may be the finest
around, in terms of digging into the hoary Great American Songbook
and finding new, relevant life there.

TO-DOINGS: They’re called The
and they proudly hail from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The
big little city, smack-dab in the middle of North America, is best
known in musical circles for the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and for
giving us Neil Young. (Young’s thoughts go back to
that zone on his openly nostalgic/poetic album Prairie Wind, also
celebrated via Jonathan Demme’s new Young concert film, shot at the
Ryman in Nashville [see our Film Review]. But we digress.) The
Duhks — four gifted twentysomething musicians with a flair for
Americana, Canadiana, soul, bluegrass, and other ingredients — have
already built up a considerable buzz on the so-called “new
acoustic” scene.
When they make their Santa Barbara debut, in the
beloved Sings Like Hell series at the Lobero this Saturday, the
band is officially promoting their first U.S. release, a
self-titled jewel co-produced by Bela Fleck for Sugar Hill records.
It doesn’t get much more American than that. Basically, The Duhks
are busy proving the fluid compatibility of musical strains from
all over this continent, and then some.

FIDDLE NOTES: Two of the deliciously
ear-tweaking surprises on Generation Nation, the fab new album by
Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings (who stopped at
SOhO last week), are fresh versions of Ornette
’s classic “Ramblin’” — reborn as “The Ramblin’
Barber” — and Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird.”
These are not novelty items, but testament to Anger’s amazingly
organic eclecticism. Of the pack of enlightened new acoustic bands
and albums to check out (including The Duhks), this is high on the
short list. (Got e? Email


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