HIGH NOTES

THE NEW MEXICO JAZZ FES­TI­VAL

Pasatiempo - - PASA REVIEWS - Paul Wei­de­man I The New Mex­i­can

The New Mexico Jazz Fes­ti­val, now cel­e­brat­ing its 10th sea­son, con­tin­ues to evolve with two new col­lab­o­ra­tions. The fes­ti­val has hooked up with St. John’s Col­lege to co-present Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skil­let Lick­ers in the Mu­sic on the Hill se­ries on July 15. And it’s team­ing up with AMP Con­certs to bring Esper­anza Spald­ing to the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Aug. 6. This stretches the fes­ti­val to a pro­gram of 13 con­certs over 27 days in Santa Fe and Al­bu­querque. “The last few years we’ve had three big shows at the Len­sic,” said Tom Gu­ral­nick, one of the fes­ti­val’s di­rec­tors. “But this year, for­tu­itously, AMP Con­certs got Esper­anza Spald­ing a week af­ter the fes­ti­val, and we de­cided to make it part of the fes­ti­val and work on it to­gether. So this year we have four at the Len­sic: Chris­tian McBride, the Count Basie Or­ches­tra, Kenny Barron, and Esper­anza Spald­ing.” Gu­ral­nick is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Al­bu­querque’s Out­post Per­for­mance Space, which presents the jazz fes­ti­val along with the Len­sic and the Santa Fe Jazz Foun­da­tion.

The 2015 fes­ti­val be­gan on July 10 with an Out­post con­cert by Brazil­ian singer-song­writer Vini­cius Can­tu­aria. Events staged in the last two weeks in­cluded per­for­mances by bassist/band­leader Chris­tian McBride; singers René Marie and Lavay Smith; gui­tarist Leni Stern; Room­ful of Blues; The Klezmatics; and a band led by drum­mer John Trenta­costa with voc ist Gi­a­como Gates, flutist Ali Ry­er­son, and multi-in­stru ntal­ist Arlen Asher, as well as a screen­ing of the film und of Re­demp­tion: The Frank Mor­gan Story at the Out­post.

This is, amaz­ingly, the 80th-an­niver­sary year for the Count Basie Or­ches­tra, which plays the Len­sic on Fri­day, July 24. The big band was founded by Basie in 1935 and has out­lasted his death by 31 years and count­ing.

The or­ches­tra boast s four trom­bon­ists, four trum­peters, and five sax­o­phon­ists (among them Al­bu­querque na­tive Doug Lawrence), along with guitar, pi­ano, bass, and drums. It is di­rected by Scotty Barn­hart, a vet­eran of mu­sic-mak­ing with Rose­mary Clooney, Ray Charles, Tito Puente, and the Clay­tonHamil­ton Jazz Or­ches­tra. Trum­peter Barn­hart was a fea­tured soloist with the Count Basie Or­ches­tra for 20 years be­for eb eing named di­rec­tor.

Clarence Banks, one of the or­ches­tra’s trom­bon­ists, was cho­sen by Basie him­self. So was vo­cal­ist Car­men Brad­ford, who has worked since 1982 with the Basie band, as well as with Ge­orge Ben­son, Dori Caymmi, and Benny Carter.

The Count Basie Or­ches­tra con­cert is pre­sented in honor of the Santa Fe Jazz Foun­da­tion’s “Bum­ble Bee” Bob Weil, who is re­tir­ing as a fes­ti­val di­rec­tor. In a mid-July in­ter­view, Weil said he has bought a colo­nial-style house in Mérida, Yu­catán, Mexico.

“It’s a re­ally nice town, and I’m headed to­ward liv­ing there full-time at some point. There’s a 17-piece jazz band that plays ev­ery Tues­day night on one of the city’s five plazas, and sym­phony tick­ets are only five bucks.”

He is keep­ing his Santa Fe busi­ness, Bum­ble Bee’s Baja Grill. “It’s hot as hell down there in Mérida in the sum­mer, so I’ll come and hang out at the res­tau­rant in the sum­mer­time.”

Weil, a St. Louis na­tive, moved to Santa Fe in 1961. His nick­name comes from the pe­riod in the 1980s when he owned a ranch in Bum­ble Bee, Ari­zona. Weil’s af­fec­tion for jazz dates to his high school days, when he or­ga­nized his first jazz events, and he re­sumed the av­o­ca­tion af­ter found­ing the Santa Fe Jazz Foun­da­tion in 1991. His ear­li­est lo­cal events were jazz par­ties held at the Hil­ton Ho­tel and La Fonda; the very first fea­tured pi­anist Dick Hyman and sax­o­phon­ist Scott Hamil­ton. Then, for sev­eral years, he and his wife, B.J. Weil, pre­sented jazz at their home — specif­i­cally in the 100-seat re­mod­eled-RV garage they called The Hive. Milt Hin­ton, Bucky Piz­zarelli, and Wyn­ton Marsalis were among the per­form­ers there.

The jazz foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished to aid jazz mu­si­cians with their med­i­cal ex­penses, to fur­ther jazz ed­u­ca­tion, and to help with other lo­cal jazz pro­gram­ming. In fact, Weil re­cently made a con­tri­bu­tion to Per­for­mance Santa Fe to fa­cil­i­tate an Oc­to­ber con­cert by Marsalis.

“This is another great thing about the Count Basie Or­ches­tra; it’s a per­fect con­cert for Bum­ble Bee,” Gu­ral­nick said. “I can’t say that my grand plans al­ways work out, but there are all of these jump blues/ swing acts this year, with Lavay Smith and Count Basie Or­ches­tra and Room Full of Blues. Bum­ble Bee loves Count Basie; that era of mu­sic is one of his fa­vorites, so ac­tu­ally honor­ing him at that con­cert is re­ally a good call.”

The fes­ti­val con­tin­ues on Satur­day, July 25, with Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts Jazz Master Kenny Barron at the Len­sic with vi­bra­phon­ist Ste­fon Harris. “We added Ste­fon. I thought that would be a good ad­di­tion to the evening and Kenny did, too,” Gu­ral­nick said. “They’ve worked to­gether a lot.”

The day af­ter pi­anist Barron’s per­for­mance, the Out­post hosts the Doug Lawrence New Or­gan Trio with fel­low Basie-band mem­bers Bobby Floyd on Ham­mond B-3 or­gan and David Gib­son on drums.

The big fi­nal gig brings singer/bassist phe­nom Esper­anza Spald­ing to Santa Fe. Since win­ning a Grammy Award for Best New Artist (a sur­prise win over Justin Bieber) four years ago, Spald­ing has been in­volved in a va­ri­ety of projects. She is cur­rently tour­ing an ex­tremely dy­namic the­atri­cal show she calls Emily’s D+Evo­lu­tion.

“I don’t know that much about it,” Gu­ral­nick said, “but the thing about Esper­anza Spald­ing is that ev­ery­thing she does is pretty phe­nom­e­nal, so I’m ex­pect­ing this to be as well.”

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