A FINE DAY FOR JAZZ: The jazz concert seasons in town have been announced, and it’s a fine time to make the ceremonial trip to the calendar, Sharpies in hand (or mouse in palm). For the past many years now, Santa Barbara jazz fans have found much to rejoice about in the concert offerings at UCSB’s Campbell Hall and the historic Lobero Theatre (though the naturally greedy among us would like twice as many per year). In all, it looks like another strong jazz season, validating ongoing bragging rights in Santa Barbara, considering the size of the town, as a stop for important names in America’s Greatest Music.
In what has become a heartening tradition, and something of an unofficial jazz season launch pad, Dave Brubeck returns for his annual visit to the Lobero Theatre on Monday, August 27. Volume and intensity increases with the long-awaited return to town of the great guitarist John McLaughlin, who last appeared at the Lobero in his Brazilian-tinged project Belo Horizonte about a generation ago. This time, he brings his super-charged band the 4th Dimension (Thursday, September 20), on the eve of the 50th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, where the band is featured.
In 2008, the guitar focus continues with another living great, Bill Frisell, in duet with longtime ally Joey Baron on drums (Saturday, January 12). Frisell’s concert in the Lobero a few years back still tickles the memory nicely: his organic and chance-fueled musicality seems ideally suited to this room. Drummer Roy Haynes, the youngest oldster around, brings his quartet to the Lobero on Friday, January 18, and the SF JAZZ Collective – now fortified with the new blood of Joe Lovano on tenor sax, Dave Douglas on trumpet, and Stefon Harris on vibes – performs its tribute to Wayne Shorter to close the “Lobero Jazz” series on Thursday, March 20, another juicy one.
Out Campbell Hall way, the jazz portion of the Arts and Lectures concert series officially kicks off with suave vocalist Steve Tyrell and the Hollywood Jazz Orchestra and the Hollywood Jazz Orchestra, the sharp ensemble we last heard nimbly backing up Dee Dee Bridgewater at Campbell Hall two seasons ago, (Thursday, October 11). But the unofficial kick-off may be just two days prior to that gig, with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (at Campbell Hall on Tuesday, October 9), considered by many to be more of the jazz cloth-post-fusion division-than prog-bluegrass. On Sunday, November 11, Herbie Hancock returns to town with a new quartet, this one with ace drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (we heard him recently at the mind-blowing Jeff Beck concert at the Arlington), bassist Nathan East, and Lionel Loueke-who wins this scribe’s vote for as most interesting and fresh new voice on jazz guitar.
On Monday, January 14, the aforementioned Monterey Jazz Festival represents itself in a road-show ensemble, dubbed the 50th Anniversary Tour, with cross-generational musical ranks including Terence Blanchard, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, andJames Moody. (Parenthetically, any and all should try to make pilgrimage to the Monterey festival, one of America’s finest, and certainly the best in the West: September 21-23.)
Operations shift downtown on Tuesday, April 15, to the by-then-shiny-new Granada Theatre (aka Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts) for the Arts and Lectures series’ grand finale. Kicking off their tour in this notable venue will be a power trio of Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette. Expect assorted musical hot stuff, kinetic spirits, and improvisational matriculations of a high order. That’s one deserving of the bright red sharpie.
BLUES FROM THE HEART AND THE LAP: Next in the always intriguing series presented by the hoary Santa Barbara Blues Society (30 years old and counting), is veteran bluesman Sonny Rhodes. Born in Smithville, Texas, in 1940 and now based in Oakland, Rhodes appeared courtesy of the Blues Society several times in the late ’70s, and makes a return visit to Warren Hall on Saturday. Rhodes knows his way around the standard Fender guitar, but he has also distinguished himself on lap steel guitar.