Tribute to Jazz at the Philharmonic – Opens Sudden Valley 2019 Jazz Series


By K.C. Sulkin, producer Sudden Valley Jazz

In the mid-’40’s, jazz producer Norman Granz, looked at the empty stage of Los Angeles’ Philharmonic Hall, and saw a great opportunity to fill a musical void. The swing era was winding down and there were a lot of great jazz musicians looking for work. To add to that, be-bop, the new jazz style, was not grabbing the attention of the general public the way swing dancing had done and that meant more great jazz jazz musicians looking for jobs. Back East in New York City, big auditoriums like Town Hall were drawing large audiences to see dixieland and trad jazz musicians under the leadership of Eddie Condon and Mezz Mezzrow, get together and play, without any pre-rehearsal, whatever they decided to play at that moment.
Granz decided to rent Philharmonic Hall in L.A. for the same kind of jam session concert, but using swing and be-bop musicians instead of dixie cats. To his delight, they were a huge success and he later decided to tour the group, utilizing appropriate halls in different cities across the U.S. Later tours went to Europe and the far East.
Bellingham drummer, Julian MacDonough and I decided to pool our talents to re-create this free, jam session concert as part of the 2019 Sudden Valley Jazz series. Budget restraints meant that he would not be able to open the doors to large amounts of players, but Julian felt that we could recreate the atmosphere of the original with 7 jazz players from the region and I suggested that we must get a vocalist to fill the spot usually taken by Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday. Who better to fill the bill than Seattle’s Greta Matassa. With Greta on board, Julian wracked his brain to think of jam session musicians from the Pacific Northwest who were comfortable in both the swing and be-bop modes. He enlisted sax men, Thomas Harris and Jonathan Doyle, trombonist Brad Shigata, trumpet player Michael VanBebber, pianist, Tony Foster and bassist Michael Glynn.
The concert is planned to feature all horn players playing a solo number to begin the concert with a jam session ending the first half. Greta will do a set backed by her trio including Darin Clendenon, Clipper Anderson and Mark Ivester that will feature vintage jazz standards and will then join the ensemble for a final jam on that 40’s jazz classic, “How High The Moon”.
The fruits of all this labor will be on display at the Dance Barn in Sudden Valley on Saturday, March 30th at 3pm. Don’t miss it (or as they said in the 40’s, “be there or be square”!
Tickets are available at Village Books, the main office at Sudden Valley in Gate 2 or on-line at Cost is $20 for adults and $10 for students. For further information, call K.C. Sulkin at 360-671-1709.