Collective Dreaming

Chuck Manning

SHOW OF THE WEEK DEPT.: Run, don’t walk, to catch the S.F. JAZZ Collective tonight at the Lobero Theatre. Those who caught the group in its earlier incarnation at Campbell Hall shows witnessed a perfectly fine and interesting group in its first stage of evolution. What it has become, particularly this season, is a more highly evolved and stronger aggregate, and one now run as a true-blue collective. Suddenly, this all-star group that the San Francisco Jazz Festival built is one of the major bands in jazz, thanks to a new front line featuring great players on their respective instruments-trumpeter Dave Douglas, tenor sax giant Joe Lovano, trombonist Robin Eubanks, and the vibist of the moment, Stefon Harris.

Aside from the ensemble and collective aspects of this group, it is also a great way to catch some of the finest individual players in jazz. In an ideal world, we would see the respective projects led by many of these musicians in Santa Barbara clubs, but the Collective provides a mobile forum and an under-one-banner aegis. On tap tonight, and on tour all over the world this year, is a program of new arrangements of compositions by the visionary Wayne Shorter, and also newly commissioned compositions by the Collective’s band members (and this group sports several inspired writers). Miss it at your peril: It will undoubtedly be one of the hottest jazz shows this year.

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF MO’ MUSIC: Speaking of great Santa Barbara jazz concerts, Bobby Bradford’s Mo’Tet raised rafters and hopes for smart Los Angeles-based jazz in a great show at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center last month. On tenor sax in the Mo’Tet was Chuck Manning, long known as one of L.A.’s finest and, not incidentally, most flexible jazz players. He plays free, he does changes, he goes abstract, and he cleans up real good. He’s got the music in mind, wherever that might lead.

Manning returns to town under his own name next Thursday, March 27, as part of the Experimental Music Night series, now based at Muddy Waters-a great place to hear jazz, by the way. Experimental moniker notwithstanding, at the moment and with his current band, Manning is thinking along straighter lines. He has just released a fine album on the Swiss TCB label, Notes from the Real, including “real book”-ish material and a token nod to the man, John Coltrane, clearly an inspirational energy source for Manning.

In the past, Manning was part of the modern-minded Los Angeles Jazz Quartet (whose music didn’t sound much like any other Los Angeles jazz we know of), which performed at the Goleta Valley Community Center a few years back. Notes from the Real is Manning’s first solo CD, and he is making a concerted effort to branch out into the world. The time and music are ripe.

OJAI CALLING: When it comes to a short list of classical music institutions in our general neighborhood of international importance, the list comes down primarily to one entity: the Ojai Music Festival. Each June, the festival ushers in a provocative and usually contemporary-leaning music program, but this June’s schedule outdoes itself. In the rotating music director position this year is charismatic and cerebral conductor David Robertson, the right personage for the job. Robertson is a strong ally of contemporary music who hails from America, was born in Santa Monica, and is now head of the St. Louis Orchestra-but who has strong European connections. The special guest composer is another great American figure, Steve Reich, arguably the most important Minimalist (Philip Glass is just the most over-exposed and over-employed). Cherished soprano Dawn Upshaw also joins the party. Admirers of great classical music, especially the kind made by living musicians and composers, are advised to set aside June 5-8 for a sojourn-or serial day trips-to the sylvan spread of Ojai.


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