Great Jazz Trio

These days, when planning travel to the Bay Area from the east coast six months out, I always search for the perfect weekend. That is, when there are great Jazz concerts on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights, along with matinee plays and/or independent films on Saturday and Sunday. The “usual suspect” Jazz venues are: S.F. Jazz or Yoshi’s for Saturday; S.F. Jazz, Yoshi’s, or Bach Dancing & Dynamite (D&D) Society on Sunday; and Kuumbwa Jazz or Yoshi’s on Monday. During late-June/early-August, the annual Stanford Jazz Festival has lots to offer, as well as the annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival in early June. Clearly, have rental car, will travel far and wide… :v) Then, you have special and rare appearances by Jazz groups at colleges and universities that are hard to pass up. Well, one such weekend occurred in early November 2019, during a dentist’s visit trip, when all of stars aligned perfectly and I saw “a great trio of Jazz” concerts: (a) Branford Marsalis Quartet at Sonoma State University’s Green Center on Saturday night, (b) Emmet Cohen Trio at Bach D&D on Sunday afternoon, and (c) Joshua Redman Quartet at Kuumbwa Jazz on Monday night. Wow, a trifecta!!! I also saw a play and a movie just for good measure! Although Sonoma State University is located approximately 45 miles north of San Francisco, it was well worth the drive after landing at SFO and catching a play across the Bay in Berkeley. Branford Marsalis’s tight-sounding group, featuring Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Reevis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums, is always a joy to hear, especially when it opens with Calderazzo’s up-tempo “The Mighty Sword”, featuring Branford on soprano saxophone. They played a great set in the beautiful Green Center facility. However, in such large facilities and townhall-type venues, I often miss the coziness, intimacy, and ambiance of the smaller Jazz club. Oh well… On Sunday, after eating breakfast and catching a movie near Sonoma, I trekked 90 to miles south to Bach D&D in Half Moon Bay via Rt. 101 to I-580 to I-880 to the San Mateo Bridge. In case you’re not aware, Bach D&D is located right ACROSS the street from the Pacific Ocean! If you’re facing the slightly-elevated bandstand, just turn to the right and you just might seeing a large wave hitting the shore. It doesn’t get much better than that for hearing great Jazz AND getting a scenic view… :v) And certainly, for their part, Emmet & Company, with Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Evan Sherman on drums, did not disappoint, playing two swingin’ sets of outstanding music. I’ve often told Emmet that he plays it all (up-tempo, blues, bebop, soul, mid-tempo, ballads, stride, standards, comping, etc.), and extremely well!!! I first met him and a few other “youngsters” late one Sunday night with bassist David Wong outside the Fat Cat years ago as I was heading out of town. I had the privilege of sitting in the very first row on the side (back to the ocean) literally just a few feet from Evan. I first met Evan at Kitano’s in April 2010 to see the Dado Moroni Trio, featuring Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums (two of my favorites!). Back then, the club was located in the hotel’s balcony or mezzanine. Once I arrived, Gino Moratti asked me if I minded sharing a table. I said, “Not at all!” So he marched me to a table right up front next to this young baby-faced kid, who I later found out was only 16-years-old. I soon learned that he played drums, hailed from New Jersey, was very knowledgeable about Jazz, his favorite drummer was Lewis Nash, and that he was very wise beyond his years. This was also Evan’s first visit to Kitano’s! Yes, I walked away that evening so much smarter than before… I’ve literally seen Evan grow up over these past 12 years into a handsome, respectful young man who can hold it down on drums, swing with the best of his contemporaries, and lead his own big band. I first met Yasushi years ago when I spoke to him while riding the ‘1’ train downtown as he was lugging his big acoustic bass with him. He’s now a first-call bassist in high demand in NYC for his services. The only challenge with Bach D&D is that after concerts, it’s pitch black outside and you have to somehow try to find your parked car around the corner and up the block… :(v After my Monday morning dentist appointment over in Concord, running errands during the day, and picking up two of my Bay Area Jazz buddies, I made my way southward to Santa Cruz that evening. A third Jazz buddy joined us for dinner beforehand at the nearby Denny’s. Kuumbwa, an intimate 200-seat Jazz club just off Santa Cruz’s main strip, has has one of the best sound systems that I’ve ever heard. The Joshua Redman Quartet, featuring Aaron Goldberg (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums), which had been playing together for many years now, offered up a great set of straightahead and swingin’ Jazz, including tunes from Redman’s recent release, “Come What May”, recorded with the same group. That Tuesday morning, I safely returned home to the east coast. Mission accomplished!!! :v)