Anyone who has been to Smalls’ Jazz Club in Manhattan knows a crowd larger than a baker’s dozen is a decent turnout. It’s a unique crypt where protégés from Julliard, A list headliners on the down low, and up and coming musicians, come to jam.
Down those dark narrow stairs into the stonewalled cellar, the space is tight, and intimate. People sit on a combination of benches, foldout chairs, and barstools. Casually hip, it’s one of New York’s finest jazz spots, despite the dwindling number of followers that honor and appreciate America’s indigenous musical genre. But Manhattan is known as a hub for musical diversity. Here on the west coast, it’s a little lackluster, at least where Jazz is concerned.
When The Doug Webb Quartet performed a tribute to John Coltrane on Saturday night at the Ojai Valley Community Church, you’d never guess that Jazz was a dying art form. Saturday’s performance drew in close to fifty jazz enthusiasts, proving that Ojai is one home to sophisticated and cultured individuals who appreciate this endangered medium of music.
The selection of John Coltrane classics was performed in honor of the composers’ upcoming birthday on September 23, and The Doug Webb Quartet drew grand applause and accolades following the two-hour concert.
The quartet was comprised of highly esteemed musicians: Doug Webb, tenor sax, has performed for such greats as Quincy Jones, Rod Stewart, and Bonnie Rait. Webb is also a regular with the Doc Severinsen Big Band. His sax is the voice of Lisa’s outrage on the Simpsons.
Bass Player Jeff Littleton has recorded with such greats as Nancy Wilson, Stanley Turrentine, and Dianne Reeves. In addition to producing the album called “Littleton Brothers” he is a regular, and currently on tour, with Herbie Hancock.
Tony Austin, on drums, is one of the most recognized and sought after drummers in Los Angeles, sharing his talents with Charles Loyyd, James Torme, and the Monterey Jazz Festival All Star Band.
Special guest pianist Mahesh Balasooriya is named ‘The Charlie Parker of Sri Lanka’ by KJZZ jazz radio host Chuck Niles. Mahesh has also been the opening act for Quincy Jones and Ray Charles.
Villa Nova physics teacher, and jazz affectionato Eric Johnson purchased VIP tickets giving him a front row seat. “It’s all about the improv in jazz. I was grateful that John Coltrane was honored on my 43 birthday, being a Coltrane fanatic. Doug Webb was phenomenal. I left the place feeling as if a true jazz giant and composer got his due props.”
The next jazz concert, organized by Richard Tell, is scheduled for October 15. It will feature Grammy nominated vocalist Denise Donatelli, one of five people worldwide to be nominated for Best Jazz Vocalist in 2011.