Criticism | Jeff Elliott Jazz Jam revisited at SOhO
Previously, you could attend the Jeff Elliott Jazz Jam at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club about once a month. Then it became one of those things you wish you could do all over again, like seeing a loved one passed away or riding a bike on the sidewalk with no hands. Well, it really happened. On September 12, Elliott and a few handfuls of virtuoso musicians created the sweetest Sunday afternoon a music lover could hope for.
It was like being in the garden of an octopus. On the one hand, Elliott played the trumpet and keyboards at the same time; its simultaneous multi-instrumentalism always triggers the magic.
Another way to be in the garden of an octopus is the three-dimensional nature of the Jazz Jam experience. (Four dimensions if you count the timeâ¦). Elliott is also a rock musician, in addition to his considerable accomplishments in the jazz world, but here there is no wall of sound, no mind-boggling yang clang all over the body. The public is not pressed against the stage. Musicians come and go between the stage and the tables, making the stage and the floor one space, with really interesting music flowing around, between and among you. Not a lot of dancing, but a few conversations, a few laughs, and a lot of careful listening.
The Jeff Elliott Trio – Randy Tico on bass and Darrell Voss on drums – performed a set of original Elliott tracks. Unfortunately, I only heard bits and pieces of this part of the show because I forgot that you can’t use credit cards for the doorstep tickets at SOhO. (I remembered to bring my vaccination card, which was required to enter.) Jazz Society president Natalie Wilson reports that Elliott began by reading poems by Santa Barbara pianist and restaurateur Peter Clark, recently passed away. By the time I did, Eje Lynn-Jacobs was singing “Twilight Zone”, about an alcoholic trumpeter. It was mind blowing. Lynn-Jacobs is also a percussionist and musical director of the Center of the Heart in Santa Barbara.
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Another reason Elliott’s shows are like an octopus garden is the way he reaches out and brings in other musicians. He’s notorious for letting people he doesn’t even know take the stage and jam, with the caveat that they shouldn’t go unless they’re really good musicians. It’s funny. But this Sunday, the jammers were all regular A-listers. And the audience was almost entirely made up of members of the Jazz Society, so the musicians already had the attention of discerning listeners and could do whatever they wanted. (Full disclosure: I don’t know much about jazz, but I’m a connoisseur of sounds and emotional expression in my own right – am I?)
Sandy Cummings of the group Jazz du Jour, host of the afternoon, presented a succession of singers: Kim Collins, Debbie Denke, Donna Greene and Kimberly Ford, whose delicate interpretation of “East of the Sun” was downright dreamy. . Two wonderful pianists whose names I don’t know, tenor saxophonist Dennis Berger, guitarist Greg Loeb and drummer Dave Bazinet, also took turns starring.
Someone gave Elliott a small antique wreath that had belonged to the late great Robin Frost; Elliott called Frost a genius, but asked, “Would you like to put your lips to something that someone has spat into for 100 years?” Nonetheless, he performed “When the Saints Come Marching In”. Los Angeles-native singer James Arnold received a standing ovation for his “Bye Bye Blackbird”. What a voice! Cummings closed the show with âLOVEâ.
Unfortunately, the show only lasted four hours. No wonder people come back again and again for the Jazz Jam, if only to hear how the songs change depending on the artists who are on stage and what they decide to do with a given song. Unfortunately for us, Jeff Elliott has moved to Santa Maria and has no plans to continue the monthly jams at SOhO. However, rumor has it that he sometimes plays at the Madonna Inn. And luckily, the Jazz Society will be hosting monthly shows at SOhO, featuring entertaining Donna Greene on October 10. Jazz du Jour will also perform at SOHO one Sunday afternoon per month, with their next show being September 26th. Who could ask for anything else?
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