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News and notes: More on Nyro and a look at East Bay jazz

"Season of Lights"
"Season of Lights"
"Season of Lights"

It’s always a pleasure to pass on interesting notes from and to my readers. Northern California jazz mainstay Ellen Seeling recently e-mailed the following.

Just read your article about Billy Childs' Laura Nyro Project. Wanted to let you know that Laura was actually quite active in the mid-70s.She recorded her "jazziest" album for Columbia Records in 1975-76, and released "Season of Lights" in 1977.The album was recorded live throughout the year-long national tour at venues like Carnegie Hall, Symphony Hall (Philadelphia), the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the Paramount Theatre (Oakland), University of Colorado (Boulder), Central Park and several other locations. The band for the tour included Laura (vocals, piano), Mike Mainieri (vibes), John Tropea (guitar), Richard Davis (bass), Andy Newmark (drums) and Nydia Mata (Latin percussion). I know, because I was the trumpet player in the band, along with horn section mates Jean Fineberg (alto sax/flute), and Jeff King (tenor sax).
The original recording was unfortunately released without many of its best tracks, but a Japanese recording released in 1995 restored the outstanding band jams that Columbia Records nixed after Clive Davis left the company. You can read more about it here.
If you're really a Laura Nyro fan and haven't heard the expanded recording I think you might enjoy it. Jean Fineberg and I spent a week at Laura's house in Danbury, Connecticut, helping her choose tracks (there were many takes of each tune recorded by the mobile recording studio and crew which recorded almost all of our dates that year), and editing sections. We also played her memorial concert at the Beacon Theatre in 1997, as part of the 8-piece backup band for artists on the show including Patti LaBelle, Ricky Lee Jones, Kenny Rankin, Tuck and Patti, and others. You can check it out here.

The March issue of Diablo magazine included a fine feature on East Bay jazz along with mini-profiles of Ray Obiedo, Scott Amendola and Brian Pardo. Great quote from Amendola:

“Playing live is what makes music exciting. It’s an electrifying thing. No matter who you’re playing with, as long as the spirit is right and everyone is there for the right reasons, you’ll end up having a great time.”

There are a couple of interesting gigs to let you in on.
Yoshi’s in Oakland on Tuesday will host Jazz and Zen, a fusion jam session benefiting the Tempyozan Zen Project while celebrating Buddha's birthday. The evening’s special guest musicians include Juan Escovedo, Roger Glenn, Myron Cohen, Sheena Shochness, Mozaik and Tomohiro Tanaka, among others. Tickets are just $20.
Also let me recommend the Babatunde Lea performance set for April 11 at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts. Audiences can expect an evening featuring the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. There will be two sets and admission is $25.

High energy drummer-percussionist and local favorite Babatunde Lea will perform. With him will be an outstanding group of players including saxophonist Azar Lawrence, who used to play with Miles himself; Angela Wellman on trombone; Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet; Frank Martin on piano; and Gary Brown on bass.
This concert brings to a close Healdsburg Jazz's Operation Jazz Band (OJB) week in the schools April 7-11. All of the performers are participants in the popular community program which educates 5th grade students in the Healdsburg/Geyserville area about the jazz band and art of jazz. This concert will be an opportunity for OJB parents and others in the community to experience the energy and talent of these top-flight musicians.

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