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Ventura County Culture

New Venue Helps Renew Jazz Scene


Jazz comes and goes in Ventura County, but the appetite remains strong.

All roads tend to lead to 66 California, Ventura's sole jazz club, and actually one of the few regular jazz haunts in Southern California.

But we miss special showcase situations, such as those afforded by the old Wheeler Hot Springs. One fond memory that bubbles to the surface is the night there with Joe Henderson, the great tenor saxophonist who passed away June 30.

Suddenly, jazz is overflowing in the county. This week, drummer Ed Shaughnessy, who for almost three decades beamed into America's living rooms as the timekeeper for Doc Severinson's "Tonight Show" band, will bring a quintet to the Simi Valley Cultural Center on Sunday.

This is also the week a new jazz venue, the Ventura Vanguard, debuts with an appearance by pianist Gerard Hagen in a trio. Like the celebrated Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village, Ventura's own Vanguard finds a happy home in the subterranean ambience of a basement, this being in the Laurel Theatre.

Hagen will be joined by bassist Henry Franklin, a favorite around town for years, and also Larry Koonse, a guitarist who remains one of the best-kept secrets of the jazz guitar world. He's well-known and well-traveled around L.A. and is part of the thoughtful Los Angeles Jazz Quartet, but has yet to get credit due in the larger jazz scene.

* Ed Shaughnessy Quintet, Sunday, 7:30 p.m.; Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. $15, general; $12, senior citizens and students; $10, children 12 and younger; (805) 581-9940.* Gerard Hagen, piano; Larry Koonse, guitar; Henry Franklin, bass; Tuesday, 8 p.m., Ventura Vanguard Jazz Club, downstairs at Laurel Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. $23.50; (805) 644-9247 or 642-4358.


Keyboard Fancy: Thousand Oaks resident Stu Goldberg has been getting around the local music scene in the past couple of years. This keyboardist has a musical day gig, working in television and film, while pursuing the jazz muse he has been kissed by for many years.

He arrives with an impressive resume. In years past, Goldberg was well-known for his prowess behind electronic keyboards, most notably as a five-year member of legendary guitarist and fusion architect John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra in the '70s. He also worked with mainstays of the '70s jazz-rock boom, including Al DiMeola, Freddie Hubbard, Larry Coryell and Alphonse Mouzon.

Don't expect latter-day fusion, however, on Goldberg's newly released album, "Going Home," recorded in his home-based Stu Goldberg Studios for the Rhombus Records label. Goldberg's group will give a CD release party locally, at 66 California, on Saturday.

On the album, the setting is for an unplugged quartet, including his brother Kenny on saxes and flute, bassist Jeff Falkner and drummer Dave Renick. Goldberg's original material nods in the direction of Latin jazz elements, and also to the kind of sweet melodic tang of Pat Metheny's writing and Chick Corea's intricate, punch-happy structures, as heard on the nimble maneuvers of the opening standout cut, "Montreal."

"The Core of the Apple" and "Daybreak/Sunbeam" reel in a kind of nervous yet poised energy, delivered with a crisp intensity by the group. Goldberg also waxes balladic elegantly, on "Yvonne" and the title track. "Going Home" closes the album with the calm sigh of a solo piano piece, flecked with gospel-pop feeling. In all, the effort, Goldberg's first solo album in 18 years, is a hearty dose of originality from a veteran who has been missing in action for too long from the jazz scene.

* Stu Goldberg Quartet, Saturday, 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; 66 California, 66 California St., Ventura; (805) 648-2266.


Let the Theater Begin: Rubicon Theater Company, the crown jewel of Ventura's theater scene, starts its new season with a welcome summer rerun. Starting this weekend, last fall's popular Rubicon production of N. Richard Nash's "The Rainmaker" will return to the Laurel for a run till Sept. 9.

Director Jenny Sullivan leads the original cast, including Carlos Sanz and Stephanie Zimbalist, familiar to television audiences through stints on "NYPD Blue" and "Remington Steele," respectively.

The play, which had a successful revival on Broadway in 1999, began its life on the small screen. Nash's work debuted in shorter form in 1953, for the Philco-Goodyear Television Theatre, but was fleshed out for its Broadway incarnation.

The Rubicon's upcoming season promises plenty to get out of the house for, including productions of George Bernard Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple," "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," "Old Wicked Songs," "Sylvia" and other peripheral events.

* " The Rainmaker," Rubicon Theatre Company, Laurel Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. Tickets for Saturday's opening night gala at 7 are $130, which includes a post-show reception with the cast at a nearby restaurant. Previews: today and Friday, 8 p.m.; $21, $23. Regular performances begin Sunday and continue: Wednesday to Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Ends Sept. 9. $23 to $38. (805) 667-2900.

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