Thursday, November 15, 2007
Hanging with friends, blowing up a storm, and raising money for a good cause – Kim Edmundson seems to have hit the trifecta with Saturday’s benefit concert at the Jazz & Blues Company.
Since giving up his career as a first-call Los Angeles studio musician and moving to the Monterey area in 2003, Edmundson has immersed himself in the Peninsula music scene. After running the music program at the Carmel Youth Center, he produced an eclectic CD The Very Best of Monterey and staged a series of concerts to raise funds for the organization. Now he’s looking to spread the largess around, and has put out a call to his L.A. compatriots, who don’t seem to mind spending a weekend up north.
Saturday’s concert is his latest fundraiser for a local organization, and he’s rounded up a superlative cast of collaborators, including tenor sax great Pete Christlieb, trumpet master Carl Saunders and bassist Kevin Axt, best known as a long-time member of vocalist Tierney Sutton’s band.
“It’s all about raising money for the JazzMasters program,” says Edmundson, referring to ace guitarist Bruce Forman’s respected jazz education program. “What really makes this possible is that I’ve got some sponsors. Dirk and Deborah Etienne, Bob and Patricia Chapman, and Brophy’s Tavern have enabled me to bring up these fantastic musicians from L.A.”
Forman founded the JazzMasters program to offer aspiring musicians the opportunity to study directly with established jazz veterans. In many ways Forman is seeking to recreate the kind of informal mentorships that were crucial to his development in the 1970s, when he had easy access to guitar legends like Joe Pass, George Benson and Grant Green hanging out after hours at nightclubs.
Edmundson benefited from a similar form of generosity as a young musician in L.A. While studying music at Cal State Northridge, he started taking lessons with Tonight Show Band drummer Ed Shaughnessy and jazz drum master Shelly Manne, who recommended Edmundson for his first studio gig on a session for The Six Million Dollar Man. He went on to a busy career, backing artists such as George Harrison, Van Morrison and Michael Jackson.
“I studied with Louie Bellson and Ed Shaughnessy and they never charged me a dime,” Edmundson says. “It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of thing. I’ve got students who I believe in, and I don’t charge them. One of the reasons I didn’t move to a place like Butte, Montana is that Monterey has all these great programs and musicians, besides being beautiful. A lot of the schools have terrific music programs, and I’ve done many drum clinics just to try to help out.”
The local scene has certainly benefited from the presence of cats like Christlieb and Saunders in recent months. Edmundson first met the saxophonist in the mid-’70s when he was studying with Shaughnessy. A long-time member of the old Tonight Show Band, Christlieb is revered by fellow musicians but is something of a cult figure among jazz fans. He’s probably best known for his association with drum legend Louie Bellson, but he enjoyed a brief moment of pop notoriety when Walter Becker and Donald Fagin produced his stellar Warner Bros. album Apogee at the height of their success with Steely Dan. The 1978 session paired him with the brilliant but similarly unsung tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh.
As a jazz player, Christlieb is at his most exciting in loose situations that allow him to stretch out, which is exactly what’ll be on tap on Saturday.
“We’ll be playing some originals and some standards,” Edmundson says. “It’s going to be a blowing session. Carl and Pete play in a gig together in L.A. so they’ve got quite a rapport. You better bring your ‘A’ game with those guys. I just sit back there and listen and try to stay out of the way. That’s what it’s about, having fun. If the gig’s not going to be fun, what’s the point?”
Having funky fun is the mission statement of another project Edmundson’s involved with, Downtown James Brown. Founded last winter, the horn-laden 10-piece band is devoted to material associated with the Godfather of Soul, both hits and obscurities lifted from the CD In the Jungle Groove. Featuring the scorching vocals of Santa Cruz’s Burnin’ Vernon Davis, the band has turned Sly McFly’s into its home base, and will be laying down righteous grooves there on Friday, Nov. 23, and Dec. 21.
“All the jazz musicians think I’m a rock player, and all the rock players think I’m a jazz guy,” Edmundson says. “I play a lot of different kinds of music, but I’m a huge James Brown fan. We segue between tunes. It’s a full-on show, and I’m hoping that we’ll start playing all over.”
Kim Edmundson presents the L.A. Connection on Saturday, 7:30pm, at the Jazz & Blues Company on San Carlos and Eighth Street in Carmel. Tickets are $45. 624-6432, thejazzandbluescompany.com