This fall’s jazz fare includes some authentic legends, including a long-awaited return by guitarist John McLaughlin, and more expected return visits from keyboardist Herbie Hancock and vocalist Dianne Reeves, both in the upper echelon of their respective disciplines. McLaughlin’s upcoming Lobero show represents a healthy pattern of jazz greats who stop in Santa Barbara on their way to or from the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival.
But the biggest newcomer on the fall schedule is the first annual Solvang Jazz Festival, a brand new event started by Crusaders’ drummer Stix Hooper. For two days, Solvang will be host to a few concerts and a great idea in terms of jazz culture in the area.
New Orleans-born Christian Scott is just 24 years old, but he has already demonstrated skill as a bandleader and developed a distinctive style on the trumpet. Nephew of the great alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, Scott brings his electric group and moody, moving compositions to SOhO early next week. Mon., Sept. 17, 8pm. SOhO, 1221 State St. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.
John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension
John McLaughlin broke the mold when it comes to bona fide guitar heroes. Starting with his late-1960s work in Tony Williams’s Lifetime and Miles Davis’s early electric bands and on through his own several projects-from the hyper-electric/ecstatic Mahavishnu Orchestra and the acoustic Indo-jazz group Shakti-McLaughlin has made music of intensity and dizzying virtuosity, but with an underlying quest for beauty and truth. Returning to the Lobero, where he last played with his Belo Horizonte group in 1982, McLaughlin brings his fully plugged in new band, the 4th Dimension, one night before their show at the 50th annual Monterey Jazz Festival. Now 65 and playing and writing brilliantly, McLaughlin is still on fire, but with grace beneath the speed and volume. Thu., Sept. 20, 8pm. Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. Call 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.
Solvang Jazz Festival
Drummer Stix Hooper, best known for his work with the Crusaders, is behind this exciting new venture on the regional jazz scene. For two days in Solvang (why not?), this inaugural festival will host an impressive list of names, including Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Airto Moreira, Patrice Rushen, drummer Roy McCurdy, and Frank Capp and Juggernaut, featuring singer Ernie Andrews. Following a big band concert and dinner on Friday at the Solvang Veteran’s Hall, Barbara Morrison and Taylor Eigsti Trio perform at the Royal Scandinavian Inn. A free outdoor concert on Saturday afternoon leads up to the finale, an all-star jazz evening in the Solvang Festival Theatre. After the demise of the Santa Barbara Jazz Festival years ago, this new effort is more than welcome. Fri.-Sat., Sept. 28-29. Locations include Solvang Veteran’s Hall, Royal Scandinavian Inn, and Solvang Festival Theatre. Visit solvangjazz.com.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Bela Fleck, now 49, somehow seems forever young, partly because he proudly refuses to fit into existing musical channels. The banjo virtuoso maneuvers a free-range course between bluegrass, spacegrass, jazz fusion, and whatever else pops into his head. He’s joined by his nimble-fingered Flecktones-bassist Victor Wooten, his e-drummer brother Future Man, and saxist Jeff Coffin. We last heard Fleck in town at SOhO with Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet, in dazzling, all-unplugged mode. He returns with his own multifaceted, multigenre band after a few years away. Tue., Oct. 9, 8pm. UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.
Steve Tyrell and the Hollywood Jazz Orchestra
Suave crooner Steve Tyrell has been circulating behind the scenes of television and movies for years, and also working as a record executive and producer. Lately, he has been reinventing himself by throwing his hat into the outer quarters of the jazz ring, bringing a warm, clear presence to interpretations of standards. He is joined at Campbell Hall by the skilled Hollywood Jazz Orchestra, which impressively backed up Dee Dee Bridgewater at this venue a couple of years ago. Thu., Oct. 11, 8pm. UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.
Dianne Reeves last stopped in the area at the Gainey Vineyards last year, and her easy going yet intelligent vocal charisma felt ideally suited to that magical al fresco setting. At the time, she was high on her Grammy-winning soundtrack to Good Night, and Good Luck, in which she also appeared. An adaptable musician who can appeal to aficionados and jazz dabblers alike, Reeves has been at the Arlington Theatre and at Campbell Hall in recent years as well, but the Lobero Theatre may be the best-suited venue for what she does. Even when she’s between albums, Reeves-now certifiably one of the greatest living jazz singers-has a wealth of material and stylistic approaches on which to draw. Thu., Oct. 18, 8pm. Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. Call 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.
Herbie Hancock Quartet
Herbie Hancock, the great jazz keyboardist, is coming back to town. Yes, the reader thinks, but which Herbie Hancock? The one who went pop for a Starbucks project; the loose, improvisational leader we heard at the Lobero years ago; or some new incarnation? A few years back, in a group that included the late Michael Brecker, Hancock was in soaring form. This time around, Hancock is bringing a quartet of strong players-with ace drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, trusty jazz ‘n’ pop bassist Nathan East, and Lionel Loueke, one of the more intriguing new guitarists on the scene. In whatever his project du jour, Hancock is always well worth checking out. Sun., Nov. 11, 8pm. UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.