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SF Jazz Collective and Sarah Chang

UCSB’s Arts & Lectures Hosts Major Concerts in Jazz and Classical

SF Jazz Collective
Courtesy Photo

SF JAZZ COLLECTIVE: Of the thankfully continuing sagas in the otherwise precarious current state of jazz, one of the most inspiring goes by the idealistic-sounding moniker of SF Jazz Collective, an offshoot of Randall Kline’s San Francisco Jazz Festival. There have been other all-star groups connected to hosting mothership jazz festivals, including road-worthy all-star confabs sent out under the aegis of George Wein’s Newport fest and the Monterey festival, both of which have stopped in Santa Barbara before, but with a kind of slap-dash, thrown-together quality.

But SF Jazz Collective, founded in 2004 and featuring educational, touring, and recording aspects, is something else again — a brave new model of a festival-sponsored project with a more cohesive identity and with clear creative objectives. This “little big band” features top players, and commissions fresh charts each season on the theme of particular legacy-worthy composers — including John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, and this year’s subject, Horace Silver. Santa Barbara jazz audiences have had the pleasure and privilege of following the story as it has progressed during several years, from the early, Joshua Redman-directed incarnation up through next Tuesday’s return to town, at Campbell Hall. It promises to be one of a handful of truly potent jazz concerts in town this year.

Two years back, the collective reached its zenith in terms of personnel when it was stocked with some of the greatest jazz players alive on their respective instruments. A powerful 2008 concert at the Lobero Theatre, in the Wayne Shorter tribute season, brought to town, on one stage for one show, the stellar likes of tenor saxist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Dave Douglas, trombonist Robin Eubanks, and vibist Stefon Harris.

This year’s group is another talent-fortified aggregate, with members from the past and into the future. Longstanding members alto saxist Miguel Zenón, drummer Eric Harland, and bassist Matt Penman are still in place, and Eubanks and Harris remain, but the tenor sax and trumpet chairs now go to Mark Turner and Avishai Cohen, respectively. Back in the rhythm section, the wowing pianist-deserving-greater-recognition Edward Simon has taken that spot (for a tasty offering of the Venezuelan master Simon’s own artistry, check out his fine new album, Poesia, on the Italian CamJazz label).

ALWAYS IN SEASON: Korean-American violin virtuoso Sarah Chang, who started out as a dazzling young prodigy and now has matured into one of the more luminous violinists on the world stage, has passed through Santa Barbara before, including a memorable debut recital at Campbell Hall in 2007. Hearing Chang, now at the ripe age of 29, always makes for a great reason to get out of the house and realize the unique experience of live classical music.

From the comforts of your own home stereo, you can soak up the measured musicality of Chang’s latest recording, a clean-burning, moving interpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, on EMI. Friday night at Campbell Hall, the violinist — accompanied by pianist Andrew von Oeyen — will take on a program of Brahms, Franck, and, for contemporary music’s sake, American composer Christopher Theofanidis’s “Fantasy.” High expectations should be amply rewarded.

BLUES IN THE COMPOUND: For some of the finest and most reliable, genuine blues music hereabouts, blues fans know to head over to Earl Warren Showgrounds once a month or so, for the venerable Santa Barbara Blues Society concerts in Warren Hall.

Consider this Saturday’s show, featuring the rollicking and saucy Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, another installment of hot-night-out celebrations of the blues harp in town. Last year, the startlingly good harp player Rod Piazza stirred up the joint, returning to town recently for the Blues Harmonica Blowout at SOhO, alongside comrades Kim Wilson and project ringleader Mark Hummel. At the moment, Estrin’s band, riding high on its debut album, Twisted (Alligator), is up for the Band of the Year award from the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards. Dancing is very much allowed, and coaxed from what happens onstage.

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