Cultural Ambassador: Randy Weston brings the rhythms of Africa to the Raven.
Healdsburg Jazz Fest beats the odds
By Greg Cahill
Call it the blast effect. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., had an unexpected and far-reaching impact on fundraising by nonprofit arts organizations, an impact that rippled across the country. Coupled with the recession and the unprecedented exodus of hundreds of millions of charity dollars to the victims or families of victims of the attacks, it was devastating for arts organizations surviving on a shoestring. The Healdsburg Jazz Festival--already struggling to gain a foothold in a region dominated by wineries that routinely spend big bucks to promote low-brow smooth jazz programming--was among those that felt the blow, forcing the fledgling four-year-old event to scale down its programming this season after three years of promising growth.
"This year was very difficult to pull together," says festival founder and organizer Jessica Felix, a longtime jazz fan who also owns a local art gallery. "Last year took so much energy that our volunteers were slow to recover. Then, after Sept. 11, there was zero momentum. When we finally decided to try and pull a festival off we had to make it somewhat smaller due to the short time frame.
"We didn't have enough time to do a successful fundraising drive, making our sponsorships smaller. The sponsors themselves are all having financial problems as well."
That hasn't stopped Felix and her cadre of volunteers from creating an impressive festival lineup that includes such legendary jazz performers as Cedar Walton, who has recorded with John Coltrane and many others, and trombonist Curtis Fuller, who has contributed to jazz orchestras under the batons of Gil Evans, Count Basie, and Quincy Jones.
On Friday, May 31, pianist and composer Randy Weston--whose 50 albums have garnered two Grammy nominations--offers an African rhythms solo piano recital during two shows (7pm and 9pm) at the Raven Performing Arts Center. It's a rare opportunity to catch a truly remarkable performer in an intimate setting. Tickets are $30. Saturday, June 1, features a day-long concert at the Rodney Strong Vineyards, a triple bill with the Cedar Walton Trio with David Williams and Albert "Tootie" Heath and featured guest Jackie McLean (whose résumé includes stints with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers); the Curtis Fuller Super Band (with James Williams, Javon Jackson, Michael Bowie, and Louis Hayes); and the Julian Lage Group (with Art Hirahara, Todd Sickafoose, and Alan U'Ren). The concert starts at noon. Tickets are $35. The free concert in Healdsburg Plaza, a festival tradition, returns on Sunday, June 2, with Babatunde Lea Quintet (with Richard Howell and Angela Wellman) and the Operation Jazz Orchestra.
Other festival-related events include Jazz Cinema under the Stars at the Hotel Healdsburg, a program of rare jazz film clips compiled by film historian Mark Cantor. The event--held in the courtyard on Monday, May 27 at 8pm--costs $20 and includes a glass of wine and a dessert. The screening is a benefit for the Healdsburg Jazz Festival Education Program.
For more information about festival events and tickets, call 707.433.4633 or visit www.healdsburgjazzfestival.com.
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From the May 23-29, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.