“FAMOUS JAZZ ARTIST SERIES” FEATURES NATIONAL AND CALIFORNIA CENTRAL COAST MUSIC TREASURES

2 Jan
Back: Red Holloway, Ernie Watts, Jay Graydon Front: Charlie and Sandi

Back: Red Holloway, Ernie Watts, Jay Graydon
Front: Charlie and Sandi

The “Famous Jazz Artist Series” was started in 1991 in San Luis Obispo County after renowned jazz vibraphonist, Charlie Shoemake, and his acclaimed vocalist wife, Sandi, moved to Cambria and noticed a dearth of major jazz artists performing on the Central Coast. How Charlie and Sandi ended up on the Central Coast is a fascinating tale. Growing up in Houston, Charlie developed a passion for both music and baseball, excelling in both. He was on the high school’s city championship baseball team, and attracted the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals. Initially he planned to pursue both in college, but then decided to really excel, he would need to focus on only one. So in 1956 he moved to Los Angeles to become involved in the jazz scene. In a proud aside, Charlie mentioned his grandson is now being drafted by a professional baseball team.

The 1950s were an exciting and inspirational period in Charlie’s music career as he honed his craft. He shared that he was particularly influenced by his informal studies with pianist Jimmy Rowles, as well as learning from the innovations of his idols Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and other talented innovators. Charlie eventually worked on the biographical film on American saxophonist, Charlie Parker released in 1988. During the 1950s, he met his future wife Sandi at a Si Zentner rehearsal, where Charlie was substituting for an absent band member.

Sandi’s path to a music career was influenced by her father who was a semiprofessional drummer-vocalist with Dixieland bands. As far back as she can remember, she wanted to be singer. To that end, in 1956 she enrolled in the acclaimed Los Angeles City College’s music department where she quickly rose to being a featured vocalist. After her second year of college, she was hired as a vocalist by trombonist Si Zentner’s Orchestra, which played various venues on the west coast, and was a regular attraction at the Hollywood Palladium. Sandi shared that she had a chance meeting with Charlie at a Si Zentner rehearsal; within two days they decided they would eventually marry, which they did in 1959.

During his early professional career, Charlie became a sought-after accompanist for well-known vocalists. He adoringly shared he has always enjoyed accompanying Sandi, but he felt many of the singers he was accompanying were not of her caliber. Thus Charlie decided to switch his musical focus to vibraphone, which he had begun playing in high school. For a year, he spent nearly every waking hour in exhausting practice. His efforts were rewarded in 1966 when he became the vibraphonist for the fabled George Shearing Quintet. George Shearing is a piano jazz legend,  best known for his composition Lullaby of Birdland, a jazz standard. Born poor and blind in London, George’s father delivered coal to Buckingham Palace. In 2007 George was knighted by the Queen of England in Buckingham Palace for his contribution to music.

During the year Charlie was honing his skills on the vibraphone, Sandi did studio work to help keep the family afloat. While Charlie was touring with the George Shearing Quintet, she was a staff vocalist at N.B.C. from 1965 to 1971, in addition to singing with other television shows including The Andy Williams Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, The Red Skelton Show, The Lennon Sisters-Jimmy Durante Show and specials for Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Dean Martin and others. She was particularly proud of her time performing with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra.

Charlie working with Barry Harris on movie "Bird"

Charlie working with Barry Harris on movie “Bird”

In 1973, driven by a desire for change and to be home more with his wife and son, Charlie opened a jazz improvisational school in Los Angeles. In spite of the widely-held belief that jazz improvisation couldn’t be taught, his school was a success. He was the only teacher at his eponymous school. By 1990, he had taught over 1500 students, with many students going onto successful careers including Ted Nash (trumpeter with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis), Kye Palmer (trumpeter with the Tonight Show Orchestra and formerly with Woody Herman and Poncho Sanchez), Andy Martin (top jazz trombone recording artist), and smooth jazz artists Dave Koz and Richard Elliott. During a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center in March 2013, Wynton Marsalis verbally recognized Charlie Shoemake, who was in attendance, as an important mentor and teacher to Ted Nash who was a featured soloist at the concert, and is the first person other than Wynton Marsalis to be a featured composer for the sensational orchestra. When asked about the recognition he received at the concert, Charlie stated, “I didn’t teach Ted Nash how to play, but what to play, how to improvise.”

Following the local JLCO performance, Ted was contacted by this writer for comments on his time studying with Charlie, and in spite of a busy performance schedule, he generously agreed. During the April 8, 2013 interview, Ted said he initially was trained classically on piano starting at age seven and clarinet at age 12. At age 13, Ted stated he started playing sax and was in the junior high jazz band. Ted’s high school jazz band director enthusiastically recommended studying with one of Charlie’s students. Ted’s father, (well-known jazz and studio trombonist, Dick Nash), decided that Ted should study jazz improvisation directly with Charlie. Charlie was very busy at the time bbut agreed to accept Ted as a student. Ted noted Charlie’s teaching method involved “memorizing transcribed music” from such jazz greats as Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. Ted stated that the 2 ½ to 3 years of studying with Charlie gave him a foundation that he still uses, even with “new improvisation and harmony.” When asked about his being the first composer for JLCO other than Wynton Marsalis, Ted replied that he was the first “featured” composer, although they had some prior visiting composers who had provided some arrangements. Ted noted that this Portrait in Seven Shades helped forge a new direction for JLCO. Although he did not mention it, Portrait in Seven Shades was a Grammy-nominated album representing seven different artists including Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Marc Chagall, and Jackson Pollock. On the Shoemake’s website, Ted is quoted, “When I began lessons, I could hardly play. Three years later, not only could I play, but I was working professionally with many groups, including Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and even Charlie’s own quintet….Charlie was the ONLY teacher in Los Angeles with a method of teaching jazz improvisation that actually worked.”

In the early 1990s, Charlie closed his school and relocated with Sandi to what he described as “the beautiful little ocean village of Cambria” where they began bringing in major jazz artists. During their two Sunday show times, Charlie accompanies the guest artists by playing piano or vibes and Sandi graces the stage for select vocals. The series was held at the Hamlet Restaurant in Cambria (which is currently under renovation), and is presently appearing at D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars in Paso Robles. A list of the stellar artists who have performed at the series and more interesting information on Charlie and Sandi can be found on their website http://talsanmusic.com

Sounds of Shearing Tribute Group: Joe Bagg, Ron Anthony, Charlie Shoemake, Luther Hughes, Colin Bailey

Sounds of Shearing tribute group: Joe Bagg, Ron Anthony, Charlie Shoemake, Luther Hughes, Colin Bailey Courtesy: Bob Barry

When asked to share a humorous or interesting experience, Charlie said that due to an unavoidable delay due to a national crisis, the George Shearing Orchestra didn’t actually perform on television until two days after they were scheduled. Sleep-deprived due to the schedule changes, when the band was called back for an encore, the bassist forgot to take off his sunglasses. During a second encore all of the band members sported sunglasses, along with George, who regularly wore them due to being blind. Charlie added that when the band would arrive late for a gig, George would humorously say it was because he was driving.

Last year, instructors from the music departments at local Cal Poly and Cuesta College, both of which have outstanding music programs, approached Charlie to work with some of their students. To that end, the non-profit Central Coast Jazz Institute was recently established, which is “dedicated to the instruction and preservation of American jazz music.” Charlie spoke passionately about how the donated funds provide scholarships for jazz instruction of private students of all ages, as well as a lecture series.

courtesy: www.slojournal.com

Top Five Things To Do in Elche Spain

11 Nov
IMG_1671

View from the top of Altamira Castle of Basilica of Santa Maria

Located in the southern area of the Valencian Community, just south of Alicante, Elche makes a great one or two day trip. It is the third largest city in the Valencian Community, with Valencia and Alicante being more populated. The Palmeral de Elche (the Palm Grove of Elche), which consists of approximately 200,000 palm trees, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, and is one of the main draw for tourists.

The area is believed to have been settled by Greeks, then Carthaginians and Romans, followed by others including several centuries of Moorish rule. The city offers a mix of nature, history, an engaging city centre, and the option of lovely beaches and great shopping, with over 1000 shoe factories!

 

The following are my recommendations for the best sites to visit:

 

  1. I recommend starting at the Museo Arqueológico y de Historia de Elche (MAHE), located in the Altamira Castle, built during the 12th to 13th century. The museum provides visual, written, and verbal information on the history of the area in displays which provide a summary of each of the periods of occupation. The most famous archaeological find was the statue “The Lady of Elche,” believed to be from the Iberians in the 4th century. A copy is on display, with the original being in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid, which is a source of contention for the people of Elche who believe it should be returned to Elche. During my tour of the museum, I found the succinct overviews of each era to afford adequate information without museum fatigue. The MAHE facility is modern and mostly accessible, with the exception of the very top of the castle. Take those remaining stairs to reach the top of the castle for a panoramic view of the city and the adjacent Palmeral.
  2. As soon as you exit the MAHE, you will find part of the Palmeral, and the municipal park. The Palmeral is thought to be established during the 5th century by the Carthaginians. Sophisticated irrigation systems were added during the Arab occupation during the 10th century. It is the only such palm grove in Europe, and the northernmost such palm garden. In this part of the Palmeral, there are paths where one can observe the varying vegetation, ponds, swans, historic buildings, a restaurant, exercise stations, playgrounds, and more. The Palmeral is not only confined to this area, but is spread around the city. There are maps available at the Tourist Office or hotels, which provide suggested paths to view the palms.
  3. Across the street from the MAHE and Palmeral is the city centre where there are a number of visit-worthy historical sites. The Basilica of Santa Maria has layers of history, with a beautiful Valenciana Baroque façade. Originally a Mosque, after the Reconquista, a Catholic Church, probably Gothic style, was built. It was here that the liturgical drama, Misteri, Elche Mystery Play, was first presented. In 2001, it was declared a UNESCO “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” and is performed every August in conjunction with the Assumption of Saint Mary. Later the church was rebuilt with different styles over the centuries, eventually with the current emblematic regional blue tile domes.
  4. Nearby the Calahorra Tower, built in the 13th century in the Amohade style, was the most important entry gate to Elche, with the road leading to Alicante. Note the shape at the base of the Calahorra is wider to provide structural stability. However, this did not prevent severe earthquake damage in 1829, which resulted in the loss of the two upper floors. On the surviving back wall, there is a colorful vertical garden, flanked by a gastro-restaurant, which is an inviting place for a meal or refreshing drink.
  5. The Huerto de la Cura is a 12,000 square meter garden displaying Mediterranean and tropical plants. It is famous for its Imperial Palm, which features a unique date palm with seven branches. It got its name from a visit by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Sissi, in 1894. The park’s inviting paths, plants, and ponds provide an enchanting and tranquil respite. There is a souvenir area where you can buy plants and regional food and craft items.

    Seven branch Imperial Palm

    Seven branch Imperial Palm

San Francisco Pictorial

15 Sep

Reminiscing on some of my favorite travel spots. This one is about my last trip to San Francisco, and some of the interesting sights we experienced.

Top of the Mark (Mark Hopkins Hotel with panoramic view of the city) where I enjoyed swing dancing to Stompy Jones

Crazy candy store with gigantic treats and other entertaining items

One of the outdoor food stands, obviously this is the creme brulee cart

Interesting building from San Francisco’s China Town, the largest China town outside of China

Chinatown’s R & G Lounge. Authentic and delicious food. Been there several times, as did Anthony Bourdain, I later learned

Graffiti in China Town

Moon Pies and other bakery goods in China Town

Selection of Chinese teas in China Town

 

More Altea Food Porn (aka Food for those who are offended)

19 Jul

Best roast lamb ever: Blau Bellagarda, Altea

Paella: Racó de Toni, Altea

Shrimp with shredded puff pastry: Fronton Playa, Altea

Paella with lobster: Juan Abril, Altea

Bacalao: El Mercadito, Altea

 

Cola de rape (monkfish): La Paraeta, Altea

 

 

Mixed seafood: Calle Segovia, Sevilla

Entremeses (Spanish sausages, ham and manchego cheese): La Paraeta, Altea

Barbecue: Sant Pere festival, Altea

Paellas: Sant Pere festival, Altea

Bacalao: El Mercadito, Altea

Arroz negro (squid ink pasta with seafood): El Bodegon de Pepe, Altea

Highlights of Cordoba and Sevilla

19 Jun

Here are some photos from a recent trip my son, Michael Marlen-Starr and I took in Cordoba and Sevilla. I highly recommend Cordoba, with its beautiful flowered patios; Roman, Muslim and Christian history; small town feel with friendly people and great food; plus live music and dance venues.

Patio of our Cordoba B&B

Roman temple at Cordoba

Mezquita: Cordoba

Narrowest street in Cordoba: Michael and me

Organ: Mezquita Cordoba

Roman bridge: Cordoba

Mezquita: Cordoba

Mezquita: Cordoba

King Alfonso: Alcazar Cordoba

Garden at Alcazar, Cordoba

After a short trip via train, we arrived for a short visit of Sevilla. Here is one view of the Cathedral of Sevilla

Stained glass window: Sevilla cathedral

Tomb of Christopher Columbus: Sevilla Cathedral

Former minaret at Sevilla cathedral

Visions of Altea

21 May

Food Porn from the Costa Blanca: Altea, Albir, Alfaz and Benidorm

23 Apr

Perro Negro: Altea, bacalao with clams (bacalao con almejas)

Interrmezzo: Albir, lobster and mussels in Thai sauce (bogavante y mejillones en salsa Thai)

Tragantua Gran Taberna: Benidorm, octopus in garlic olive oil (pulpo al ajillo)

La Capella: Altea, Jamon bellota iberico

La Favorita Taberna: Benidorm, tapa with serrano ham, crab and shrimp (tapa con jamon serrano, cangrejo y gamba)

Sabor: Altea, carpaccio

Cerveceria Casa Juan: Alfaz, asparagus tortilla (tortilla con espárrago)

La Maja: Altea, cod on black rice (bacalao con arroz negro)

Blau Bellaguarda: Altea, roasted lamb with roasted veggies (cordero al horno con verduras asadas)

House of Jarl, Altea, brunch with paté, chorizo, perfectly cooked egg, cheeses, salad, potato with creme fraiche and dill

Rainbow seen from La Maja restaurant in Altea
3-17-18 (arcoiris)

Visual Valencia

7 Apr

When my youngest son was visiting for the summer, we took a trip to nearby Valencia, the third largest city and Spain and the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana, in the local Valenciana dialect.) Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC, and has historical ruins from the Roman and Arab occupations.  I have also shared my recommendations in a blog post of the top 10 things to do in Valencia. But now, I want to share the visual delights of Valencia, from the beautiful historic buildings, the Lonja de la Seda  (Silk Exchange, built between 1482 and 1548, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the mind-boggling architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences designed in part by native-born Santiago Calatrava, and, of course, street entertainers, and food at restaurants and in the famous Mercat Central (Valenciana for Central Market.)

IMG_1133IMG_1192IMG_1191

IMG_1140IMG_1168IMG_1195

IMG_1189IMG_1196IMG_1210

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences

One of a number of exhibits at the City of Arts and Sciences

One of a number of exhibits at the City of Arts and Sciences

Ceiling of La Lonja de la Seda, originally painted blue with gold stars

Ceiling of La Lonja de la Seda, originally painted blue with gold stars

External window at La Lonja de la Seda with view of internal stained glass window

External window at La Lonja de la Seda with view of internal stained glass

IMG_1197

Valencia Central Market

Inside the Central Market

Inside the Central Market

Yummy offal

Yummy offal

IMG_1199

Spectacular array of vegetables

Delicious whole calamari

Delicious whole calamari

Jamon bellota at the venerable Casa Vela, since 1908

Jamon bellota at the venerable Casa Vela, since 1908

IMG_1208

Four Days of No Running Water in Altea Spain: NO BUENO!

18 Feb

Altea fountain with fresh water

Day 4 with no running water in my apartment in Altea Spain. (No bueno.) Initially, I inquired of my two neighbors in the same building had water and they did not. My contacts with the property manager, Pacqui, at Ibis Inmobliaria, were unbelievably frustrating and unprofessional.

 

When I told her I did not have water for two days, she asked if I had paid the bill, even though the bill goes to her office, and then I pay it every month, so she should have known that. Then she asked if the neighbor had water and when I said no, she advised me to go to the water company for info. My Spanish is pretty good about daily matters but more challenging when trying to communicate about uncommon things. I asked here via text several more times, and she dismissively replied in Spanish that something must be broken. So when will I have water, I asked her in Spanish, and she said when it is fixed, and have a nice day with a smiley emoji. In spite of my repeated requests for information, she never gave me any idea what was wrong or when I would have water. Even when I told her I would look for a new apartment because I could not function without water or without knowing when I would have it, she did not respond.

 

Too bad I had recently just gotten rid my cupboards of all the empty bottles which I could have used to get water from the local fountains, which fortunately provide potable drinking water at many spots around town.

 

Finally, I found the emergency water hotline which I called on day 4. They asked me the same questions several times, i.e. how long have you been without water, and are your neighbors without water. Then they asked me why no one had reported it; apparently neither the property manager nor the neighbor who runs a barbershop bothered to call. During that time, I observed a man working on the street on a pipe, and about half an hour after my call I had water, but I think the restoration of water was a coincidence, not due to my call. After that, the water company called back and informed me the water would again be shut off for more repairs in three days, which although inconvenient, but I can handle it with advance info.

The lack of customer service and difficulty in accomplishing bureaucratic or business tasks is one of the most frustrating things about living in Spain. It took me almost two and half months to change my internet provider. You can’t just walk into a store and buy a cell phone, nor just cancel a service and return the equipment. And don’t be surprised if what they tell you to do is different each time you go back trying to fulfill their last requirement.  All that said, I still love my life here in Spain, in spite of the occasional frustrations.

MEETING PAUL BOCUSE

21 Jan
My Pressed Duck Number

My Pressed Duck Number

There we were-unexpectedly personally greeted by Paul Bocuse at his eponymous restaurant as we ducked in from the sudden downpour. As a dedicated foodie, I was determined to make the pilgrimage to Paul Bocuse’s L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges near Lyon. If you are a lover of French food, he needs no introduction. His accomplishments and accolades are many including being named the “Chef of the Century” by the esteemed Culinary Institute of America at their Leadership Awards Gala on March 30, 2011. We had reservations for my son’s 21st birthday. Up to that point we had enjoyed a fabulous week in Paris, with fantastic food including the famed pressed duck at Tour D’Argent and many types of offal.

Once we got to Lyon, we sampled the delicious, hearty traditional cuisine Lyonnaise in the many convivial bouchons, all the while anticipating our evening at Paul Bocuse. We were surprised at the distance the restaurant was from the city, but enjoyed the cab ride through the countryside. When we arrived, we saw an unexpectedly colorful exterior on the building. Just as we were exiting the cab, the rain suddenly poured from the dark clouds. We huddled under umbrella provided by restaurant staff and scurried toward the entrance.

Paul Bocuse menu

Paul Bocuse menu

Once inside, we were immediately greeted by Paul Bocuse who shook our hands. I am not the least enamored by movie or sports celebrities, but I was so moved at personally meeting Paul Bocuse that I was speechless. Then I stupidly bowed to him and started crying. Everything that night from the food and beverages to the service were impeccable. I had labored through the French menu with my limited French, but my fluent son had no such problem. As we were leaving, they offered us a souvenir menu, which I took in English; it just didn’t seem right, though, to order from anything but a French menu at the venerable Paul Bocuse.