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Double Feast for the Ears

Ventura Chamber Music and Ojai festivals are coming up, featuring sounds of Bach and the Americas.


The county's two big music festivals are looming on the horizon, and both have unveiled their plans. The emphasis will be on Bach at the estimable Ventura Chamber Music Festival, running May 3 through 13, while the world-renowned Ojai Festival, set for May 30 through June 3, should be chock-full of contemporary treats, as usual.

"Transcendent Bach" is the official title of this year's Chamber Music Festival. Although it's a little late for last year's 250th anniversary of Bach's death, we're not complaining. Bach is timely any time.

Edward Murray will play the Goldberg Variations on harpsichord, and a performance of Bach's mass in B minor, conducted by choral director Vance George, will be heard May 12 at the Ventura Theatre.

But Bach is only a small part of the festival news. Performers will include guitarist Pepe Romero, in recital and as a guest with the Rosetti String Quartet; a return visit by pianist Christopher O'Riley; the Empire Brass; pianist Bryan Pezzone; and others. The Sunday afternoon finale will bring lighter Latin material from noted guitarist Romero Lumbambo, percussionist Cyro Baptista and flutist Paula Robison.

Meanwhile, the Ojai Festival looks like another feast. Esa-Pekka Salonen, maestro of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, returns to the helm for his second time. Two years ago, in his debut as music director, Salonen focused on the music of his native Finland. This year, the focus turns broadly regional, with music of the Americas.

The program includes works by the late, great Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, Brazil's Villa-Lobos, Cuba's Tania Leon (whom we heard and saw in Ventura last year as part of the "Musics Alive!" festival), as well as North American Aaron Copland. Guest performers will include soprano Dawn Upshaw, Cuarteto Latinamericano, pianist John Crossley and a tribute to Jobim with bossa nova legends Oscar Castro Neves and Dory Caymmi.

John Adams, North America's premier composer of the moment, will be on hand for a symposium, and noted New York Times critic Paul Griffiths will lead "chalk talks." All in all, the festival forecast is blue skies.


For more information on the Ventura Chamber Music Festival, call 648-3146 or check out For more information on the Ojai Festival, call 646-2053 or check out


In Search of Good Vibes: To find the jazz vibist Charlie Shoemake these days, you can visit your local music store, if it's well stocked, or your favorite online outlet. Or, on almost any Sunday afternoon, you can head up to Cambria, where he runs the jazz concert series at a beach-side restaurant called the Hamlet. It began in 1991, soon after the Texas-born Shoemake and his vocalist wife, Sandi, moved to the sleepy town just north of Morro Bay.

On Tuesday, you can hear Shoemake and his quartet, including guitarist Bruce Forman, when they play at SOhO in Santa Barbara. It's part of a Southern California tour promoting Shoemake's latest album, "Land's End," on CMG.

Shoemake came to Los Angeles as a young, aspiring pianist who had played vibes in high school. He returned to vibes with the help of famed vibist-pianist Victor Feldman.

The Shoemakes lived in Los Angeles for three decades, working in the jazz scene--including a seven-year stint in George Shearing's group starting in the mid-'60s.

"There was so much opportunity and so much action in the '50s," Shoemake said. "It just continued to deteriorate. I had gotten lucky because I'd gotten the thing with Shearing in the '60s. At that time, the best thing for a young player was to get with an old star. You were protected that way."

By 1990, Shoemake said, "there really wasn't anything else for me to do in Los Angeles. I had gotten as much recognition as I was possibly going to get. The jazz scene is not great in L.A. Actually, it's a little better now."

Then came Cambria.

"Luckily, Sandi and I made some nice investments and we got to a point where we didn't need music for an income," Shoemake said.

The "Famous Jazz Artist Series at the Hamlet" includes Harold Land, who will appear May 6.

Shoemake's career has the marks of a self-starter. He seems to have done it his way.

"I'm probably the only Republican jazz musician around," he said, laughing. "I am into [the idea of] doing it yourself, and not expecting any help from anybody. . . . The old cliche of the American work ethic is work harder than your competitors and you'll do great."


Charlie Shoemake with Bruce Foreman at SOhO, 1221 State St., Santa Barbara; 8 p.m. Tuesday; $12; 962-7776.


Season's Close:

The Lobero Theatre's first official season of jazz concerts comes to a close tonight with the local debut of one of the finest jazz singers on the scene, Shirley Horn.

To call her a singer is only part of the story, in that Horn's style is tightly integrated with her subtle sensibilities as a pianist. Horn is living proof that life can begin after 50. She took years off from the music scene to raise a family and came back in the '90s with a series of popular albums, including the hot-selling "Here's to Life" in 1992.

Her gentle yet powerful song-interpreting skills were apparent to Miles Davis, who supplied a trumpet cameo on Horn's 1990 album, "You Won't Forget Me," shortly before his death. Horn, in turn, made an impressive Miles tribute album in 1998, "I Remember Miles," which earned a Grammy. Her new one, "You're My Thrill," reunites her with arranger-songwriter Johnny Mandel, who also did the honors on "Here's to Life."


The Shirley Horn Trio at 8 tonight at the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara. Tickets are $28-$38. 963-0761.

Josef Woodard, who writes about art and music, can be reached by e-mail at

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