Redwood Jazz Alliance

2010-11 Season

Last season, for the 3d year in a row, over 1400 people enjoyed concerts by the world-class performers who graced our stages, and more than 300 heard those same artists drop musical science at free public workshops—"religious experiences," one attendee dubbed them long ago. It took us a while (thanks for waiting!), but we're finally ready to up the ante and do it again.

Admission is a recession-friendly $15 General Admission and $10 for students & seniors. Advance tickets will be available at People's Records, Missing Link, and the Works—and (along with discounted season tickets) here at our website. Each of the season's artists will also present a workshop or clinic, usually the morning after the scheduled concert, which is free and open to the public. As the season unfolds, click on each artist's name below to navigate to a web page devoted to him or her. And feel free to contact us at with questions, comments--and donations!

Jump to: Next Show (Michael Formanek Quartet)
Or: Go to the "Michael Formanek" Page

Hear this season's artists by starting the audio player to the right:

Chris Potter


Chris Potter's Underground
Friday, September 24, 2010 (8 pm) | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
Chris Potter, tenor sax; Adam Rogers, guitar; Fima Ephron, bass (replacing Craig Taborn, keys); Nate Smith, drums

We're opening big: the hard-blowing saxophonist Chris Potter has been tearing up the critics' polls—not to mention the bandstands and concert stages—for over fifteen years now: the Detroit Free Press calls him simply "the most compelling saxophonist of his generation." Audiences agree, and even though he's pushing 40, Potter has joined the pantheon of Young Gods worshipped by jazz students all over the world.  (He's "[o]ne of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet," says DownBeat.) Sideman to everyone from Red Rodney to Steely Dan, Potter played key roles in late 90s & early 00s groups led by Paul Motian, Dave Holland and Dave Douglas. Underground, his five-year-old working quartet, layers Potter's impeccable post-bop sensibility over a foundation of deep, freewheeling funk. The band comes to us direct from the Monterey Jazz Festival.

“Writing contemporary jazz history, one monstrous groove at a time.”
underground live at the village vanguard
underground video: at jazz open stuttgart | new documentary

Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell Quintet
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 (8 pm) | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
Tom Harrell, trumpet & flugelhorn; Wayne Escoffery, tenor sax; Danny Grissett, keys; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Rudy Royston, drums

It's no hyperbole to say that Harrell vies for the title of greatest living trumpeter. What makes him all the more remarkable—apart from his decades-long struggle with schizophrenia—is his long and prolific career as an outstanding composer of sublimely lyrical melodies. ("Pure melodic genius," says Newsweek.) After fruitful apprenticeships with Horace Silver and Phil Woods in the 70s and 80s, Harrell went on to form his own bands, and each of his twenty-odd albums as a leader has appeared on numerous "Top 10" lists. His current quintet is a tight, energetic unit filled with younger players who convey the sheer joy of Harrell's music.

”What Harrell [does] is spin out improvisational lines filled with instant melodies. Like a lyricist who illuminates phrases with subtle internal rhymes, Harrell's soloing captivates both the hearts and the minds of his listeners.”
—Los Angeles Times
tom harrell live at the village vanguard
tom harrell video: au duc des lombards | the pace report

Michael Blake

Michael Blake Band: "The World Awakes"—A Tribute to Lucky Thompson
Monday, November 8, 2010 (8 pm) | Kate Buchanan Room, HSU
Michael Blake, tenor sax; Søren Kjaergaard, keys; Jonas Westergaard, bass; Ben Perowsky, drums

Blake (who appeared here in 2008 with Ben Allison's "Man Size Safe") is a former member of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards and a veteran of New York's 1990s downtown scene. He's released a series of acclaimed albums on influential indie labels (Intuition, Knitting Factory, Clean Feed, Stunt, Songlines), leading an array of innovative groups who, as All About Jazz puts it, manage "to simultaneously embrace jazz history while challenging it head on." That description fits this project perfectly: with collaborators including members of his Danish quartet Blake Tartare, Blake pays a moving, tuneful tribute (in the form of covers and originals) to under-appreciated saxophonist and composer Lucky Thompson, who fell into self-exile, then obscurity, after a promising career in the 50s and 60s.

"Michael Blake is one of an all-too-common subset of the jazz community: players who create brilliant music while flying largely under the radar of widespread critical and/or popular acclaim...One hopes the public—or at least the critics—will get hip to it eventually."
—Chris Kelsey, Jazz Times
michael blake's blog
blake tartare video: youtube

Vijay Iyer

Vijay Iyer Trio
Sunday, February 6, 2011 (8 pm) | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
Vijay Iyer, piano; Stephan Crump, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums

It's hard to think of a young player whose star is brighter than Vijay Iyer's. His trio CD, "Historicity," topped everyone's 2009 Top 10 list (it likewise won Album of the Year in the 2010 DownBeat Critics Poll, which also saw the trio take the "Rising Star Jazz Group" category); the Jazz Journalists Association named him 2010 Musician of the Year; and for a while there, as NPR's A Blog Supreme noted, he was the unofficial Toast of the Jazz Internet. The attention is completely deserved: the self-taught pianist and polymath composer (he has a Ph.D. in Technology and the Arts from Berkeley) with a penchant for spiky covers makes "challenging" music that's also totally listenable. Iyer is a huge talent; this is his breakout moment.

"Presto! Here is the new jazz piano trio."
—Ben Ratliff, New York TImes
vijay iyer trio live at newport 2009
vijay iyer in the studio: npr music | wbgo's "the checkout"
vijay iyer trio video: historicity | galang (trio riot version)


Ron Miles-Gary Versace-Matt Wilson Trio
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | Morris Graves Museum of Art
Ron Miles, trumpet; Gary Versace, keyboards; Matt Wilson, drums

(Owing to a family emergency, Rudy Royston will substitute for Matt Wilson. Please see event web page.)

Wilson, a welcome repeat visitor to the RJA, has a reputation as the class clown of contemporary jazz. What that really means is that he knows how to put audiences and fellow musicians completely at ease. One of the most exuberant, versatile, and respected (by his peers) drummers working today, Wilson has played with just about anyone you could name in the past two generations. And while he leads two working bands of his own, he also has a knack for engineering imaginative and sometimes unexpected collaborations. He and trumpeter Ron Miles have teamed up in several different settings, most recently in an amazing duo at the 2010 Ottawa Jazz Festival. Miles, meanwhile, is known for his sensitive playing in a variety of contexts, most notably, perhaps, in collaborations with such guitar heros as Bill Frisell and (more recently) Charlie Hunter. When in-demand keyboardist Gary Versace—a veteran of the Claudia Quintet, the Refuge Trio, and Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts—joins in, it's bound to be another revelatory encounter.

"[Wilson's] duo concert with trumpeter Ron Miles...was a triumph of imagination, humour and spontaneity -- although that sounds like too high-falutin' a description of a show that was so disarmingly personal and personable."
—Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen | ron miles myspace |
ron miles quartet (w/matt wilson) on npr's jazz set
matt wilson on wbgo's "the checkout"

Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet; Walter Smith III, tenor sax; Sam Harris, piano; Harish Raghavon, bass; Justin Brown, drums

We round off the season with another rising star: Oakland native, Berkeley High grad, Monk Competition winner—and now Blue Note recording artist and newest member of the SF Jazz Collective—Ambrose Akinmusire. The fiercely talented young trumpeter has been making a name for himself over the past few years, studying and playing with a wide variety of jazz elders (Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Herbie Hancock) and young mavericks (Jason Moran, Esperanza Spalding, Linda Oh) while drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Chopin and Bjork. In his working quintet he gathers some of the best emerging talent on the New York scene. They'll be touring behind their April Blue Note debut.

"Believe the hype for once: here’s a debut album of real depth and originality. Akinmusire's hypermodern yet shapely themes are not so much performed as lived and breathed by a brilliant young group."
—London Evening Standard
ambrose akinmusire quintet live on npr's jazz set
ambrose akinmusire video: live at the jazz standard

Michael Formanek Quartet

JUST ADDED! Our First-Ever Post-Season Show:
Michael Formanek Quartet
Sunday, June 5, 2011 | Morris Graves Museum of Art
Tim Berne, alto saxophone; Craig Taborn, piano; Michael Formanek, double-bass; Gerald Cleaver, drums

Formanek's formidable bass has propelled groups from the Mingus Big Band to Tim Berne’s Bloodcount and has backed artists as diverse as Chet Baker and Elvis Costello. A bandleader and composer in his own right, Formanek returned to the studio last year for the first time in over a decade--and made listeners and critics very happy. (The album, his ECM debut, is called The Rub and Spare Change, and it landed on many high-profile "Best of 2010" lists.) With an all-star band of experienced and gifted colleagues, the bassist leads an outgoing program of pieces whose unorthodox constructions set up strong solos and fiery group interaction.

"A group [that's] vibrant and instinctive, performing music that combines rigor and reckless abandon"
Jazz Times
michael formanek at ecm records
"the rub and spare change" on youtube

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