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Meet Marta Ulvaeus

Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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I would drive to the Bay Area to hear music at least once a week. My first time seeing Sun Ra and his Arkestra was in 1987, at New George's in San Rafael. I also heard amazing music at Koncepts Cultural Gallery: Arthur Blythe, Henry Threadgill, Steve Lacy, Oliver Lake, Horace Tapscott, Cassandra Wilson, Geri Allen, and many more. And of course, there was Yoshi's, where Jazz in Flight's annual Festival of the Drum, in honor of the great drummer Eddie Moore, took place. Ed Blackwell's performance there was recorded; Don Cherry sat in for one piece. I saw Cecil Taylor there, too. Kimball's East was in Emeryville, where I saw Elvin Jones (with a very young Wynton Marsalis), Eartha Kitt, and Maceo Parker, and many others. I got to see the Art Ensemble Of Chicago in the Bay Area, too.

How often do you go out to hear live music?

I go out to hear live music every chance I get. I invest a significant amount in purchasing tickets to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles concerts, although because of work and transportation I don't always get to them, unfortunately. Santa Barbara is fickle when it comes to supporting live jazz. Sadly, adventurous music doesn't have much of an audience in Santa Barbara.

While I was living in New York City, I attended live performances several times a week. I'm not much of a festival-goer, but New York has a festival that I attended every year until I moved to the west coast: the Vision Festival. I have continued to attend when I can. It truly is a visionary festival that celebrates innovative music, dance, poetry, and visual art. I love being in New York during the summer. There are so many wonderful outdoor music performances in the parks and around the city, and I travel there as often as I can, to visit with friends and to hear music.

What is it about live music that makes it so special for you?

Live music is being created in the moment. I share the space with the musicians and other music lovers. We are enveloped in the magic of the creative act.

What are the elements of an amazing concert?

An amazing concert transports me into the sound world that is being created. Henry Threadgill's music is like that for me—every time.

What's the farthest you've traveled to get to a jazz performance?

Since I moved back west in July 2001, I've traveled to New York City at least once a year to visit friends and attend music performances. I've also driven from Santa Barbara to San Francisco for a weekend just to see Henry Threadgill!

Is there one concert that got away that you still regret having missed?

There are too many to list, but from my youth, Jimi Hendrix. I also regret that I have missed several of the beautiful memorials that the NYC music community organizes for its musicians who have transitioned: Lester Bowie, Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor, just to name a few. I love to be a part of the community in honoring the legacies of these brilliant creative lights.

If you could go back in time and hear one of the jazz legends perform live, who would it be?

Thelonious Monk. Eric Dolphy. Charles Mingus. John Coltrane.

What makes a great jazz club?

Intimacy, a sense of community, and good food! That said, I really am there for the music, so food isn't imperative. However, if there is a minimum, I like good food, since I don't drink. I love small venues most, with great sight lines no matter where you're sitting. When I'm in New York City, I always see people I know when I go out to hear music; that contributes to the experience, too.

Which clubs are you most regularly to be found at?

When I'm in New York: the Stone, the Jazz Standard, Smalls Jazz Club, Mezzrow, the Village Vanguard, NuBlu, Zinc Bar.

In Santa Barbara one of the venues I love most is the Piano Kitchen, a small performance space curated by bassist Jim Connelly. I also love the Lobero Theatre there. Los Angeles has the Angel City Jazz Festival, which is amazing; it takes place in many venues, with one concert at a particular venue each night, so you don't have to miss any of the music. And there's the Jazz Bakery, which is curated by Ruth Price, which finally found a new home at the Moss Theater.

Is there a club that's no longer around that you miss the most?

Sweet Basil and, more recently, Cornelia Street Cafe; I loved Cornelia Street, and I'm heartbroken that it is gone. There are so many wonderful music spaces that have disappeared over the years: Sweet Basil, Tonic.

How do you discover new artists?

I get suggestions from friends and listeners; and I informally serve as jazz music director for KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara, for which I review, add, and report new jazz releases and airplay. I listen to the radio. I read jazz journals and read reviews.

Vinyl, CDs, MP3s, streaming?

I'm a vinyl and CD gal. I exclusively play physical media on my show. I love the way I can change up my flow as the spirit guides me. I always bring much more music that I can possibly fit into two hours.

Tell us about your history as a DJ.

At U.C. Davis, a roommate who had a show on KDVS invited me to join her. She showed me the ropes and, after one mandatory training session, I was on the air. My first show focused on female artists of all music genres for the first half, and jazz of all stripes for the second half. KDVS had an amazing vinyl library, and the station had listening rooms, so I would spend hours combing through the collection, listening from A to Z. I titled my show "Roots to the Source," which was inspired by my discovery of Lester Bowie's LP, "From the Root to the Source." The music has many roots that dig deep down into the creative source. I featured the more adventurous artists, who were exploring new directions and sonic textures. This was during the time that so-called "smooth jazz" was gaining public attention—that was NOT what you would hear on "Roots to the Source!"

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