Non Stop Jazz

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Big Sur will be alive with the sounds of jazz this coming weekend, as the eighth annual Big Sur Jazz Festival will be taking place at several venues among the mountains and redwoods.  From Friday evening until Sunday afternoon there will be a full program of music and dance events at a number of locations including the Post Ranch Inn, the Henry Miller Library and Ventana Inn and Spa.

The festival is a joint presentation by two local groups. The Big Sur Natives are a group of musicians and dancers, founded in 1978 and dedicated to “the celebration of music, life, dance and a tribal feeling of community.”   The group presents regular music and dance events and offers classes to the public.  Big Sur Arts Initiative is a non-profit organization which serves children and families in the Big Sur area through the arts.  Together, they work to produce the festival and also community outreach programs.  This year, they are especially pleased to be running the JazzMasters program, a weekly workshop for school age musicians led by world-renowned local guitarist Bruce Forman at Captain Cooper School.  The JazzMasters students will be performing on Saturday in the Pfeiffer State Park.

This year’s festival kicks off in blazing style on Friday evening with a performance by Henri-Pierre Koubaka and Kasumai Bare with the Big Sur Natives Fire Dancers at the Red Barn Studio.  Koubaka and Bare play “ancient and contemporary Mandingo and Kongo rhythms” from West Africa, and their band includes guitar, balaphone (a type of marimba) and percussion.  In addition, the Rene Marie Quartet brings new interpretations to jazz standards at the Post Ranch Inn courtesy of singer Marie’s dazzling vocal style.

From 11am – 6pm in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you can watch the Festival’s main Event, which includes the aforementioned JazzMasters as well as  a second chance to see the Rene Marie Quartet.  Also performing will be Quetzal, a nine-piece band which plays the various musical styles from Central South America.  The musicians play a huge variety of instruments including panpipes, cuatro and vibraphone.  Even more Latin sounds come courtesy of Vivendo de Pao, and the Bay Area’s Josh Jones Quartet.  Finally, if you still have the energy you can dance the night away with the Big Sur Natives at the River Inn from 9pm onwards.

On Sunday morning, you can enjoy brunch at the Ventana Inn and Spa while listening to Along Came Betty, a band playing 50’s hard-bop music in the style of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  Then you can drive down to the Henry Miller Library for an afternoon show featuring two bands.  Allegria is a band which plays Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian influenced jazz.  Allegria has been playing for 10 years and will be releasing a new CD entitled “Soundspeak” this summer.  Frizz, by contast, is a string quartet with a difference – The members play cello, mandolin, guitar and violin and the music is jazz, bluegrass and a range of world music styles.  Sunday is rounded off with a performance by guitarist Calvin Keys and his trio at Nepenthe.

All events are priced individually.  Visit the festival web site for details.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, April 17, 2003

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