The sheer numbers are impressive: over 450 sets of music planned in 24 venues with over 70 bands.  And the Sacramento Jazz organizers are not narrow in their tastes: in addition to traditional jazz, there’s blues, zydeco, and other forms of danceable music.

But for me the desire to go somewhere I’ve never been before is fueled by the jazz-lover’s carpe diem.  Inside me the sentence forms, more urgent than other impulses: “I have to go _____ because I could die never having heard _____ in person.”  The thought of my death or of someone else’s may seem morbid (especially over the Memorial Day weekend) but it is a profoundly deep motivator.

Awareness that the days dwindle down to a precious few got me on an airplane to hear and meet Bent Persson, Frans Sjostrom, Matthias Seuffert, Nick Ward, and two dozen others at Whitley Bay.

At Monterey, I met the Reynolds Brothers, Bryan Shaw, Sue Kroninger, Clint Baker, Carl Sonny Leyland, Danny Coots, Rae Ann Berry . . . as well as surprising the musicians I already knew (Dan Barrett, Joel Forbes, Becky Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, Jeff Barnhart, Marc Caparone, and Dawn Lambeth) by my presence.

At Sacramento, I will re-encounter some associates from New York end elsewhere: Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Bill Allred, Jim Fryer, Bria Skonberg, Dan Block, John Sheridan, and Kevin Dorn . . . but I’ll also finally — meet up with Hal Smith and the International Sextet.  Here’s a taste of what Anita Thomas, Kim Cusack, Clint Baker, Katie Cavera, Carl Sonny Leyland, and Hal do with THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

Then, there will be clarinetist Bob Draga, cornetists Ed Polcer and Bob Schulz, pianists Johnny Varro and David Boeddinghaus, and the wonderful singer Banu Gibson (here’s a little taste of Banu with Jon-Erik, trombonist David Sager, reedman Dan Levinson, Kevin Dorn and others):

And because not everyone who lives with or loves a jazz fancier shares his / her obsession, there’s a Bloody Mary Festival, zydeco bands including Tom Rigney and Flambeau, blues, soul, rhythm ‘n’ blues, Johnny Cash and Steely Dan tribute bands, Latin bands, “Afrobeat,” marching bands and more — how can you lose, to quote Benny Carter?

I’ll be there — Rae Ann and I will be operating video cameras and wearing PRESS badges, so we’ll be hard to miss.  And here’s more information about the all-event price, hotel rates, and the festivities.  Something happening all through the weekend!

Don’t miss this party!


  1. This sounds like a blast, Michael. I’d tell you “have a great trip” but I’d be stating the obvious. Instead, “have a bloody mary for me!”

  2. I’ll have to find some way to balance the Bloody Mary festival and the video-recording: they don’t automatically go together . . . but I will bring back visual / auditory booty for JAZZ LIVES readers, including yourself. As the semester winds down, there’s no reason you couldn’t invite Ms. J. Figg to a spicy glassful. right? Why wait for Memorial Day? Cheers, Michael

  3. Oh my! What a treat this is going to be, NM !! I am so glad you are going, and meeting my other adopted nephew,, Hal. They don’t come any better,,Also, the International Sextet is a grand jazz band…I love to listen to their music,,and I do,,often, My only problem with the whole thing is that I can’t go!!!! Go..record, and most of all, ENJOY!! I will watch for the results on JAZZ LIVES..

  4. Pingback: sacramento jazz jubilee

  5. Hi Michael,
    I didn’t know you were going to be in Sacramento; otherwise, I would have tried to meet you. While I was playing, I saw a few people at the festival with press badges on. I wonder if one of them might have been you.

    I’ve really enjoyed watching/reading your posts, especially the ones of my brother, Gordon. Watching your videos is the next best thing to flying over and being there. Thank you for sharing them with us.


  6. Dear Justin,

    My fault — we probably passed each other in the crowds in Old Sacramento or even in that tunnel under the freeway. The only cure for this is perhaps we will get to a gig of yours and Brandon’s this summer, or you’ll come to New York and sit in next to that other fellow, Gordon is his name, at Radegast. Cheers! Michael

  7. The Festival has been recently re-named “The Sacramento Music Festival”.
    It is a sad day for Trad Jazz all around the world.

  8. Dear Patrick,
    I understand your grief, globally stated, but why not wait until you see who’s on the 2012 bill before you start wearing black on Facebook? Seriously, would you rather have jazz festivals fold — as one did in California just this year — because they are pure and exclusive, or would you rather have them survive with a certain amount of “impurity” that enables them to stay afloat? When I see a “jazz” festival advertising James Taylor, I cringe, too, but I wouldn’t go into mourning just yet. It might be premature. Cheers (in a muted way), Michael

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