The cultural identity of a place, much like its geography, forms slowly over time. It is shaped by collective tastes as well as individual whim, and civic and economic circumstances.
The popularity of country-western music in this county seems an appropriate cultural byproduct of our rural legacy--CW does just seem to be the right music to go with cattle grazing on grassy knolls, wide-open spaces and miles of rich topsoil.
Jazz, on the other hand, has smoky, downtown, urban roots. It has never sidled up to suburban tracts or to ranches. Nonetheless, it seems to have perched quite comfortably here in Ventura County, where three venues are offering jazz as their only musical option, and several others are adding it to the mix of pop and rock. Free-lance writer and musician Josef Woodard, who wrote this week's Centerpiece story, is not surprised by the interest in jazz in these parts.
"The subculture of jazz fans is a strangely diverse one, covering different ages and social stations, not to mention different ideas about what jazz is all about," Woodard said. "It's a fairly unique phenomenon--not like the more homogenous audience types you find at, say, rock or classical performances. But jazzheads, once they've got the bug, tend to be stubborn devotees."
Which still doesn't explain why there is a sudden profusion of this music in Ventura.
"Why not? Jazz fans are everywhere," he said. "Maybe it has to do with nature taking its course, remedying the problem of there being a vacuum for too long. The test now seems to be finding out if the local jazz audience will leave the comforts of home, an evermore comfortable place, and hear this music live."
When they do get out, they will have to be prepared to work a bit for their entertainment, since the local jazz scene has, like floral volunteers, sprouted up here and there.
"What is surprising is the tidy geographical spread of these jazz venues," Woodard said. "There is no central hub, but rather these places are situated in disparate corners--in true Southern Californian fashion. Again, it points to the jazz scene's diversity with a cause."
Now for a cause we can all get behind, or get our behinds into after the long, fattening holiday season? Fitness. It seems to be on lots of people's minds. In her Jaunts column, Jane Hulse advises us to get on our bikes and ride along the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. In Shop Talk, Leo Smith tells about the best buys on barbells and other free weights. And Robyn Loewenthal is advocating the "Tush Push" and other country-western dances to beat back Post-Holiday Spread.
Sounds great to me. But maybe just one more chocolate truffle before I climb into my track suit.