30 Years After

Paul Wellman

OPEN LETTER TO CRAZED VISIONARY JAZZ FANS: Okay, shit happens to the best of us. So do typos. This scribe still cringes at the memory of stating in an Allman Brothers review that Butch Trucks was one of the band members who had died-rather than original bassist Berry Oakley. (An aghast drummer friend threatened to make a T-shirt reading: “I Killed Butch Trucks.”)

All of which is to say that local jazz buffs were no doubt startled to read the headline on the cover of last week’s Independent: “S.B. Jazz Festival Turns 30.” Say what? Have they been hiding a jazz festival from us somewhere? No, the story in question was about the S.B. Blues Society, proudly marking three decades in the field. But the teaser fueled the question: Why is there no Santa Barbara Jazz Festival? For the record, for newcomers to this burg, we had a beachfront festival for several years. It was often wayward and shallow in its programming outlook-and far too reliant on L.A. musicians to fill the roster. But it did bring out such notables as Stan Getz, Anthony Braxton, Cedar Walton, Marcus Roberts, Jack Sheldon, Airto and Flora, and others.

As the original festival organizers faded from the scene, pianist-scenemaker Peter Clark took it over for its final year, and sent the festival out in style, with Mike Stern, Tito Puente, Mose Allison, and others making this town shiver with jazz energy for one autumn week. Some of us thought a new era was dawning for the festival, but the numbers crunched badly and the weather didn’t behave. We’ve been festival-less ever since that point way back in the ’90s, although estimable jazz concert series at the Lobero Theatre and Campbell Hall have gone a long way in establishing the town as a viable jazz center.

Still, given the rampant success of the film fest here, and the dubious nature of the nearby Playboy Jazz Festival (though it has recently made efforts to focus more on actual jazz), Santa Barbara seems like a ripe locale for a new festival of jazz, especially one which could be situated around the time of the Monterey Jazz Festival in mid September. Pipe dream is over. Back on the bus.

Richard_Thompson_2.jpgSHOW OF THE WEEK: When Santa Barbara caught the great guitar-wizardly troubadour Richard Thompson last May at the Lobero-one of his favorite haunts-he was doing a dizzy millennial dance through the ages. As part of his quirky and amazing 1,000 Years of Popular Music concept evening, Thompson moved sublimely and ridiculously from plain chant through Elizabethana through Gilbert and Sullivan and the 20th century, with a final wink at Britney Spears’s “Oops! : I Did It Again,” bringing out the secret pop-tarty charm of that hit. Next Wednesday, Thompson appears at the Lobero as Thompson, previewing material from a forthcoming album and showing why he’s one the great song artists presently breathing.

BLUES HIGH: With his white cowboy hat, toothy grin, and twinkle in the eye, Chicagoan Lonnie Brooks was not your average veteran bluesman shaking up Warren Hall on Saturday. Then again, Brooks’s pedigree includes swampy flavors from his native Louisiana and country twang from his Texas years.

Brooks was an ideal party king for the Santa Barbara Blues Society‘s 30th (count ’em) anniversary celebration. Society head Laszlo Kiraly continues to go above and beyond to keep the society thriving. Old cohorts stopped by: blues (and polka) expert Greg Drust, society cofounder, returned from his Milwaukee home to pay respects; so did another important cultural figure in S.B. history, John Breckow.

In the early ’70s, Breckow doggedly promoted shows here, spun blues on KCSB, and ran a hip record store on Anapamu Street (frequented by a nerdy junior high school kid : okay, it was me). After moving to L.A., Breckow had a great show on KPFK for years. In all, histories came a-calling and a-grooving at Warren Hall. (Got e? fringebeat@independent.com.)


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