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7 Mile House Jazz Festival 2019

Walter Atkins By

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The great cultural and ethnic diversity of the Bay Area is definitely on display at these festivals. The attendees were definitely witness to the art form presented at its best. We rarely get to see each other perform, as most of us have to travel fairly wide to spread the art to the many supporters and fans. —Dennis Smith Bassist, Five Ten
7 Mile House Jazz Festival 2019
7 Mile House
Brisbane CA
May 4, 2019

Last year's inaugural 7 Mile House Jazz Festival started by 7 Mile House owner Vanessa Garcia, proved so successful, the second edition returned in an expanded format. The 7 Mile House Jazz Festival 2019 was figuratively and literally bigger this year, relocating to an open auto garage space conveniently located next door. The garage owner, and Garcia's ex, completely removed all the vehicles, and cleaned it up to make room for the generous stage and seating area. Now that's a good neighbor!

Brisbane CA's favorite dog friendly family restaurant and music venue continued to showcase some of the San Francisco Bay Area's superb musical artistry. This year's festival kicked off on a considerably larger stage under a huge white tent. Colorful strings of balloons formed a festive frame around the expansive bandstand. The deep line up included in order of appearance: the Charles McNeal Quartet, Hristo Vitchev Organ Trio, Andrew Speight's Best Bop, John Worley and Mochi, Five Ten, Madeline Eastman and Keith Saunders Trio, the Cabanijazz Project, Charged Particles with Tod Dickow, Fred Randolph Quintet, and closed with the Rhonda Benin Jazz & Blues Experience. San Mateo's KCSM Jazz 91 morning personality Lisa Clancy, along with other station DJs Leslie Stoval,Chris Cortez and Dick Conte, introduced the artists throughout the bustling day. Once on stage, Clancy implored McNeal to move back to the Bay Area because, "We miss you." The saxophonist explained he moved to Las Vegas because his wife had the better job. Saturday started warm and overcast, but cleared up to reveal a warm sunny day accompanied by a stiff blustery breeze.

The festival opened up with the exciting Charles McNeal Quartet which consisted of: saxophonist McNeal, pianist Joe Warner, bassist Gary Brown, and drummer Rob Rhodes. Early attendees were treated to an invigorating set that included Wes Montgomery's distinctive "Road Song." After the first set, the Hristo Vitchev Trio rolled along and included tasty guitar solos eliciting applause from the growing audience. This energetic set included the nostalgic "I'll be Seeing You." Led by Vitchev, the trio was: Vitchev, guitar; Brian Ho, B3 organ and Mike Shannon, drums. Bay Area musician Larry Vuckovich arrived early to enjoy the rousing afternoon sounds. Before the next artists took the stage, a genuinely surprised Alicia Clancy received The Jazz Promoter award presented by Harris.

One of the many highlights was the Andrew Spieght Quintet's Best Bop with: saxophonist Speight; pianist Matt Clark; bassist Michael Zisman and drummer Austin Harris. Spieght opened with work associated with Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and Nat Adderley. The group delivered on Sam Jones' 1962 upbeat ditty "Unit 7" popularized by Adderley, along with Charlie Parker's lush track "Diverse." This was followed by Dizzy Gillespie's jazz milestone "A Night in Tunisia." After the patrons responded with abundant clapping, they moved on to Fred Lacy's 1963 composition "Theme for Ernie," originally recorded by John Coltrane in 1958. Spieght closed with the "Rhythm—a- ning," composed and recorded by the iconic Thelonious Monk in 1957. The Spieght Quintet's remarkable tribute session to the creators of Bebop was soaked in applause from the appreciative house.

After the Andrew Spieght Quintet finished, it was time for another award presentation. Pianist Vuckovich was honored with Outstanding Jazz Musician for his life time of work. Always the busy musician, he drove down from his home in Healdsburg CA (Wine Country) for a Friday gig. He graciously accepted the well deserved award and gleefully acknowledged the recognition.

Next up was John Worley and Mochi with: Worley, trumpet and flugelhorn; Amy Dabalos, vocals; Sebastien Lanson, guitar; Ken Okada, bass and Wally Schnalle on drums.  Worley, a huge fan of influential composer/bassist Stanley Clarke, opened with Clarke's "Why Wait" which he also recorded on his 2005 debut album "Worlview." Their set list covered the Miles Davis 1963 standard "Seven Steps to Heaven." Worley jokingly said he was, "the farthest away from heaven but in a good way." The Stanford music department lecturer also commented on the Spieght Quintet's previous set calling it, "burning bop."

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