Some of the most sublime moments in jazz come during spontaneous jam sessions. Occasionally, such moments get recorded, but more often they occur when musicians pay unannounced visits to each other's gigs. There's something about playing in a fresh setting that can push creativity to new levels.
What if you could take 24 of the country's finest jazz musicians and put them together for three days of jamming? La Jolla businessman Bill Muchnic has done just that, and his second annual San Diego Jazz Party will be held Feb. 10, 11 and 12 at the San Diego Marriott.
Muchnic, an amateur trumpeter, played with the late great trumpeter Peewee Erwin when the two attended high school in Atchison, Kan. Later, Erwin introduced Muchnic to many of the musicians who will appear in San Diego.
The list includes pianists Paul Smith, Ralph Sutton and Dick Hyman, drummers Butch Miles, Gus Johnson and Jake Hanna, bassists Bob Haggart, Milton Hinton and John Clayton, guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden, trumpeters Warren Vache, Ed Polcer and Snooky Young, trombonists Bill Watrous, George Masso and Dan Barrett, tenor sax men Flip Phillips, Scott Hamilton and Buddy Tate, alto saxophonist Marshall Royal, and clarinetists Kenny Davern, Peanuts Hucko and Bob Wilber, who also plays sax.
All told, the musicians will play 24 sets. The action starts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon Sunday. Two of the sets--one each day--will put the players in big bands, led by L.A. bassist Clayton.
Last year, 500 people attended. This year, ticket sales are slower, but Muchnic hopes for a sellout. The cost for a three-day badge is $130, and you can let someone else use it if you can't make all of the sessions. For information, contact Muchnic at the Prospect Center Corp., 454-4294.
Bassist Charlie Haden, who opened a three-week run at Elario's last night, helped define the modern bass player in the '50s while searching for ways to complement the innovative work of sax man Ornette Coleman in a group that also included Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. In the hands of Haden, the bass becomes a melodic instrument, capable of providing counterpoint to the new brand of searing, abstract solos. Subsequently, he played or recorded with such major league talents as Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, Dexter Gordon and Paul Bley. One of his most recent albums is "Etudes," made with longtime associate Paul Motian on percussion and Geri Allen on piano. In San Diego, Haden plays with guitarist Peter Sprague, pianist Mike Wofford and drummer Lawrence Marable.
Flight 7's independently produced first album, "Sky High," available on CD or cassette, has landed the San Diego jazz group a four-album deal with Optimism in Los Angeles, the same label that recorded Fattburger's first album. Optimism will also give "Sky High" a new promotional push outside San Diego.
Eight of the 10 songs were penned by keyboard player Barry Aiken, two by sax and keyboard man Larry de la Cruz. Warren Wiebe and Rose Riedel handled vocal chores.
Two instrumentals, "Leroy's Garage" and "Tara's Tune," are getting jazz radio play, primarily on KIFM.
"Actually, 'Still of the Night,' an instrumental ballad, is, to me, the most moving piece," drummer Don Schoenberger said. But it hasn't crackled the airwaves much.
You'll find the album at all Tower Records and The Wherehouse near San Diego State. Catch the band Wednesday through Sunday nights during February at the Rusty Pelican in La Jolla.
Incidentally, Schoenberger believes Humphrey's has the best jazz room in town.
"At other places, it feels like the band is sort of a piece of furniture in the corner," he said. "People are talking, doing their happy hour thing. That's fine, if that's what they want to do. But those places are not as enjoyable to play.
"At places like Humphrey's that don't have a dance floor, people sit and listen, they're extremely supportive. I think the audience at Humphrey's is a little different too. The room looks small and cramped, but it's the best-sounding room in town."
The Athenaeum in La Jolla presents the third in its five-part jazz history series Monday, Feb. 13. San Diego Union music critic George Varga will talk about the formative years of be-bop, when big bands began to fade. Jazz pianist and educator Terry Pickens, who has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Chico Freeman, and many others, will use the piano to help illustrate the lecture. Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk will be among the boppers discussed, along with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dave Brubeck and others. Cost is $9 for Athenaeum members, $11 for non-members.
RIFFS: Hal Crook's Jan. 15 appearance at the Sculpture Garden Cafe in Balboa Park marked the end of regular jazz concerts there, at least for a while. After a year of presenting top jazz talent, hoping the San Diego Museum of Art's 10,000-name membership list would draw good crowds, interest just wasn't sufficient. At best, 250 people came to the Copley Auditorium for concerts in a room that holds 400, and many of those attending were freebies. "We hope to be back next summer," said Barbara Mann, the museum's food and beverage manager, who was handling the concerts. . . . The recently taped KPBS-TV "Club Date" show featuring blues-jazz men Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff was one of the most inspiring shows yet. The duo's reading of Sam Cooke's classic "You Send Me" sent chills down many spines. . . . The next "Club Date," featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and friends, airs Friday, Feb. 3 at 10:30 p.m.