Redwood Jazz Alliance

2016-17 Season

On to the second decade! Year Eleven brings some new faces, some familiar faces, and some faces—er, people—we've been chasing for years. As always, the lineup includes a mix of Critics' Poll winners, Guggenheim fellows, and NPR featured artists—and, it goes without saying, brilliant players and composers. But our first palindromic-number year also includes an unusual number of "named" bands. (We don't know if that means anything; we just think it's cool.)

Our prices have held steady since our very first concert, back in 'ought-six: $15 General Admission and $10 Student/Senior. Advance tickets for most shows will be available at Wildberries Marketplace, Wildwood Music, People's Records, and The Works—and (along with discounted season tickets) here at our website. All of this season's guests will also present a workshop or clinic, free and open to the public, usually (but not always) the morning after the concert. As the season unfolds, click on each artist's name below to see a web page devoted to him/her/them. And feel free to contact us at with questions, comments, and donations!

Jump to: Next Show (David Berkman Quartet)
(Or visit the separate David Berkman event page)

Listen to the 2016-17 Season Mixtape on Soundcloud
Watch the 2016-17 Season Playlist on YouTube
Dates and details subject to change

Tar Beach


Tar Beach
Friday, September 9, 2016 (8 pm) | Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka
Randy Porter, piano; Shao Way Wu, bass

We’re starting with a homecoming: not that long ago, Shao Way Wu was a pillar of NoHum’s jazz community, playing in countless bands and teaching both privately and at Humboldt State.  Randy Porter knew Shao Way from even farther back, when they were both students at HSU. These days, Randy is often on the road with the likes of Charles McPherson and Diane Schuur, although Portland has been his home base for a good long while now. When Shao Way also relocated to the City of Bridges a couple of years ago, he and Randy reconnected—and clicked. And when we heard the gorgeous album that they laid down earlier this year, we knew it was time to bring them home to Humboldt.

“Porter has built a reputation as a musician’s musician, a knowledgeable, inventive, and sophisticated player with a remarkable sense of time and gorgeous keyboard facility.”
—Lynn Darroch, The Oregonian
tar beach at bandcamp
buy tickets to tar beach

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Photo: Jimmy Katz

Rudresh Mahanthappa Bird Calls
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 (8 pm) | Kate Buchanan Room, HSU
Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto sax; Adam O'Farrill, trumpet; Joshua White, piano; Thomson Kneeland, bass; Dan Weiss, drums

For over a decade, listeners and critics have checked Rudresh Mahanthappa as one of the most innovative and virtuosic alto saxophonists around, both for his own work, which frequently blends South Indian music with modern jazz, and for his collaborations with younger peers like Vijay Iyer and Rez Abbasi and esteemed elders like Jack DeJohnette and Bunky Green. But all the earlier accolades paled in comparison to the rapturous response to last year’s Bird Calls, a disc inspired by Mahanthappa’s longtime love for the music of Charlie Parker. The album (which also features twenty-something trumpet phenom O’Farrill) topped nearly every “Best Of” list for 2015.

"The concept here is so inspired, the playing so incendiary that five stars might not be enough... Breathtakingly brilliant."
—Bill Milkowski, The Absolute Sound
mahanthappa on npr's all things considered
buy tickets to bird calls

Helen Sung

Photo: Kathy Villacorta | Wardrobe: Vivienne Tam

Helen Sung Quartet
Sunday, November 6, 2016 (8 pm) | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
Helen Sung, piano; John Ellis, tenor sax; Boris Koslov, bass; Terreon Gully, drums

When she was growing up in Houston, Helen Sung’s parents wanted her to become a doctor. Luckily for us, she followed her muse instead. She came to jazz after extensive classical training, enrolling in the inaugural class at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Winner of the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams piano competition, she made her way to New York, where she honed her chops with Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and the Mingus Big Band. With five albums under her belt as a leader, she has a new quartet featuring one of her Mingus bandmates, bassist Boris Koslov; yeoman drummer Terreon Gully; and tenor man John Ellis’s mix of New Orleans roots and New York hip. One reviewer famously said that Sung transports listeners to “a place of passion, adventure and drama” with “truckloads of rhythm.” We say: All aboard!

"[After] a decade's worth of crisp, conscientious, decorous albums, Anthem For a New Day is...a leap forward, the first full measure of her identity."
—Nate Chinen, New York Times
helen sung on npr's jazzset

Theo Bleckmann
Photo: John Labbé

Theo Bleckmann Elegy
Friday, February 10, 2017 (8 pm) | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
Theo Bleckmann, voice and live loops; Ben Monder, guitar; Shai Maestro, piano; Jorge Roeder, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums

Randomly read a dozen reviews of Theo Bleckmann and you’ll spot some recurring themes: meticulous technique, astounding range, precise pitch, unearthly yet elementally human timbre. But the label most commonly applied to his vocalizing may be “uncategorizable.” Bleckmann has recorded art songs, bar songs, and an award-winning album of Kate Bush songs. He’s sung Charles Ives with indie-jazz group Kneebody.  The composers of the Bang on a Can collective write for him regularly. For fifteen years, he was a core member of the Meredith Monk ensemble. Jazz writer David Hajdu finds him “as playfully experimental as Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman,” and DownBeat named him male vocalist of the year in 2014. Now he’s touring in support of his first album for the legendary ECM label, with a band that includes longtime allies Monder and Hollenbeck. 

"One of the most flexible and uncategorizable figures on the New York a niche of his own invention, somewhere between jazz, cabaret, classical, experimental, and improvised music...It's tremendously rare for a singer to realize the potential of the voice so thoroughly."
—Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
theo bleckmann in concert at (le) poisson rouge

Endangered Blood

Endangered Blood
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 (8 pm) | Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka
Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega, saxes; Trevor Dunn, bass; Jim Black, drums

Chris Speed and Jim Black have been playing together since their high school days in Seattle. For decades in New York they’ve made the rounds separately and together, and in 2008 they formed a one-off quartet to play a benefit concert for a desperately ill friend and fellow musician. (Was it a blood disease? We don't know.)  The friend recovered, but the band, with Oscar Noriega on alto sax and bass clarinet and Humboldt native son Trevor Dunn on monster bass, kept performing and recording and dazzling critics and fans with what All About Jazz calls their seamless mix of “bebop, Mariachi, free jazz and post-bop.” Now they’ve reached “a sort of watershed in the evolution of creative music that was once called jazz.”

"Endangered Blood plays fast, looping, dynamically even and entwining lines, laying bebop over clanky grooves." 
—Ben Ratliff, New York Times

endangered blood at
endangered blood on npr's tiny desk concert

David Berkman

David Berkman Quartet
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 (8 pm) | Fulkerson Recital Hall, HSU
David Berkman, piano; Dayna Stephens, tenor sax; Linda Oh, bass; Rudy Royston, drums

Pianist, composer and educator David Berkman has mostly flown below the media’s radar over the past twenty-odd years, but a quick glance at his long and wide-ranging credits tells you (as the Chicago Reader put it) that he is “one the most interesting, gracefully swinging figures on New York’s jazz scene.” Well said. When he brought his trio to the Graves in 2008, Berkman charmed us with his refined taste and quirky wit—not to mention his eloquent compositions and expressive playing. His latest CD is called Old Friends and New Friends, and the members of his quartet fit both descriptions. (Old friends of ours: drummer extraordinaire Rudy Royston and A-list bassist Linda Oh. New: Bay Area-bred rising star saxophonist Dayna Stephens.) The last show of our eleventh season is an occasion for welcomes—and welcomes back.

“Berkman is on the extremely smart end of the post-1960s mainstream…spinning off new dialects from a shared traditional language…He always burrows in, finding transcendence.”
—Ben Ratliff, New York Times

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