Thursday, September 6, 2007
FOR PENINSULA JAZZ FANS, fall is the cruelest season. There’s the delicious, months-long build up to the Monterey Jazz Festival, which takes place this year on Sept. 21-23. But after the festival’s cornucopian bounty, the local scene can’t help but feel positively desolate as the long summer days start fading into early dusk. Though there’s no shortage of top-shelf players who have settled in the area, the Peninsula offers precious few venues in which they can practice their art. Dr. David Morwood has done yeoman’s work keeping a loose jam session vibe alive at the Monterey Hyatt, a scene that has enticed players down from the Bay Area and points beyond. The Jazz & Blues Company offers a fairly steady flow of concerts, and deserves kudos for presenting the premiere Peninsula performances by some of jazz’s finest vocalists. The Inn at Spanish Bay keeps a jazz flame burning, and Cypress Inn regularly features the veteran duo of pianist Dick Whittington and bassist Rob Fisher, while the suave crooner Lee Durley holds forth on weekends at Highlands Inn, backed by pianist Joe Indence. But as The Simpsons Maude Flanders was wont to exclaim, what about the children?
Stoked by the Monterey Jazz Festival’s long running music education programs and indie efforts like Bruce Forman’s Guitar Masters Workshop, a profusion of promising young players have grown up in the area, including rising players such as pianists Milton Fletcher Jr., Sam Grobe-Heintz and Emily Intersimone. But during the course of the year, they have far too few opportunities to perform before an audience. Santa Cruz’s Kuumbwa offers a brilliant example of what a nonprofit organization with dedicated volunteers can accomplish. There are enticing rumors about a jazz complex taking shape on Cannery Row, but until someone creates a venue that showcases the abundant local talent and provides a regular outlet for aspiring musicians, the buzz generated by the jazz festival is fated to fade quickly as summer gives way to autumn.