During the month of October, our friends at Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room will donate 10% of all sales every Monday night between 4:30 – 10 pm to support Kuumbwa’s concert and education programs. Plan your easy island getaway with family and friends where you will experience the Aloha spirit. Located down the street from Kuumbwa at 221 Cathcart St (between Cedar & Pacific Ave). Stop by before or after a Monday night concert! Thank you Hula’s!
Profile: Jason Ruggles
Jason Ruggles knows that a concert production can go from smooth sailing to rough seas with no warning at all. As a house manager, he keeps Kuumbwa concert productions on track and on time, addressing any last minute problems that can crop up. It’s all part of the job, and with his varied background in the music business, from performing to promoting (and related occupations), it’s a job for which he is well-suited. At any given moment he may find himself assisting the sound technician with a production issue, filling-in for someone behind the bar, or helping out a customer.
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1970, Jason grew up in a musical household. His father played guitar and bass, there was always music going on. On the family stereo he remembers hearing his parents’ musical favorites: The Beatles, Neil Young, Santana, and Jean Luc Ponty, among others. At age 14, he took up guitar. Along the way he delved into bass and acquired some keyboard skills. Although he earned his college degree in Political Science, music was Jason’s real passion. In 1993, he turned professional, worked in a variety of bands around Kalamazoo, and toured a number of Midwestern and Southern states, and the West Coast. In 1999, while on a short break from a band tour in Oregon, he drove down to Santa Cruz to visit a good friend. Smitten with the locale and the Santa Cruz artistic community, Jason quit the band after returning to Michigan. “It was time for a change,” he says. By late summer of 2000, he was back in Santa Cruz exploring new career paths, eventually settling on massage therapy. Jason also teaches guitar and continues to compose, record, and perform solo or with groups.
Within a month of his move to Santa Cruz, Jason had discovered Kuumbwa. “The first time I went, I’m not sure if I saw Poncho Sanchez or Pharoah Sanders, but it was great,” he says. “I started volunteering in 2002, and worked in the gift shop.” In January, of 2006, he became a house manager, at first doing just the Thursday night concerts. “The cool thing about working in a jazz club,” says Jason, “is the consistent quality of musicianship, and the patrons are smart. No matter what style of music, they want it to be adventurous.” He mentions performances by John Scofield, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Bill Frisell, and Herbie Hancock as highlights. “He’s (Hancock) one of the all time greats, and to see someone like that in an intimate space, like Kuumbwa, is amazing. I don’t take it for granted.” As for Kuumbwa itself: “You don’t find an organization like this just anywhere. It’s a club that’s operated as a nonprofit organization specializing in jazz education, and it really brings the community together in many ways that a normal club doesn’t. Some volunteers and staff have been here for 20 to 25 years or more. It’s a labor of love.” –Kurt Brinkmeyer