LOCALVORE-GONE-GLOBALVORE JAZZ: Santa Barbara and her neighboring environs may not be a super-fertile ground for sending impactful jazz musicians out into the scene-at-large, but there are notable cases. The short list includes trumpeter Jeff Elliott, the casually virtuosic Goleta boy turned Los Angeleno who worked with Les McCann and in the group of Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, and S.B.-bred and long N.Y.C.-based drummer Tom Rainey, a poetic and respected semi-secret weapon in jazz. Ventura can boast spawning acclaimed veteran pianist Joanne Brackeen and tdwr (talent deserving wider recognition) David Binney, surely one of the boldest and finest alto saxists in jazz at this historical moment (check out his fabulous new CD, Third Occasion, on Binney’s Mythology Records).
Coming to SOhO on Monday is a potential late-breaking addition to the list, in young and impressive vibist Tyler Blanton, a Brooklynite who spent his formative years in Ojai. Blanton’s short summer tour, in its SOhO incarnation, is a trio with bassist Nick Rosen and drummer Kelly Weaver.. Blanton’s music is sophisticated, swinging, and modern in the right ways, yet gutsy.
In short, Blanton’s SOhO gig may qualify as the jazz show of the season in Santa Barbara, although ours is admittedly a town that tends to roll up the jazz sidewalks during the summer. Jazz fans grouse and grumble come this time of year, or head out of town for their live musical fixes. Pop music has its field day at the Bowl and in the clubs (especially via the programming miracle that is Club Mercy), and classical music has its bedazzling Music Academy of the West festival. But jazz takes a veritable holiday.
THEY PLAYED HERE: In this fallow atmosphere, we might ponder over jazz shows of note here, past and future. Several worthy new jazz releases feature artists who have graced Santa Barbara stages in recent years. Guitarist Bobby Broom, for instance, just flaunted his tasteful virtuosity at Campbell Hall in his high-profile role with Sonny Rollins. At the Lobero Theatre, arguably one of the riper jazz rooms in America (sez me, and many others), we’ve had the recent pleasure of hearing the quartet with vibist Gary Burton and his old friend-and former employee-Pat Metheny, as well as a brief encounter with trumpeter Dave Douglas, in the remarkable S.F. Jazz Collective.
Here, then, is a selective midsummer round-up of intriguing new music by jazz folks who have darkened Santa Barbaran portals, and would be welcome to do so again.
Bobby Broom: Bobby Broom Plays for Monk (Origin). An engaging and cliche-dodging “mainstream” jazz guitarist, Broom lately has been bursting forth more under his own name, after years in Sonny’s sidelight. On Plays for Monk, Broom expertly addresses the dearth of thinking guitarists bringing lively voices to the classic, quirky Monk songbook.
Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow, Antonio Sanchez: Quartet Live (Concord). Jazz concert trivialists know that Burton played the Arlington Theatre in the mid ’70s with the bushy-haired teenaged Metheny. Decades later, they reunited and got along famously/musically, as heard on this spirited and lyrical live album. Compositions are mostly from the songbooks of Metheny and also Swallow, as masterful and witty a writer as he is a player.
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy: Spirit Moves (Greenleaf Music). Pound for pound, trumpeter-composer-bandleader-conceptualist dynamo Dave Douglas is among jazz’s grandest and most important figures, continuing to venture forth with new projects and bands, and paying tribute to jazz icons while asserting his own deepening status in contemporary jazz aesthetics. Now comes his Brass Ecstasy project, a juicy, smart, and moving tribute to the late, great trumpeter Lester Bowie (who himself appeared in a highly memorable Campbell Hall concert with the Art Ensemble of Chicago). Bowie’s Brass Fantasy freely mixed traditions of avant-garde playing, New Orleans brass band, gospel, and funkytime glorification, all of which appear here, through Douglas’s personalized filters.
P.S. Brass Ecstasy ranks highly on the “would be great in the Lobero” wish index.