|La Quinta Desert Flowers|
The Jazz Centre of the World--New York City? No. Birdland? No. I think the Jazz Centre of the World is the Coachella Valley in Southern California.
My wife and I started regular vacations in Palm Desert 8 years ago. We went there for all the usual reasons, the weather, good dining, shopping and lots of nice places to see. We really didn't anticipate that Jazz would become a very important reason for returning year after year, in addition to all the other benefits of the area.
Let me talk about some of the places and people that have so impressed us. First, without doubt, is the Backstreet Bistro, where it started for us. Perfect hostess, Lavane, perfect music, and really good dining! A must every Tuesday night. In that context, I have to thank Bill Saitta, who plays there often. A great Bassist, but also a great leader, and a guy who creates a lot of work for Jazz musicians. We have so enjoyed Jay Lewis' Drums and Steve Madaio's Trumpet. This year, a new guitar player, James Moody (not that James Moody), and some nights, Chase Huna, a teenage saxophone player who's getting better each year--may be the most perfect Jazz Club anywhere.
At the other end of town, Vicki's! In addition to Jazz almost every night, they have great Sunday afternoons! A delightful Band with many different guest vocalists. In past years, we've heard some brilliant guest musicians who travel out from LA, like Dave Pell. The regular front line is Stan Watkins on Trumpet and Don Shelton on reeds. Don is a superb Saxophonist, but also a brilliant singer. He paid his dues in Singers Unlimited. On Bass in that band is Larry Holloway, one of the best Bass Players I've ever heard. This Band sometimes features the very good Tom Keenlyside, a transplanted Canadian. Tom is outstanding on Flute and Reeds. Are you starting to get the picture of the musical strength in this area?
Across the street from Vicki's is the Indian Wells Hotel, which has good music several nights a week. Frank Di Salvo does a great Sinatra-type show, and on Tuesday nights, there is Ron Kalina on Piano and Harmonica, with again, the great Larry Holloway on Bass and Gino Antonacia on Vibes.
Can't leave out Palm Springs. Palm Springs has Woody's! A hamburger place which presents Jazz very, very well. Yve Evans entertains there on vocals and Piano just about every month. Yve would be welcome in any Jazz community in the world. Brian Nova is a regular every Wednesday playing his wonderful Guitar. Brian has been in the area for years, and Woody's is his current home base. Brian's trio consists with him on guitar, Andy Fraga, Jr., on Drums and (again) Larry Holloway on Bass is among the best anywhere! Woody's features Jazz almost every night
One of the secrets of this Valley Area is that musicians and singers are welcome to sit in. It happens at all of the venues, and can make for a very exciting evening.
I haven't covered all of the places where good music is offered, but I've tried to give you a sense of why I think the Coachella Valley is the Jazz Capital of the world. This has happened for years. I hope it never ends!