The Stanford Jazz ‘Coliseum’

Trumpet Eric Jekabson takes five between sets Thursday at SFJazz free concert while Stanford Jazz Workshop founder Jim Nadel (left) ponders what a long strange trip it’s been.

VO: And here’s a partial score: “Jules at 8”

My earliest memory is flying from Chicago to San Francisco in 1967 when I was three years old. The airlines upgraded us to first class, taking pity on the mom flying with the three kids. I distinctly remember going cabin-to-cabin greeting what seems like every person in every aisle seat. I was a three-year-old rock star. And although I do go through long bouts of introversion, I am still a schmoozer. I probably have 2,000 business cards tucked away in a couple of shoeboxes and could probably recall 98 percent of every person I’ve met in the 17 years as “Earthwise Productions”. For instance, I am interviewing by phone today the dancer Mary Armentrout and was able to tell her that I saw her show, and met her again at her day job; but had to search injun to recall the name of my companion to that first show,  her student Emily Britton, who is now a psychologist in Massachusetts, in the 413.

At the event Thursday at Stanford shopping center, I button-holed Jim Nadel, the founder of the Stanford Jazz Workshop. I showed him an article I had written, from June 27, 1982 for the Stanford Daily. “Jazz in the Summer” was the headline. I had interviewed him in honor of his tenth season at what was then more of a camp than a concert series. There were jam sessions between pros and students, and they were excited about special guest instructors Lanny Morgan and Stan Getz. A public lecture by Getz — probably billed as such to avoid going through his normal booking agency fee structure  — is what has evolved years later into a truly world-class schedule of 36 ticketed events this season. The festival’s new marketing director, keyboardist, writer and editor Ernie Rideout, has arranged for banners in downtown Palo Alto that proclaim “Stanford Jazz Festival: Our 40th season”. “Festival” versus “series” versus “camp” versus “workshop,” Nadel and company have accomplished a “coliseum” of jazz and jazz education, semantics and “stretchers” aside: they’re the tops! Of lamp-poles, but also of the hierarchy of jazz presenters and educators.

A Quantum Decoherence of Meetings, Mentions and Marks

I ran into Esther Berndt (sax) and Ed Williams (guitar), who took in the show and were buzzing with anticipation for the Jazz Camp West, another excellent local institution.

Jazzing duo Esther Berndt (reeds) and Ed Williams (strings)

I did not speak to Eric Jekabson, but shot his portrait; I knew of his work because his Fresh Sounds New Talent session features on sax my former client John Ellis. (Although strangely I was remembering him as having played with Charlie Hunter; I was conflating Eric Jekabson as Ron Miles mixed with Alan Ferber, like the Duke’s speech in “Huck Finn” that conflates Hamlet and MacBeth).

I did not speak to Patrick Wolff, but recalled meeting him last year at Stanford Jazz. Esther mentioned that although he played a few Lucky Thompson numbers Thursday, he has produced a Lucky Thompson repertoire show. Ed Williams and I discussed (or I suggested, and he was merely being polite) whether Lucky Thompson was sometimes confused with Lucky Peterson. Meanwhile, I was trying to get straight (no chaser, although maybe a beer would have helped me here)

Me and Jim and a raft of jazz lovers

that Esther’s Ed, was not Ed Williams the former Gunn wrestling legend, and that Esther’s Ed’s last name is not actually Johnson, although there is a jazz guitarist named Ed Johnson. Then confusingly enough, or fittingly, or by Providence, who do I meet nary two hours ago at Peet’s, near the Varsity, but Leslie Evers, the business partner of Ed Johnson (plays Brazilian), who is also former sister-in-law with jazz manager and legal consort Al “A Train” Evers.  Her actual attorney is Ned Hearn, who I met at a Shayna Steele show in Austin, and with whom I was going to meet, about Eric not Jekabson but Lindley (and that after or around the time I was trying to convince myself that Eric Lindley is not kin of David Lindley, who is playing tomorrow in Saratoga with — literally or figuratively? — Lucinda Williams.

I told Esther that she should look out for Allison Miller at Jazz Camp West. We also name-checked apropos of Miller her pals (past and present) Ingrid Jensen and Virginia Mayhew. I said that Morty Okin is in Redwood City Saturday leading and trumpeting a Michael Jackson repertory band called ForeverLand; Morty played Cubberley my very second show, in December, 1994, with Oxbow, as The Morty and Connie Show, although Frank Kozik listed him as “featuring the golden trumpet of Marty Orkin” (and in that instance I was too shy to correct him or it, the poster).

I asked Jim Nadel if he or Nathan Oliveira met Getz first and he claimed that distinction, too. I said I had seen Lee Townsend (and Phyllis Oyama) at Nathan’s memorial. (They are Bill Frisell’s managers; he performs for Jim’s fete on July 31). I mentioned Hilarie Faberman’s jazz riff at the Cantor: Oliveira, Alvin Light, Elmer Bishoff and David Park, all painters and sculptors said to be in the key of jazz. I met (for the second time, as with Ms. Evers above) a sax player named Jon Familant, who has a brother named Hillel Familant, and whose dad married my brother, or officiated. I recall that the rabbi suggested that we all be not like Moses, but ourselves. (As in “I’m sorry I am not more like Moses” and God said “Be more like Mark!” Or did he mean to be more like Mark Twain?)

I told Jim Nadel (and Ernie Rideout) my story of dating (or I was dating and he was merely courting, pretty sure) the same lady, in 1990 or so, an art director at a SF ad agency, as SF Jazz founder Randall Kline (although it was called Jazz in the City then, again only pretty sure). Randall and I both showed up to take that certain lady to lunch and ended up going to lunch as a threesome. So I described myself as the “Zelig” of the founding of two leading regional jazz education and presentation entities, at Thursday’s show I certainly did.

I said that a couple years ago Ethan Iverson told me he was a former student or camper at Stanford Jazz workshop (or camp) but at the time he doubted Jim Nadel knew that. Ernie said that Jim said that he knew that before I bragged of it in an email earlier this week. Bad Plus performs in July.

I am hoping to catch Allen Touissant tonight there; Eric Hanson pointed out that Frisell and Touissant are both Rosebud acts.

I said a couple times — plus posted it a couple places — that last year or the year before I saw Matt Wilson, Pascal Lebouef and Ambrose Akinmusire for free at the CoHo. I also said I saw Taylor Eigsti introduce Kneebody at Stanford Jazz, and sat next to Nancy Eigsti, his mother, who told me that Taylor would cry in his crib if he did not get to hear Fattburger (a fusion band). I think therefore Taylor Eigsti could get away with saying “Our 27th Season.” I presented him at Cubberley in December of 2000 when he was 15. I told somebody that Jesse Hamlin of the Chronicle had botched the name of the film made by a Stanford grad student (Mark Becker not Decker) about Julian Lage called “Jules at 8.”

I met Herb Wong at Sam Schmidt’s 80th birthday and told him of my campaign to have the Lee Konitz song “Palo Alto” adopted as the official ring-back of City of Palo Alto (I had previously mentioned this idea to Leah Garchik the columnist, her son Jacob Garchik the trombone player — in an unacknowledged email — and Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene, who scribbled the name “Konitz” in his notebook). I told the aforemention sax player Familant (as distinct from the curator Faberman, or the New Hampshire reggae-loving haberdasher Ken Fabrikant, of Rosey Jekes; or Josh Roseman) that Donny McCaslin was once mesmerized by the site of a butt in a bell, in a pool of spit, that is. I could not recall Martin Wolleson’s first name, in the moment, nor do I know his current occupation or whereabouts. But I am fairly certain albeit gratuitous detail that Noel Grey is not related to Joel Grey but did or does have a girlfriend named Atoosa, who sings. But probably not as well as Sasha Dobson, who Rachel Metz previewed in the Palo Alto Weekly apropos of this very same Leland Stanford Junior University (you mean, like Foothill?) marching through time, evolving, like a lung-fish, although I’d like a lutefisk, concert series and school, or shed. Sasha who opened for Norah (who invited John and Pavani to see her play on SNL).

Earthwise Productions had Steven Bernstein’s Diaspora band (don’t ask just now who was there: David James, I recall; Ben Goldberg, Cressman — no Apfelbaum, although he did play Stanford, and the Freight, the old Freight) play the Bottom of the Hill for its tenth anniversary show, and then had Beth Custer with Glenn Hartman form Drone N Bone for its 15th one year later — the 10th coulda or should have been labeled 14th — so who am I to throw or Roll a Stone — like when Marty Ehrlich on behalf of Montalvo ed played at Gunn he also told four of us, including Kirsten Bontrager (but not Kristen Strom) that he botched a solo when he auditioned for.

Brad Kava compared me to Bill Graham but I like to joke that I am not even the Danny Sher of Palo Alto. I have produced around 250 shows here since 1994. (Jason Olaine suggested to Marc Hopkins of Baltimore to mention me in a JazzTimes story on offbeat promoters; as opposed to a New Orleans Offbeat article on jazz times;  Olaine’s grandmother just passed away at age 106 although now he has triplets). When I meet a blues musician I say I was born of the South Side of Chicago, at Michael Reese, actually. Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, the drummer, but not June Core or Bobby Cochran, said or was just being polite that Muddy Waters bought his Chevys (but not of course his Caddys) from my grandfather and namesake M. B. Weiss. Of Midway.

Hey are there any jazz or blue songs or lyrics about Midway Airport? I bet John Corbett could think of something like that, a rhapsody for Midway. Not by Gershwin but by that ragtime MacArthur player, Reginald Robinson. Or by Sun Ra.

We are talking Fess not Touissant but I always add the article “the” when I describe NOLA (not NYNO) to newbies. I say, “if you go to New Orleans, be sure to check out THE Mardi Gras”. Stevenson Palfi said great piano players rarely play together and may or may not have influenced John Goodman and Steve Earle (and Bonnie Simmons and or Bonnie Raitt) on HBO. And Allissa Clancy sorted Trombone Shorty (who plays trumpet, as well, and as well as Eric Jekabsen) from his brother James Andrews but momentarily conflated New Birth with Rebirth brass bands. (And did Mark Samuels’ say he is putting out Rebirth?)

Jim Nadel said that the figure in the logo of the workshop, printed without camption or explanation in the Daily, was Albert Ayler. Like Harmon Killebrew in the MLB logo.

When Charlie Hunter Trio played Kuumbwa Richard Scheinen (father of Jessie Scheinen) said that John Ellis sounded like Sam Rivers and Gene Ammons.

Joe Lovano appears in August.

If i missed a few periods think of it as syncopation.

Edit to add, June 26: I re-wrote the praise “pull-quote” in graph two, swapping out “colossus” for “coliseum” and adding the clause: “they’re the tops!” This after taking in the Allen Touissant concert Friday and also watching the Cole Porter biopic at Stanford Theater on Saturday. Porter wrote “You’re the Top!’.  The Touissant show rates among my favorite concerts ever. Notably he covered Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” following a long, show-closing mostly improvised medley of often-familiar tunes and riffs — I would love to hear what a real musicologist noted in that section — leading into his trademark “Southern Nights” which I saw on Austin City Limits and what sold me on seeing this show. Worth every penny of the $35 cover, easy. Big easy, even.

More edit to add, July 13: Lee Hildebrand wrote an enticing story about Andrew Speight’s upcoming (this Saturday) show at Stanford Jazz Workshop, about Charlie Parker with strings. Amen. Ashe. Ajazz.

More edit to add, July 19: At the Scott Amendola Charlie Hunter show last night, I sat next to Dan Adams and family. Dan recalls that from ages 11 to 18 he was the in-house rhythm section or at least its drummer for those formative years. Which is a synergy in that all the repetition drilled into Dan helped him no doubt become such an excellent musician, principally as bassist for Oxbow but also now in a local jazz combo, but also in that his prowess and prodigy saved Stanford Jazz Workshop from having to hire adult professionals any sooner than it needed to. Dan and Bob Adams opened for Charlie Hunter Quartet or Quintet at Cubberley circa 1999.  I last saw Bob Adams with Joey Oliveira (another relatively unsung hero of Stanford Jazz Festival) and Sylvia Cuenca at Briones about two years ago. Stanford featured Joey Oliveira in its Stan Getz tribute around that time.

edit to add, exactly two years minus ten days later: Neil “Morty” Okin, who I mention above, and or name-checked that afternoon at Stanford Jazz at SFJAZZ, is playing tonight a free show at 6:30 p.m. in Los Altos on the Hillview soccer fields, near the library, as Foreverland, a Michael Jackson tribute — they use up to four vocalists to handle MJ’s range, and there is a 4-piece horn section; that adds up to 14-piece group, apparently, or I hope to learn first-hand. Meanwhile I texted Eugene Robinson of Oxbow fake “congrats” about Oxbow the horse winning Preakness. Meanwhile my former client Henry Butler will be coming to campus to play in Stanford Jazz. I also caught Brian Ho on organ recently and am meaning to post that somewhere, probably not here. Ho is actually in San Ho tonight at Hotel De Anza, will be back in Palo Alto at Pampas on June 21, and is playing, it says here, his 57th hit of the year, not too shabby!

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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6 Responses to The Stanford Jazz ‘Coliseum’

  1. markweiss says:

    photo of weiss and nadel by ernie rideout, copyright 2011 earthwise productions (although features property of Oakland Athletics — the word “atleticos” is this case is used ironically given the paunch on that fellow on the left, in the yaller and weiB

  2. markweiss says:

    Yaller Janders might be a good time for a jazz band; it’s a Huck Finn reference. Could open for Vida Blue. I once asked baseball great Pumpsie Green if I could name a band for him and he said first “you’d have to ask my wife” and then second, “no thank you.”

  3. markweiss says:

    I guess I am more Walter Winchell than Han Willner…

  4. markweiss86 says:

    I added then deleted a riff about Kwami Coleman, David Chevan and Loren Schoenberg.

  5. markweiss says:

    Mark Samuels on Basin Street Records and HBO “Treme”:

  6. Mark Weiss says:

    i just see now that big eyes died in september:

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