Wednesday, May 07 2014 04:50 PM

Jazz Festival: CSUB-boppin!

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    By Berksjazzfest.com

    Poncho Sanchez is a Grammy-winning conga player and Latin jazz band leader who has performed with artists Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Hugh Masekela, Clare Fischer and Tower of Power.

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    By Courtesy of Doug Davis

    A member of a legendary musical family, Delfeayo Marsalis says his Bakersfield Jazz Festival set will include "everything from New Orleans funk to swing through modern jazz."

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    By Courtesy of Doug Davis

    Jeff Coffin, the saxophonist for The Dave Matthews Band, is bringing his Mu’tet, which features Bela Fleck’s drummer, Futureman, and Felix Pastorius — son of bass legend Jaco Pastorius — on bass.

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    By Courtesy of Doug Davis

    Gerald Albright closes out the Bakersfield Jazz Festival on Saturday.

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BY CESAREO GARASA Contributing writer

It doesn't matter what kind of music you listen to -- country, rock, black-metal -- every music fan will find something to enjoy and be inspired by at the 28th annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival, a Mother's Day weekend tradition for nearly 30 years.

"We are presently among the top dozen continuously running professional jazz festivals in America," said festival founder and longtime CSUB music professor Doug Davis. "CSUB and Bakersfield have made this festival survive financially and thrive artistically. We all love a groove that gets the body moving or a moment of shared introspection and calm. All this is wondrous.

Related Info

28th annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival

When: 7 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: CSUB Amphitheater, 9001 Stockdale Highway

Admission: Friday: $32.50, $22.50 students; Saturday: $37.50, $25.50 students; two-day combo: $56.50, $36.50 students (tickets include additional fees); free for CSUB students and staff with ID and children under 12. vallitix.com or 322-5200.

Bring: General admission ticket holders can bring a blanket or folding chairs. Coolers containing picnic items are allowed, as are umbrellas (but be considerate of other audience members). Reserved seating snags a six-seat table, which includes waitress service for wines and specialty beers; complimentary Dewar's chews.

Don't bring: Alcoholic beverages

"Music has magic."

Making magic this year is legendary Latin jazz legend Poncho Sanchez, Delfeayo Marsalis, a member of the first family of jazz, the jazz/rock blend of Jeff Coffin and his Mu'Tet (a blending of the words mutated quintet) and crowd-pleasing sax man Gerald Albright, among other talents, both national touring acts and local performers.

Musician Paul Perez, who has played many a jazz festival himself, has been working closely with Davis the last few years to take over booking, as Davis slowly extricates himself from managing the festival.

"After 28 years of Fests, Doug has really gotten it down to a pretty well-oiled machine," Perez said.

The main difference this year? Not much, according to Davis.

"We start the music on the Entry Stage at 3 p.m. on Saturday rather than 1 p.m. as in previous years. We will still end at about 11 p.m. Eight bands in eight hours sounds like a great day of music, especially with this lineup. Friday's setup is the same as last year."

In addition to providing hours of world-class music, the festival has an altruistic aim, funding music scholarships for promising students ($28,000 was raised last year), as well as promoting and fostering local talent by providing a stage. This year, Isaiah Morfin -- fresh from receiving his degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston -- will play on the side stage Saturday.

The festival will feature plenty of food choices, from hamburgers and hot dogs to deep-pit barbecue, Greek specialties, sides and sandwiches, plus Ben and Jerry's ice cream and caramel corn.

What's next for the festival -- which attracted a crowd just shy of 5,000 last year -- as its 30th anniversary looms?

"I doubt there's much we could change at this point, other than finding more sponsors to support the event, which in turn would allow us to book major acts like a Kenny G, George Benson, Al Jarreau, etc.," Perez said. "It'd be nice if Bakersfield got united on this issue and said 'Mother's Day weekend is the Jazz Festival weekend and that's that; it's the event to attend.'"

What about adding different musical genres to the festival itself? Perez doesn't know if that's necessarily a good idea.

"Once that happens, jazz will probably take the back seat to a more popular/danceable blues or funk act."

Davis, for one, is just astounded the thing comes together at all every year.

"The survival of this event is a marvel. Financially, it was simple: Don't spend more money than you can make," Davis said of the early days. "Any excess money has found its way to a scholarship endowment. There is a guess that we have given a half million dollars in scholarships. We've given nearly 500 scholarships in the last decade.

"It's strange. Every year we build this event from scratch. There is no campus account that gives us an influx of cash to continue this tradition. The corporate community is contacted and many step forward to be sponsors and give support and loan equipment and dozens give hours of their time. And together, we build a modest $200,000 home with two stages, a 10-car garage, 40 toilets, and two showers, and invite the community over to join us. ... In Bakersfield, someone only needs to ask the community to build it again. The organization and the foundation is laid and will be shared, and much is already known by many. My job is to step out of the way."

We sent questionnaires to several jazz festival artists and received some interesting replies on the state of jazz today, how technology can help and hurt the music and more. Their responses:

Jeff Coffin

The Dave Matthews Band saxophonist is bringing his Mu'tet (featuring Bela Fleck's drummer, Futureman, and Felix Pastorius -- son of bass legend Jaco Pastorius -- on bass). Coffin is mixing a new Mu'tet album slated for release in the fall and is preparing to head to the studio with the Dave Matthews Band, among a full slate of other projects. Coffin & the Mu'tet hit the stage at 8:10 p.m. Friday .

What are you planning to do while in Bakersfield?

I'm planning on playing some music and hitting the town, eating some great food and hanging out a bit. Maybe buy a little place, move in, start an ostrich farm ... that kind of thing.

What can we expect from your performance? Who will be accompanying you?

I would say expect the unexpected. This is not like any band out there in my opinion. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying we are better than other bands. I'm just saying we are very different. We play original instrumental music that is influenced by jazz, funk, African, Middle-Eastern, New Orleans and more. It's a big stew with lots of odd-metered music that is juicy, moveable and from the heart and mind of the band. The band is Roy 'Futureman' Wooten (from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones) on drums, Felix Pastorius (the Yellowjackets) on electric bass, Bill 'the Spaceman' Fanning on trumpet /space trumpet and Chris Walters on piano/keyboards ... and me on sax/flute/electro-sax.

How do you see the jazz landscape today?

I know I'm pretty bored by hearing people re-record standards. I am more interested in bands like Snarky Puppy, Jon Batiste and Knee Body and the like. When I hear Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson or Sonny Rollins play a standard tune, I realize it's time to move forward ... this has already been done to the highest level. Original music will keep the spirit of improvisational music (aka jazz) alive! Same goes for Latin music.

Courtney Love recently stated that saxophones don't belong in rock 'n' roll. Thoughts?

No offense meant to Courtney, but I really don't care what she thinks about anything. Really.

Delfeayo Marsalis

The trombonist will release "The Last Southern Gentleman," featuring his father, in August . He performs at the festival at 7:45 p.m. Saturday

What can we expect from your performance? Who will be accompanying you?

Everything from New Orleans funk to swing through modern jazz, with something playful added in. I like to cover as wide an emotional range as possible in my performances. I'll be accompanied by New Orleaniana Sullivan Fortner on piano and Adonis Rose on drums, The Preacherman Mark Gross on sax, and Edwin Livingston on bass.

How have you been implementing technology? Embracing it or only as a means to an end?

Technology is a necessary evil and in the studios we have always been at the vanguard of using it in jazz, be it editing or processing. The main thing for me, though, is that the music should sound as organic and free of technological manipulation as possible. As long as the audience doesn't notice it, I say use as much as possible when needed.

Are there still any ambitions you have and what (and who) do you see carrying the torch of the music you've championed?

I'd like to bring jazz to as many folks as possible and also collaborate with some vocalists in an attempt to reach a wider audience. There are young folks all around the world carrying on the torch, though there are many folks who wouldn't mind putting out the flame for financial gain at the same time. I always tell the youngsters, "If you love jazz and want to swing, be firm in your commitment, because you'll be in the minority!"

Gerald Albright

The saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist is finishing up his 17th album, which will be released in August. He closes out the festival at 9:15 p.m. Saturday

What can we expect from your performance? Who will be accompanying you?

Our performance is high-energy, and music with a lot of substance. We love audience participation, so we do look forward to that! My touring band will be with me, which includes Tracy Carter on keyboards, Melvin Davis on bass, and Jerohn Garnett on drums.

How have you been implementing technology?

I've embraced technology immensely, being very careful to make sure that there is a perfect blend between the human element and technology. With me now living in Colorado, and with most of the musicians I use living elsewhere, technology has allowed me the advantage of recording these musicians in proper fashion without having to travel to them.

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