Although I’ve been coming to California on a regular basis only since summer 2010 (which hardly makes me a native plant) I’ve been attending the Memorial Day jazz weekend at Sacramento every year I could.
In fact, I seem to have brought my video camera and notebook with me in 2011 and 2012, too. Evidence below.
But before any reader gets engrossed in Recent Glories, may I direct your attention — as the attorneys always say in courtroom dramas — to what is happening in May 2014?
Here is the Festival’s site.
Jazz purists, please don’t be alarmed if you don’t recognize all of the headliners: the SMF has taken a broader view of “Americana” and “roots music” than it did in earlier years, but there is a wide variety of pleasing sound for all. The complete list of artists is available here.
I’ll simply note a few JAZZ LIVES’ favorites (in an ecumenical alphabetical order): the Au Brothers, Gordon Au, Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band, Clint Baker, Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys, Eddie Erickson, the Freebadge Serenaders, Grand Dominion, High Sierra, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Meschiya Lake and the Lil Big Horns, Marc Caparone, Midiri Brothers, Mike Daugherty, Pat Yankee, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Stephanie Trick, Vaud and the Villains, Vince Bartels All-Stars . . . and more.
The thought of all that, even spread out over multiple venues from Friday through Monday, is both elating and exhausting. While I lie down, perhaps you’d like to peruse Years Gone By . . .
Hal Smith’s International Sextet
Come celebrate at the Sacramento Music Festival with us this year.
May your happiness increase!
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Bliss!, Generosities, Hotter Than That, Ideal Places, Irreplaceable, It's All True, Jazz Titans, Jazz Worth Reading, Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, That Was Fun!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love, Wow!
Tagged Allan Vache, Au Brothers, Becky Kilgore, Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band, Clint Baker, Dan Barrett, Danny Coots, Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys, Eddie Erickson, Gordon Au, Grand Dominion, Hal Smith, High Sierra, Jason Wanner, Jazz Lives, Jeannie Lambert, Jennifer Jane Leitham, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Marc Caparone, Meschiya Lake and the Lil Big Horns, Michael Steinman, Midiri Brothers, Mike Daugherty, Nicolas Montier, Pat Yankee, Phil Flanigan, Ray Skjelbred, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Rebecca Kilgore, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Rossano Sportiello, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Russ Phillips, Sacramento Music Festival, Stephanie Trick, the Au Brothers, the Freebadge Serenaders, Vaud and the Villains, Vince Bartels, Vince Bartels All-Stars
Jennifer Jane Leitham by Garth Woods
I first encountered the virtuoso jazz string bassist Jennifer Jane Leitham at the Sacramento Music Festival a few years ago — and was impressed by her eloquent improvisations. Not only did she have technique, but she was a powerfully focused musician. Although I had never encountered the jazz string bassist John Leitham in person, I had heard him on recordings with Mel Torme, George Shearing, and other jazz notables. I STAND CORRECTED is a marvelous film documentary that traces the transition from John to Jennifer. It is a deeply felt collaboration between Jennifer and filmmaker Andrea Meyerson. You don’t have to be a jazz fan to admire the film or its subject. It chronicles the life-long journeys of Jennifer Leitham, who courageously exists in two simultaneous realms. One story — more familiar — is how a young person born in Pennsylvania (not New Orleans, New York, or Kansas City) becomes a jazz musician in a time and place not all that hospitable to jazz. Or perhaps not to larger kinds of improvisation. But I STAND CORRECTED is about much more than “becoming a musician”: early inspirations, good teachers, learning one’s craft, breaking in, getting a nationwide reputation, working alongside famous players and singers — with heartbreaks that keep the story genuine, not an unbroken climb to the top. I STAND CORRECTED is about a young woman born into a boy’s body who, early on, knew she was in the wrong place, in a society that would not admit such things might be possible. It is a record of how John became Jennifer while not letting her essence be destroyed in the process. For John Leitham was a wondrous musician before Jennifer emerged in the public eye, and one of the sweetest aspects of this saga is Jennifer’s awareness and acceptance of both selves: this isn’t a film about an enraged, wounded adult trying to obliterate her younger self, but an adult who wants to emerge as the person she knows herself to be. I STAND CORRECTED offers that human story and more in a most moving film. For one thing, Jennifer is an exceedingly likable guide, honest but not pompous nor didactic or narcissistic. I STAND CORRECTED is not a sermon telling us that we should all be tolerant. There are no scientific or academic talking heads, no instant revelations. The film is a casual but strongly felt journal of one woman’s struggle to be the person she was meant to be. Jennifer is both candid and light-hearted without ever undercutting the seriousness of her quest. The film touches on emotional crises (a divorce, family members unable to accept Jennifer when they knew only John) and medical catastrophes, without becoming bleak. Of course, it helps that an audience has seen Jennifer onstage, ebullient and serious at the same time, playing at the highest level of her art, testing herself while having the time of her life. And the film is generously leavened with musical performances where Jennifer shows off her prodigious talents as improviser, composer, singer. But the real story is more than a music video. Along the way, John-in-the-process-of-becoming-Jennifer is forced to be a spy in enemy country. But she finds allies, friends, and supporters. Some of them are genuinely unaffected noble people: Doc Severinsen is someone you would always want in your corner — gentle yet unwavering, both parent and friend to someone who strongly needs both. “I hired a bass player, not a man or a woman,” he tells her. Bless him. Ed Shaughnessy is not far behind. (Jennifer’s younger brother is a prize, too.) I was reminded that Doc and Ed were born n an era of drinking fountains labeled COLORED and WHITE outside train stations in many states. But they and other jazz musicians learned quickly that it didn’t matter what you looked like on the outside. It didn’t matter who your life-partner was. Black, white, gay, straight? Could you play? What was your heart like? How well did you love? Meeting these gracious, generous people is one of the film’s pleasures. But they are only reflecting back something shining out of the film’s heroine. Jennifer Leitham is gently making her way, as we all must. Her courage is admirable, for she made the transition at the height of her career, when “coming out as a woman” could have ended her life as a performing musician. I STAND CORRECTED introduces us to a person for whom making music was a way to save herself, to define herself . . . and her music is a great loving gift to all of us. The salvation young John found while playing the electric bass left-handed (a conscious choice, perhaps an early sly way of saying “I am different”) radiates through this film — a gift Jennifer gives to us. And as she trusts herself, we trust her. We are all trying to become the person we feel we are meant to be, and some get close to that goal. Jennifer Leitham’s quest didn’t end when she came out of the hospital after surgery. It continues every time she performs or tells her story — a story that will give some other young person courage to be him or herself. I STAND CORRECTED is beautifully yet unobtrusively presented: the film shifts back and forth from the early life of John Leitham to the music of Jennifer Leitham to her voyage of self-discovery, the situations she must face and the oppositions that result — as well as the emotional rewards. At the end of I STAND CORRECTED, we feel privileged to have met a happy, realized, creative human being: a woman with four birthdays. And as we are slowly — too slowly — leaving behind the world where skin color or sexual preference determines identity and worth, I STAND CORRECTED will be understood as a small milestone on the way to a world where the idea of MAN or WOMAN is put aside as irrelevant in favor of PERSON, of BEING. It is a rewarding film both musically and spiritually. Make every effort to see it. Its heroine’s courage and perseverance are inspiring. In a world where many people make judgments based on someone’s external presence, we need to be reminded that the truths lie within. Here is the film’s website — where you can see trailers and find out where it is being shown. May your happiness increase.
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Jazz Worth Reading, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love
Tagged Andrea Meyerson, Doc Severinsen, documentary, Ed Shaughnessy, Garth Woods, George Shearing, I STAND CORRECTED, Jazz Lives, Jennifer Jane Leitham, Jennifer Leitham, John Leitham, Mel Torme, Michael Steinman, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, string bass, transgender, transition
Jennifer Jane Leitham is a remarkable musician and a singular person. I met her for the first time a year ago at the Sacramento Music Festival, and liked her on the spot: she is forthright and sweet-natured.
But I wasn’t only meeting someone who could truly play that cumbersome instrument: I was meeting a woman who had triumphantly made it through a very long and arduous journey.
She’s a brave person, and the documentary about her, I STAND CORRECTED, is something you should see. Here’s the trailer:
This process of being human, of becoming the person you were meant to be, is not always easy, although those who keep on keepin’ on may find deep rewards.
I STAND CORRECTED has been showing all across the country . . . look for it wherever courageous motion pictures are shown!
And if the trailer moves you, click here to vote for the trailer (it’s number 139, down the page) so that this film can be seen by a wider audience.
May your happiness increase.
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Jazz Worth Reading, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing
Tagged courage, gender, I STAND CORRECTED, Jazz Lives, Jennifer Jane Leitham, Michael Steinman, Sacramento Music Festival
This set — one of the last ones at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival — was a lovely combination of modern ideas, rich swing and inventiveness, and a repertoire going back almost ninety years. But there was no archaeology, no fancy business: playing the old tunes as they had been in their prime, or reinventing them according to some aesthetic principles. No, this set was simply a gathering of people who had similar philosophies: swing is everything; sweet melodies uplift our hearts; go for yourself.
Leader / drummer Vince Bartels is a substantial man with a gentle touch on the drums, and he assembled a multifaceted band of like-minded musicians: string bassist Jennifer Jane Leitham; pianist Jason Wanner; tenor saxophonist Nicolas Montier; trombonist Russ Phillips; clarinetist Allan Vache; cornetist Dan Barrett — with a special guest appearance by singer Jeannie Lambert.
SWING THAT MUSIC, both for Louis and as a statement of principles:
I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:
THE ONE I LOVE, that 1924 pop hit that jazz fans remember fondly because it was the first song — at the Chicago Musicians’ Union — that Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong played together:
BUT BEAUTIFUL, a feature for Ms. Lambert and Mr. Phillips — celebrating their twenty-eighth anniversary — is something special:
POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS shows off Jason Wanner, living proof of how novices with the right stuff become young masters in jazz:
And a Condon-styled CHINA BOY, with Town Hall Concert breaks at the end:
May your happiness increase.
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Bliss!, Hotter Than That, Ideal Places, Irreplaceable, Jazz Titans, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, That Was Fun!, The Real Thing, The Things We Love
Tagged Allan Vache, Dan Barrett, Earl Hines, Eddie Condon, Jason Wanner, Jazz Lives, Jeannie Lambert, Jennifer Jane Leitham, Louis Armstrong, Michael Steinman, Nicolas Montier, Russ Phillips, Sacramento Music Festival, Vince Bartels