Any jazz season which includes an appearance by the great Sonny Rollins is a fine season, automatically. When the looming jazz icon brings his longstanding band to Campbell Hall on October 22, we’ll get another lesson in what’s cool and hot about the idiom of jazz, as only he can tell it. But wait, there’s more: as has been the case in the last few years, Santa Barbara’s fall jazz calendar is culturally rich, fortified with names like John Scofield, Madeleine Peyroux, and Charlie Haden, and with heavy also-rans including musician’s musician guitarist Ben Monder and Kyle Eastwood, living out his dad Clint’s not-so-secret obsession with jazz, America’s greatest art form.
Those skeptical of that superlative regarding jazz should listen up in the telling forum of live performance. There are plenty of ripe opportunities and legendary visits here in the next few months.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Essentially a five-horn jazz outfit, this group has done the noble task of revitalizing New Orleans-style big band music by incorporating it with elements of R&B, funk, gospel, and rock. The result: something lively and constantly changing-just as music should be. It’s raucous fun with a sense of history to it.
Thu., Sep.21, 8pm, SOhO, 962-7776 or sohosb.com
Too few promoters here take booker’s advantage of the jazz talent passing through the area around the time of the world-famous Monterey Jazz Festival, just up the road. Here’s an example of the intriguing musical talent in the area thanks to Monterey: guitarist’s guitarist Ben Monder, well-known among the cognescenti but not nearly well enough known generally, will bring his trio to play at Center Stage. Monder has made tasteful and intelligent jazz guitar noise with critically lionized musicians including Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra, Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, with Lee Konitz and others. On his own, his sporadic but intriguing discography includes his recent Sunnyside release . We’re lucky to have a thinking-person’s jazz guitarist stopping by Santa Barbara to play.
Wed., Sept. 20, 8pm, Center Stage Theatre, 963-0408 or centerstagetheater.org
The dreamy-phrased and dulcet-toned Peyroux, who wowed a Campbell Hall crowd a year ago, became a smash sensation last year on the jazz-and-thensome scene. With her Billie Holiday meets chanteuse and folkie busker style, Peyroux was the latest in a series of popular jazz-related vocalists who lit a fire under the “but is it jazz?” dialectic. Once you hear her stellar and lyrical style, questions and controversies become moot: she’s got that thing, the artistic stamp which seduces first and inspires one to ask questions later. Her charm continues on her new album, Half the Perfect World, including Peyroux-ized versions of “Everybody’s Talkin,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” and Joni Mitchell’s “River,” in a world-slowing duet with k.d. lang.
Wed., Oct. 4, 8pm,UCSB’s Campbell Hall, 893-3535 or artsandlectures.ucsb.edu
John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles
If anyone on the scene embodies the idea that a good jazz musician is equipped to follow whatever musical impulse strikes, it must be guitarist John Scofield. His list of projects-some more commercial than others-is dizzying, between his grooving “uberjam” band (which has played at the Lobero and at SOhO), his heady experiments with jazz-classical genius Marc Anthony Turnage, the limber stylistic excursions of his more purely jazz-minded groups, and now this: a soul-stirred Ray Charles tribute project which has grown legs, and an audience. Last year’s tribute album to Ray, That’s What I Say, may have been a timely nod to one of his childhood heroes, who had recently passed on when Sco cut the record. But the instrumental-cum-vocal project, sometimes featuring singer Mavis Staples, has gone on to thrill crowds. This music moves and grooves, but with Sco’s uniquely jazz-lined phrases tickling the cerebrum on the way down to other points in the body.
Tues., Oct. 10, 8pm, Lobero Theatre, 963-0761 or lobero.com
Clean bassist Kyle is the son of dirty Harry, and he shares Clint’s love of jazz, and has played his share of it as a session player and sometime bandleader. His own career as a leader has been an on and off again affair, and he has grown up in public in recent years. His second and latest album, Paris Blue, shows marked improvement in playing and writing over his 1998 debut From Here to There. Maybe it has to do with his relocation from Los Angeles to New York, or just a deeper commitment to the musical muse.
Wed., Oct. 18, 8pm, SOhO, 1221 State St. (upstairs), 962-7776, sohosb.com
It’s not easy carrying around the mantel of “greatest living improviser,” but the tenor sax titan Sonny Rollins pulls it off with elan, thanks to his boundless humility and natural ability to impart great truths and jazz energy from his horn. It goes without saying that Rollins’ show is the pinnacle of this jazz year in town, as he returns to Campbell Hall, where he played in 2002. Back then, he had recently played the “9/11 concert”-a Boston date just days after the Twin Towers tragedy, which has recently been released. Any chance to catch Rollins live and in person is an opportunity for a profound close encounter with the jazz spirit incarnate.
Sun., Oct. 22, 7pm, UCSB’s Campbell Hall, 893-3535 or artsandlectures.ucsb.edu
One of those respected kitschy-yet-musical ensembles destined to be lumped in the “miscellany” category, Pink Martini is an ensemble which happily, tipsily mixes elements of classical music, Cuban and Brazilian flavors, and things French. Just add other ingredients as the spirit moves, shakes, and serves in a fun but also musically literate stage show. Their second and latest album is Hang On Little Tomato.
Mon., Nov. 13, 8pm,UCSB’s Campbell Hall, 893-3535 or artsandlectures.ucsb.edu
Charlie Haden and Quartet West
Bassist-bandleader and general project-maker Charlie Haden has been involved in multiple endeavors over the years, and Quartet West is his most straightahead and general audience-friendly of the list. The group, with Haden, tenor saxist Ernie Watts, pianist Allen Broadbent, and drummer Laurence Marable, slips in and out of Haden’s work life, but is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. They bring Santa Barbara to the party with their return visit to the Lobero in November.
Wed., Nov. 29, 8pm, Lobero Theatre, 963-0761 or lobero.com