KJ Board of Trustees Celebrate Jazz

Kuumbwa Jazz Board of Trustees celebrate their sold-out, sponsored, concert featuring the Kuumbwa Jazz debut of 12-year old piano prodigy, Joey Alexander. For more on Joey Alexander visit: photos: r.r.... read more

Jazz EPICenter Cover Story

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 | by Andrew Gilbert | Good Times Weekly In celebration of the Kuumbwa Jazz Center’s 40th anniversary, a look back at how it shook up the jazz world Standing behind his electric keyboard, his beatific face bathed in sweat and his rotund body draped by a shiny metallic purple tunic, Sun Ra started the slow, undulating incantation. Before long his entire besparkled Arkestra joined him, intoning, “We travel the spaceways/From planet to planet” again and again. It was only the end of the first set, and Sun Ra had already traversed a cosmic array of black music, from skittering stride piano and swooping orchestral swing to oblique post-bop and cascading free jazz supernovas emanating from the fiery saxophones of Pat Patrick and Marshall Allen. As the band exited the stage, filing through the center aisle with horns held aloft, the audience chimed in and kept the “spaceways” chant going for several minutes. Just another mind-blowing night at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, circa 1989. Objectively speaking, Kuumbwa is a pioneering venue that introduced the nonprofit jazz club concept, providing a model for numerous performance spaces around the country. When it comes to longevity, stability and artistic quality, the institution stands alone. But as someone who came of age as a jazz fan in Santa Cruz, and did some of his first music writing as a volunteer producing copy for Kuumbwa’s calendar, I’m not exactly objective. Many of the Kuumbwa concerts I experienced during my undergrad years at UC Santa Cruz stand out more vividly in my mind than shows I saw at other venues last year.... read more

Bay Area’s bursting with jazz piano stars

Bay Area’s bursting with jazz piano stars Wednesday, September 8, 2015 | by Andrew Gilbert | San Jose Mercury News Aaron Goldberg has heard some extraordinary piano playing in his life. He’s even produced some of it himself. At 41, he’s one of his generation’s most respected jazz musicians, an uncommonly accomplished accompanist and leader of several celebrated trios inflected by his abiding passion for Brazilian and Caribbean music. But he was still knocked sideways by hearing piano legends Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock performing as a duo at London’s Barbican this summer, calling the concert “the highest level piano playing I’ve ever heard in my life.” Goldberg and Corea’s paths cross this weekend when they both help kick off SFJazz’s 2015-16 season. Goldberg performs as part of a pianist showcase in the intimate Joe Henderson Lab on Sunday with bassist Reuben Rogers and SFJazz Collective drummer Obed Calvaire. He brings the same trio to Café Stritch on Sept. 16 and Kuumbwa on Sept. 17. Corea plays four nights in the Miner Auditorium, opening with a solo recital on Thursday and a piano duo with Cuban master Gonzalo Rubalcaba on Friday. Trilogy, Corea’s trio with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, which earned the pianist his 22nd Grammy Award for 2014’s three-disc album “Trilogy” (Concord Jazz), performs on Saturday, and his duo with banjo star Béla Fleck celebrates their new double album “Two” (Concord Jazz) on Sunday. (Tickets for the Corea series run $45-$120 at The remarkably prolific Corea, whose touring and recording seem to have accelerated in his mid-70s, also opens Stanford Live’s 2015-16 season with... read more

Jazz Notes Sept/Oct 2015

Annual Fall Fund Drive Our Annual Fall Fund Drive kicks off in October. For me, it has become a good time to remind myself of how I became member of Kuumbwa and why I have chosen to become more involved over the years. As perhaps many of you did, I started attending occasional concerts, drawn to the venue by artists I knew. My knowledge of jazz was fairly narrow. As enjoyable as those concerts were, and remain, I soon became aware of new artists and different types of jazz. I was amazed that I could see such a wide range of incredibly talented jazz musicians here in Santa Cruz. My occasional concerts became more regular concerts. I began sponsoring concerts, became more involved and about 10 years ago was asked to join the Board of Trustees. Through that exposure, I learned that Kuumbwa is more than just concerts. It is also a broad range of educational programs focused on encouraging and inspiring young people to appreciate and to participate in the jazz world. These programs include the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band, Summer Jazz Camp, Artists in Schools program, and Master Class Series (often free). I value what Kuumbwa does both in and for our community. I hope you do, as well. During this Fall Fund Drive, please join me in committing your support to our organization. It is greatly appreciated. Thank You, Drew Miller President, Board of Trustees Tell Me Why by Bob King “I came up with the idea to publish a children’s book because I feel kids are in front of a screen too much these days,” says... read more

The Accidental Guru

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 | by Andrew Gilbert | Good Times Weekly Marcus Miller wonders when he became the elder statesman Calling multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller precocious doesn’t quite capture the scope and depth of his musical talent. Coming of age on the New York scene in the mid-1970s, he started gigging before he graduated high school, working with populist jazz artists like pianist/keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith and flutist Bobbi Humphrey. But it was a call from Miles Davis that catapulted him into the jazz firmament. Plagued by health problems and substance abuse, the trumpet legend was just emerging from five years off the scene when he called the 22-year-old electric bass phenomenon. As usual, the trumpeter’s eye for spotting remarkable talent proved prescient, as Miller went on to work with many of jazz and R&B’s most consequential artists, including Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan and David Sanborn. As a composer, he’s written scores for numerous films, such as House Party, Boomerang, and Above the Rim, and Chris Rock’s UPN sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. After all those years as a wunderkind, he finds himself positioned now to be a mentor and elder statesman. The band he brings to Kuumbwa on Monday, Aug. 24 is stocked with players who are about the same age he was when he went on the road with Davis, a somewhat shocking situation for someone who was “always the youngest guy in the band,” says Miller, 56. “All of a sudden I’m the dude with all the stories,” he says. “Hopefully I’m enlightening them a little bit.” Miller is celebrating the release of his debut album on... read more

Cuban Piano Legend Chucho Valdés & Irakere: On Sale Now

Winner of five GRAMMY® and three Latin GRAMMY® Awards, Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés is the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. He will be performing in Santa Cruz for one-night only with his legendary band Irakere re-visited. Tuesday, October 27 at 7:30 pm At the Rio Theatre BUY... read more

Support Jazz Education: Shop Westside New Leaf August 20th

Shop New Leaf’s Westside location on Thursday, August 20th and 5% of all sales will be donated to support Kuumbwa’s Jazz Programs. Kuumbwa Jazz operates several programs to introduce youth and adults to jazz and encourage them to participate as artists and audience members. These include Summer Jazz Camp, a nine-day camp for 12- to 18-year-olds; High School Honor Jazz Band; Artists-in-the-Schools, in which performers work with students at lower socio-economic campuses; and the free-to-the-public Master Class series. They are a valuable community resource in an era when music education has all but disappeared from our schools. Celebrate the bounty of the harvest, August 20th at the Westside New Leaf Community Market and support jazz education in your... read more

Summer Concerts Announced

Spend your hot summer days at the beach then cool down at for an evening of sizzling live-music at Kuumbwa Jazz! Kuumbwa’s summer calendar has something for everyone including straight-ahead jazz with guitar masters John Pizzarelli (August 10) to his father Bucky Pizzarelli with Martin Taylor (August 30) to rising star trumpeter Bria Skonberg (August 13). Jonatha Brooke is a powerful storyteller making her Kuumbwa debut on July 24, bass phenom Marcus Miller returns on August 24, and if you want to get up and dance don’t miss contemporary Puerto Rican band Plena Libre on August 7th. Bring the family – all ages are welcome! Come early for dinner and cold beverages! Check out the complete line-up at: read more

Jazz Notes July/August 2015

JAZZ NOTES JULY/AUGUST 2015 PROFILE: FRED TIO “It’s a magical place.” Fred Tio’s expertise in art direction and graphic design, matched by his passion for jazz, has been a boon to the Kuumbwa Board of Trustees since his induction in 2014. As a member of the marketing committee, he initiated the jazz artist video interview series and designed the logos for Kuumbwa’s 40th Anniversary merchandise. “I like collaborative projects,” says Fred, a senior creative director at Apple, Inc. “That’s what I like about being on the Kuumbwa Board. It’s a great group of people who work well together.” Tio is also passionate about Kuumbwa’s jazz education programs: “The Honor Band and Summer Jazz Camp are a big part of what drew me to Kuumbwa. My son Nicolas plays guitar and he enjoys Summer Jazz Camp. Passing the jazz tradition on to the next generation is crucial to assuring its future as a vital form of artistic expression.” Born Federico Tio in Havana, Cuba, Tio and his family caught one of the last Freedom Flights out of Cuba in 1965 and settled in Los Angeles. Art and music figured prominently in his early childhood. At home, he heard recordings by Celia Cruz and other popular Latin performers. “Santana’s Oye Como Va really made an impression on me because you rarely heard Spanish lyrics on mainstream radio back then. I definitely related to it.” As a youngster, Fred went to Afro-Cuban drum circles in Griffith Park with his older cousins. “I remember I wasn’t allowed to play the conga drums until I mastered the clave first.” At thirteen, he took up the electric... read more

Green Room – Benny Green Releases “Live in Santa Cruz”

Green Room Wednesday, 03 June 2015 by Andrew Gilbert | Good Times Weekly Pianist Benny Green has grown up with the Kuumbwa, but even after 35 years of shows here, he’s still a revelation When Kuumbwa Jazz Center celebrated its 40th anniversary in April with an all-star “Dream Band” featuring some of jazz’s biggest names, the evening’s revelation was pianist Benny Green, who was also the musician with the most history on that bandstand. That might sound contradictory, but Green has spent much of the past two decades performing in trio and duo settings. The rare opportunity to hear him with a larger band offered a dazzling glimpse of a commanding improviser thriving in the give and take of a well-acquainted but ad hoc ensemble. On stage with bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and drummer Eric Harland, Green was the senior cat. He didn’t exactly steal the show, but amidst his fire-breathing juniors he played with such fierce energy, deep soul, and exquisite intelligence that it was like witnessing him gracefully accept the mantle of elder statesman in a building that has seen the unfolding of his entire career. It’s hard to overstate how much history Green shares with Kuumbwa. The venue was only a few years old when he made his first appearance there as an ostentatiously gifted Berkeley High student accompanying Finnish-born trumpeter Mike Koskinen in 1980—two decades or so younger than veteran players like saxophonist Hadley Caliman and bassist Chris Amberger. “I was the kid for sure,” says Green, 52, who returns to Kuumbwa with his trio on Monday, June 8, celebrating... read more

Becca Stevens Unleashes Her ‘Perfect Animal’

by Andrew Gilbert | KQED News Becca Stevens Unleashes Her ‘Perfect Animal’ Event Information Becca Stevens Two shows in the Bay Area. May 28, 2015 Kuumbwa Jazz Details and tickets June 2, 2015 Freight & Salvage Details and tickets Singer/songwriter Becca Stevens possesses an enviably talent-laden fan club. Jazz vocal peers like Kate McGarry, Gretchen Parlato and Kurt Elling have publicly hailed her as one of the most original young singers on the scene, and heavyweight players like Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, Ambrose Akinmusire and Eric Harland have recruited her for projects and recordings. Whatever context she’s working in, Stevens makes a vivid and enduring impression with her rhythmically charged guitar work and translucent sound. Now, the 29-year-old New Yorker is about to break out as a bandleader in her own right. She celebrates the release of her gorgeous new album Perfect Animal at Santa Cruz’s Kuumbwa Jazz Center on May 28 and Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on June 2. With a rock-inflected sensibility informed as much by American folk music and Björk as Billie Holiday, the album features her longtime collaborators, keyboardist/accordionist Liam Robinson, bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer/percussionist Jordan Perlson. Stevens has been performing with the three for years, but in some circles she’s still best known for her work as lead singer in saxophonist Travis Sullivan’s Björkestra, a big band she connected with as an undergrad at the New School. A self-described Björk obsessive, she approached Sullivan after a performance to offer her vocal services as a sub. When the chair opened up, she took over the role and made it her own, performing on the band’s... read more