Ahmad Jamal at the Lobero | Credit: David Bazemore

A Jazz Titan’s Passing

News of the unclassifiable jazz piano titan Ahmad Jamal’s recent passing triggered waves of calling a specific earworm — Jamal’s classic 1957 recording of “Poinciana,” his landmark “hit.” But, of course, there was vastly more to the story of this underappreciated artist, and acknowledged influence on such greats as Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, and John Coltrane.

Santa Barbara was lucky enough to hear Jamal in potent, malleable trio form at the Lobero Theatre back in 2003 and 2005, both highly memorable evenings. An artist who seized on the moment and the vibe of a given room, Jamal was a fan of the Lobero as a “jazz room,” as he told me in a 2005 interview.

“The room is the dictator,” he asserted. “You have to recognize the quality of the room as well as the audience. Certain things go well in certain rooms, and some things go bad. You learn how to program. After so many years in the business, you learn how to read an audience as well as a room. You have to have all the components and the coordinates together, or else it’s not going to work.

“You have to be very careful about where you work and what the conditions are, because the presentation is part of the importance of the delivery. I try to read a room. In fact, I don’t try — I automatically read a venue, as soon as I hit it. I look at the characteristics of a place, plus an audience gives you a lot of feedback.”

As we wrapped up the interview, Jamal, then 75, waxed philosophical about his life at that time: “Things are very pleasant for me. I really enjoy each day, each meal and each conversation. The most productive period of my life is right now. But you know, life is a fleeting thing. You don’t say `I’ve got it made,’ because the minute you say that, you don’t have it made. But right now, I enjoy a certain degree of peace, and I hope it continues.

“To me, life begins every day, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It doesn’t begin at 50 or 60 or 20 or 10. It begins every day.”

Choral Society at 75

Jimmer Bolden | Credit: Courtesy

Recent years have seen a convergence of important music institutions in the area attaining milestone seasons. Lofty musical group anniversaries register special points particularly way out west, in the relatively young cultural history of California.

This year’s model: the Santa Barbara Choral Society, which officially joins the 75th anniversary club celebrated by both the Music Academy and the Ojai Music Festival in the previous two years. SBCS’s celebration season has found the august and flexible choral group performing in various settings, including one of its regular collaborations with the Santa Barbara Symphony last fall — to the tune of Carmina Burana — and its holiday-timing tradition-in-the-making, The Hallelujah Project.

This weekend, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, the group settles into the inviting environs of the First Presbyterian Church for a season-closing program dubbed Mozart to Modern. True to the alliterative title, the program serves as a handy sampler of what this stellar group is known for, with a centerpiece of Mozart’s timelessly moving Requiem, but also Christopher Tin’s “Waloyo Yamoni” (featuring L.A.-based tenor Jimmer Bolden), works by Aaron Copland, Morten Lauridsen, Ola Gjeilo, and more. Jo Anne Wasserman, director for nearly half the group’s life, leads the refined pack.

Six-Stringers in Triplicate

Transatlantic Guitar Trio  | Credit: Courtesy

In one of the final shows (for now) of the S.B. Acoustic series, Sunday night at SOhO, the focus on widely known artists in the acoustic guitarist field goes to town, thrice. The Transatlantic Guitar Trio — being respected British fingerstyle player Richard Smith, Django-phonic German guitarist Joscho Stephan, and the American factor Rory Hoffman. Among Smith’s admirers are folks in the know and outstanding in their field — guitarists Chet Atkins, Muriel Anderson, and Tommy Emmanuel.


The fine drummer-bandleader-composer Luis Muñoz, originally from Costa Rica but who spent most of his life in Santa Barbara, calls Arizona home now. But he’s making a special homecoming appearance, Thursday at SOhO, in a quartet that also features Santa Barbara’s much-loved vocalist Lois Mahalia. Muñoz has released numerous albums over the decades, with more in the works, and has been granted a bounty of accolades and awards, in Costa Rica and elsewhere.

This week’s Santa Barbara Bowl servings: the Black Keys, tonight (May 4), and countryman Billy Currington on Saturday, May 6.


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