Heart and Soul of the Festival
The heart of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival comes with the second weekend, Friday and Saturday at the Raven Theater. It’s a line-up of talent that any other jazz festival in the country would envy, packed into two extraordinary concerts at our historic town theater – plus “after-hours” sessions at the Hotel Healdsburg Lobby.
To hear Sangam — Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland — is to become immersed in the spiritual journey that is jazz at its most exalted. One of jazz’s great musical seekers, Charles Lloyd assembled this singular ensemble to mark the passing of drum wizard Billy Higgins, who had become the saxophonist’s late-career musical soulmate. Featuring Indian tabla legend Zakir Hussain, and drummer extraordinaire Eric Harland, the group released a live CD in 2006, and has performed only a few times since, when the opportunity is right. Tonight will be such a night.
Sangam is just the latest step on Charles Lloyd’s life-long spiritual journey, which as seen him play with everyone from blues greats like B.B. King and Bobby Bland, pop stars like the Beach Boys and The Doors, jazz legends such as Chico Hamilton and Keith Jarrett. More recently he has evolved into legendary status of his own, frequently joining with India’s tabla master Zakir Hussain in soul-searching duet performances around the world. Hussain’s own career is no less peripatetic, taking him from one of India’s most celebrated musical families to long-term associations with Mickey Hart, John McLaughlin and Lloyd.
Add drummer Eric Harland to the mix — a former prodigy who has evolved into a top-call accompanist to Joshua Redman, McCoy Tyner, Ravi Coltrane and more — and Sangam lives up to its name. In Sanskrit the word means “confluence,” and the confluence of talent and spiritual drive makes this Friday Night at the Raven a highlight of any festival. Tickets available here.
When you look at the line-up for just this one night, you see why the Healdsburg Jazz Festival has been called “the best small jazz festival in the country, if not the world.” The stage will be filled with headliners, artists and personalities from the jazz world that express the music at its most exploratory, exciting and entertaining.
Denny Zeitlin has been called “Dr. Jazz” (check out this article in the Bohemian) because of his dual career as psychiatrist and musician. But are the two disciplines really so different? They demand deep soul-searching, intelligence and empathy, and Zeitlin has proven himself adept at all. His solo performances, like the one he will be delivering here, stretch the structure of jazz standards to the point of transformation. He will be featuring compositions from his newest live solo CD “Labyrinth” (Sunnyside Records, June 2011).
The John Heard Trio brings back to Healdsburg the beloved bass giant, who for years anchored the after-hours sessions during Festival week. Heard’s regular gigs at Charlie O’s in L.A. are legendary, elevating the club to one of the top 100 in the country (Downbeat). Playing with him will be Andy Langham on piano and Lorca Hart on drums, rounding out a solid trio of Healdsburg favorites.
George Cables and Friends might just as well be called the “Healdsburg Festival All-Stars” because there’s no other way to describe the musicians who take the stage at the Raven tonight. With George Cables on piano, the group finds its focus in one of the most supportive artists in our recent organizational trials — and one of the most highly-regarded keyboard talents in the business. Add in Bobby Hutcherson, another loyal HJF supporter who also happens to be one of the top 5 vibraphonists in jazz history, and you’ve set the stage.
The rest of the group includes saxophonists Craig Handy — a solid Bay Area performer who who has often taken the stage in Healdsburg — and Bobby Watson, the bluesy sax man who made his name in the Jazz Messengers. Need a trumpet player to round out the brass? Give David Weiss a call, a post-bop specialist who helped re-form the legendary Cookers at HJF a couple years back.
Bassist Ray Drummond has been a mainstay of jazz improvisation since the 1970s, and drummer Victor Lewis has been performing since he was 15 with Stan Getz, Kenny Barron, MJQ and many others, as well as teaching at Rutgers University.
This Saturday Night concert at the Raven will feature piano solo, jazz trio and one swingin’ combo on stage, each representing the heart and soul of jazz — and of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s all-star weekend. Tickets available here.
And don’t forget…
The sessions at the Hotel Healdsburg Fireside Lounge are a fan’s favorite during Festival weekends, offering an intimate experience following the concerts at the Raven. From 9 ’til midnight this year, Clark Terry’s drummer-of-choice Sylvia Cuenca leads a smart tight trio in sessions that might see guest artists drop by. Frank Martin and Gary Brown round out the trio, guaranteeing an exciting late night music scene in Healdsburg.
But we’re not done yet! One final update is in store for you, telling you about the climactic day of this year’s Festival, Sunday June 12 — with a morning of spirituals and an evening of insight from a musical icon Charlie Haden. See all our Festival Countdown updates here.
REMEMBER: Many if not most of the artists appearing at the 13th annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival are donating their time and performances to help the Festival stay healthy for the coming years. We extend to them our deepest gratitude, and hope you support their generosity with your attendance.
See you at the 13th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival— don’t miss it this time!