Monday, October 16, 2006

Art & fashion at betty blue - featuring Vicki Marie Stolsen

On September 21, 2006, betty blue hosted La Salon Bleu, an evening of art and fashion, featuring the photography of Vicki Marie Stolsen.

Betty Lin, owner of the betty blue boutique, sources couture garments from top designers, including Dolce & Gabbana, Zac Posen, Chloe, Stella McCartney, Galliano and Dior, for her downtown Seattle shop. betty blue sells these garments for up to 75 percent off. The boutique has received local and national press coverage.

Betty Lin & Vicki Marie Stolsen

Vicki Marie Stolsen distributes her art through Forever Forty-Four and Grand Image. Ten percent of the evening’s sales of art and fashion were donated to YWCA Opportunity Place, serving Seattle’s homeless women and children.

Diane Alexander & Vicki Marie Stolsen

Prospect of U.S. Desperado Delays Entry into Canada

I've crossed the United States/Canada border on my way to Vancouver about once a month for nearly four years. Canadian Trailways buses provide generally excellent service from the King Street Train Station in downtown Seattle to the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, as a supplement to AMTRAK train service. The bus is faster and less expensive than the train, though lacking the train ride's exquisite coast views, more comfortable seating, food options and electrical outlets for dedicated laptop users.

Until Sunday, September 24, 2006, my many border crossings ranged between "smooth and easy" and "mildly painful." But on that date the crossing achieved "major pain in the butt" status, as we were delayed several hours. The unarmed Canadian border guards walked off the job on the report that an "armed and dangerous" person might attempt to cross the border. The Canadian guards, by contract, are allowed to walk away from potentially dangerous situations.

With time on my hands, I took out my camera and walked around the duty free store parking lot.

I decided to talk to the two most interesting people in the parking lot that day, making the long wait much more interesting.

Catherine & Sarah

Eventually, we made it through the border and arrived in Vancouver about four hours late.

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

Monday, October 09, 2006

Vacation Day 6 - Big Sur to Monterey Jazz Festival

We slept in this morning. Once ready to go, we headed straight to Sierra Mar Restaurant for lunch, on another perfect late summer day.

After lunch, we spent a little time on a wooden bench, just outside the restaurant entrance. It's a great view spot.

Liis and I share a little history here that always makes us laugh. Three years ago, in August, we sat on the same bench on a very warm and impressively clear evening. It must have been 80 degrees F that night. On a clear evening the Milky Way is almost shockingly bright and present in Big Sur, especially from Sierra Mar, where one of the featured activities is star gazing. Adding to the magic, it was the height of the Perseids Meteor Shower. The setting, the view, the shooting stars and (hopefully) the company compelled Liis to say, "we're going to get married here." Ever since, I've insisted that she proposed to me that night.

Just beyond the bench is the guests-only area of the Post Ranch Inn. The following image captures two of the grass and wild flower covered ocean suites, hanging 1200 feet about the Pacific Ocean:

It's Saturday and the Monterey Jazz Festival performances begin in the afternoon, so we drove up the coast, stopping a few times to admire the view.

Bixby Creek Bridge

Our first performance at the festival was The Duke Robillard Band on the Garden Stage:

Performing next on the same stage, was the McCollough Sons of Thunder Brass Band, an aggregation billed as: "Shout Gospel from Harlem." That's Seattle's own Dee Dee Rainbow leading the procession, under the umbrella on the right:

We walked around, enjoying the fairgrouds, the happy crowd, and eating and drinking until time for our evening performances.

First up tonight, on the Dizzy's Den stage, was the prodigious vocalist Kurt Elling.

Kurt Elling

Our era features quite a few skilled female jazz vocalists, but not very many male jazz vocalists, skilled or otherwise. Among this small group of male vocalists, in my book there are three exceptional talents: Kurt Elling, Andy Bey and Freddie Cole (brother of Nat "King" Cole and uncle of Natalie Cole). Liis and I saw Kurt Elling tonight and were lucky enough to see Andy Bey at last year's festival.

Next up was the Robben Ford Band, featuring the versatile and prolific Mr. Ford on guitar. In Seattle, in 2003, I wrote a review and my friend Bruce Moore took photographs of a Robben Ford performance at the spectacular Triple Door nightclub in Seattle.

Robben Ford

Our last performance on Saturday night featured the talented vocalist Tierney Sutton:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Vacation Day 5 - Big Sur to Monterey Jazz Festival

Big Sur, California, is among my favorite places. My affection began in the 1960s, when I first saw Big Sur's beauty in the Vincente Minnelli film "The Sandpiper," starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Soon after seeing the film, I made my way up the coast from Los Angeles. Not a great film, but it got me there, and I've returned many times over the past 40 years.

There are an amazing number of beautiful spots in the Big Sur area, not the least of which is the deck of the Sierra Mar Restaurant, at the Post Ranch Inn. The restaurant is 1200 feet above the blue Pacific and has a "see forever" view.

Sierra Mar Restaurant

My favorite table on the deck

Liis and I had a great lunch, as always, at Sierra Mar and I said hello to a number of people that I've gotten to know over the years, including my usual bartender, Vanessa.

After lunch, we went into Monterey and nearly visited the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, but decided that walking around was the thing to do on a sunny, warm late summer afternoon.

Later, we drove to Pacific Grove and walked and sat at Asilomar State Beach.

By then, it was approaching 5:00 p.m., and time to make our way to the fairgrounds for tonight's Monterey Jazz Festival performances. Once on the fairgrounds, we walked around, checked out some of the acts at the outdoor venues and made some selections from the food and beverage court, before settling into our two main performances for this evening.

Robert Glasper Trio

Richard Bona

I first heard of the 27-year old piano phenom Robert Glasper about a year ago, but this was the first time I had a chance to see him live and he's sensational.

I've seen the amazing Richard Bona a few times in the past. Within his genre, his bass playing is at the top of his peer group AND he's described as "having the voice of an angel." If you've never seen him, go.

The good news is that unlike last year we decided to stay in Big Sur, instead of Carmel. The bad news is that we had to drive from Monterey to Big Sur, late at night, through the high and winding cliffs of Highway 1. But there was no fog and with my high beams on we made it comfortably and safely. I've made this drive many times in the dark, but never saw anywhere near as many deer as tonight.