La Boheme, 2016

This Thursday-Saturday, March 2-4, Santa Barbara will become its own little New Orleans, as the Santa Barbara Jazz Festival Redux spices up our little slice of paradise with blocks of live music and cultural events. The multi-venue event rebirths the beachside fest that dissolved in the early ’00s, and various venues throughout the downtown, Funk Zone, and Lagoon District areas will host more than 30 bands, a second-line procession and fête, a youth jazz showcase, and much more. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Notes for Notes and the Dos Pueblos High School Jazz Fest.

“S.B. lends itself to a great place for a jazz fest,” said festival director Warner Anderson.

For a full lineup, visit

TINY UNIVERSE, BIG SOUND: Headlining the festival on Friday, March 3, at 9 p.m. at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) is Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the rocking jazz-funk act fronted by the impressively zesty saxophonist. Denson just disembarked from a tour with The Rolling Stones and is known as much for his super high-energy covers of acts such as Prince and The White Stripes as he is for his own compositions.

His most recent solo album, New Ammo, is fittingly named, as his eruptive, energetic, ecstatic pieces are the musical equivalent of cartoon TNT barrels at the end of their fuse, vibrantly explosive.

“I’m trying to make people dance, first and foremost,” said Denson of his combustible compositions, which even carry names like “Grenadiers” and are often more akin to rock songs than traditional jazz. There’s certainly invention happening behind the sheen of the scene, as he enjoys “creating structures that are inventive and challenging enough for me when I’m playing it.”

He very much appreciates the more “intellectual element” of contemporaries like Kamasi Washington — “What he’s doing is very courageous” — and credits the avant-garde works of visionaries like John Coltrane as steering him clear of saxophone sappiness. “John Coltrane saved me from smooth jazz,” he said.

As saxophonists go, Denson is as piercingly invigorating as they come; now the test comes in perfecting his songwriting and refining the live set. He’s bringing more “ebb and flow to the set, taking a little bit of the muscularity out,” he said. “Sometimes you want to be able to hit people over the head, but sometimes you want be able to massage them.”

He’s pumped to play in S.B., a city he really enjoys and one that has potential to challenge his theory that “the closer you get to the beach, the less people get interested in art.” He hopes the S.B. Jazz Fest brings the beachcombers in to the venues for some incredible dancing. “S.B., get off the beach, and get involved in art,” he said.

PROCEED TO PARTY: On Saturday, March 4, a procession will head from the James Joyce (513 State St.) to SBCAST (513 Garden St.) for an all-day party, starting at 11 a.m. Contemporary art enthusiasts take note: There will be a special meet and greet with Peter A. Bradley, who is March’s artist in residence at the Squire Foundation, the S.B.-based arts outreach and education foundation.

The lively occasion will render State Street into a small-scale New Orleans, complete with music from Spencer & The Wedding Band and dancing from La Boheme, both in the parade and as part of a choreographed piece at 2 p.m. Everyone is invited to join in on the parade, which will feature “festive costumes, umbrellas, masks, and waving scarfs,” said La Boheme’s founder and director, Teresa Kuskey Nowak. “The only requirement and choreography is a little strut in your step, and a whole lot of soul.”

Also joining the tasty musical stew will be a whole gumbo’s worth of diverse, locally grown ingredients in the form of Santa Barbara standouts such as the Montecito Jazz Project (12:15pm), Bryan Titus Trio (2:15pm), the Rent Party Blues Band (3:15pm), the Big Whoo (4:15pm), and DJ Darla Bea (5:30pm), and also, for those who missed them, the über-talented Jazz Villains, the teenaged band who kick things off at 11:30 a.m.

REMEMBER KATRINA: The S.B. Jazz Fest will also honor the natural disaster that devastated New Orleans, and the music scene that blossomed in its wake, with a screening of One Note at a Time at The Sandbox (414 Olive St.) on Thursday, March 2, at 8 p.m. Filmed over the course of four years, this documentary pays homage to the musicians who returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to resuscitate the city’s lively music scene. It also tells the story of the New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Fund, whose mission is to keep New Orleans’s culture alive through social services and outreach. A portion of the night’s proceeds will benefit the film’s Indigogo campaign.

REAL GOOD TIME: Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson, and his touring band will put on a high-energy performance of self-proclaimed “cowboy hippie surf rock” for an unforgettable show on Saturday, March 4, at 9 p.m. at SOhO. The band continues to support its 2016 album, Something Real, which was recorded at the Westerfeld House in San Francisco.

JAZZ IN PARADISE: Also this weekend, the Dos Pueblos High School (DPHS) Instrumental Music Program will host their 48th annual Jazz Festival on Saturday March 4, in conjunction with the S.B. Jazz Festival Redux. World-renowned, Grammy Award–winning percussionist Gregg Bissonette will headline the event, joining forces with the DPHS Jazz Ensemble and the SBCC Lunch Break Jazz Band. DPHS’s Jazz Band recently won first place at the Reno International Jazz Fest 2016, while SBCC’s Lunch Break Band, under direction of Jim Mooy, is the only community college band to rank as a finalist for the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival for three consecutive years. For tickets and more information, visit


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