Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Vacation Day 7 - Big Sur to Monterey Jazz Festival

Liis requested that we start the last full day of our holiday with breakfast at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. We were seated inside and I had toast and tea, while watching Liis engage in more serious eating.

Comprised of a multiple structures nestled mostly in the woods, Deetjen's offers rustic accommodations and appealing food.

We made a number of stops between breakfast and arrival at the Monterey Fairgrounds, for the jazz festival.

The first was the Hawthorne Gallery, a Big Sur art space in a spectacular ocean-view building. Collaborating on the design of the building was Mickey Muenning, who was also the architect of the Post Ranch Inn.

The gallery features paintings, sculpture, works in glass and artist-made furniture. I have a contemporary acid-washed steel sideboard and two barstools in my home that were designed by Greg Hawthorne.

The Hawthorne Gallery has a big party for its customers each year. In recent years, they've featured a party guest artist. To my surprise, the sculptor Max DeMoss was guest artist a couple of years ago. I acquired a small bronze sculpture by DeMoss more than 20 years ago, he's represented by the gallery now and I meet him for the first time at that party.

Sculpture by Max DeMoss

View from Hawthorne Gallery towards Nepenthe sign

Next stop was Nepenthe, a Big Sur institution, featuring Nepenthe restaurant, the Phoenix Shop and Cafe Kevah. Nepenthe is a family-owned business established by Bill and Lolly Fassett in 1947. It's been among my favorite Big Sur locations for the 40 years I've visited the area. A big verandah or deck with views in both the restaurant and the cafe, good food, large indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a convivial staff make it a good place to spend time.

For a number of years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the wonderful Big Sur Jazzfest was held. I got to know a number of individuals behind the scenes at Jazzfest, including Tom Birmingham. As a result, I met Erin Gafill, Tom's wife and an artist. Over the years, each time I saw Erin, I felt an eerie sense of recognition. When we finally talked about it, I discovered that she was a member of the family that own's Nepenthe and spent a lot of time on the verandah as a child and youth. I'm pretty sure that my sense of recognition came from seeing her growing up at Nepenthe.

The Phoenix Shop

Liis and I went down to the Phoenix Shop and ran into BeBe, the Shop manager. I met BeBe in the late 1990s, when she worked at the Hawthorne Gallery and had not seen her for a number of years. It was good to reconnect and to introduce her to Liis.

We're all packed and have made our Big Sur stops, so it's back to the highway, heading north to Monterey and the last night of the jazz festival.

We had originally planned to drive from Seattle to California this year, as we did last year. It's a long drive, but airports aren't much fun either, these days. But because of Liis' work schedule, we would have been unable to attend the Sunday night performances and make it back to the Pacific Northwest in time. Because we wanted to see the Roy Hargrove band as well as the Hank Jones Trio, featuring the great emerging jazz singer, Roberta Gambarini, we flew. And it was well worth it.

I moved from the San Diego area to Seattle in 1989. My first year in Seattle, I went to the New Orleans Creole Restaurant and nightclub, as a result of hearing that a 19-year old trumpet players with major skills was performing. Roy Hargrove lived up to this praise that night, and now as a 36-year old, he continues to perform at the highest level. Roy's terrific band is comprised of Justin Robinson on alto/flute, Willie Jones, III, on drums, Dwayne Burno on bass, and a long-time favorite of mine since the 1970s, Ronnie Matthews, a former Jazz Messenger, on piano.

Earlier in the festival, we also caught part of Roy Hargrove's other aggregation, the RH Factor, performing what has been described as neo-soul, hard groove, etc. RH Factor does hit a groove and works it to good effect. Hats off to Roy Hargrove for finding a way to express the full range of his musical interests.

Hank Jones has reached the type of legendary status demanding that more than one person introduce him. One of the people was his nephew and the son of the late Elvin Jones, the greatest drummer of all time, in my book. Regretably, I did not note this young man's first name, but I did get his image:

Hank and Elvin had another brother who was a gifted musician, the late trumpeter, composer and band leader Thad Jones.

Another measure of Hank Jones' status is that other legends attend his performances. In the audience, and pictured below is the fabulous composer and bandleader Gerald Wilson and his wife:

The Hank Jones Trio performed a few songs, before bringing out the Italian-born singer, Roberta Gambarini. I've seen her sing five times now and continue to be impressed with her talent and continued growth as a performer.

As the band was setting up for the Hank Jones Trio, featuring Roberta Gambarini, I spoke with a camera crew that was also setting up. They indicated that they were making a documentary of the festival leading up to next year's 50th anniversy and that they had major studio backing.

After the performance, I captured the following image of Hank Jones:

And, finally, an image of my two favorite female jazz singers:

Liis & Roberta

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