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Tribute to Prentice “Pete” Douglas at Douglas Beach House

Bill Leikam By

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Tribute to Prentice "Pete" Douglas
Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, CA
October 4-5, 2014

In some ways, for all of us who time and again came to the Douglas Beach House in Half Moon Bay to listen to some of the finest jazz anywhere, the passing of Prentice "Pete" Douglas—the absence of the man who sat along the east wall sucking on his dead pipe, listening to the music, sometimes kicking his leg out when something in particular caught his fancy—left an empty space in the hearts of all. So, what do you do when such a passing crosses the stage of time? What do you do after fifty years of great music, driven by Pete's spirit, when it is gone? You tap into his musical soul and have a two day tribute to one of the most gifted men who ever produced live jazz, and built the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society at the Douglas Beach House into a world class venue.

For two days the gathering of newcomers and regulars who had been coming to the beach house for more than 40 years to hear jazz and classical music came together for two sold-out days of music. The musicians came not because they were being paid a handsome sum for their work, but because they honored and respected the late Pete Douglas. In one room of the beach house there ran a continuous video of interviews with Pete, the history of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and the beach house from its early days back in the 1950s when it was a simple little bar facing Monterey Bay, commentaries, and in the end, a beautiful look at its beginnings right up until the present. Sitting on the desk that Pete sat behind both on concert days and during the week, was a book at least four inches thick with photographs of many of the musicians who had played the Bach over the past 50 plus years.

Linda Goetz, Pete's personal assistant, opened both Saturday and Sunday's lineup. It was Goetz, the woman with unfailing strength who followed through on everything, the one person who was always at the door directing things, handling emergencies, and overall the one behind the scenes who made it all happen. Saturday's masters of ceremonies were Tim Jackson of the Monterey Jazz Festival and Kuumbwa Jazz Center and famed Clifford Brown Jr. of KCSM Radio. Sunday's master of ceremonies was musician Dawan Muhammad and KCSM Radio personality Jayne Sanchez.

Blue Note recording artist and trumpet master for Sun Ra, the legendary trumpet maestro Eddie Gale and his quartet led off the tribute on Saturday. Gale said, "Pete, we all salute you for such a great effort and the development of such a great venue recognized worldwide." They performed four numbers, the most well-known of which was Gale's "Children of Peace." The fourth number was an improvisational piece with David Leikam kicking the number off on the Steinway grand piano. He began with hard, sharp hits on the keys, then backed off into a soft, lilting mood, only to once again build it back up through a powerful crescendo that seemingly lifted everything in house. Such improvisation was appropriate, for Pete loved all kinds of music and he deeply understood the innate value of improvisation. Along with Gale was a young 14-year-old drummer that Pete would have loved to have heard. Douglas was devoted to young musicians. He often booked bands composed of young musicians who were just beginning to make their mark in the world. He not only enjoyed the newer strains of jazz but through these young musicians he believed that jazz would remain alive and healthy.

Downbeat Magazine has listed the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society as one of the top 150 jazz venues in the world. Musicians from all over the world have played there. A few of those performers who have taken that stage were Michel Petrucciani, Omar Sosa, Denise Donatelli, Poncho Sanchez, Art Blakey, Shelly Mann, Zoot Simms, Chris Conner, Tessa Souter, Wayne Shorter, Odean Pope, Ron Carter, Kendra Shank, Tony Williams, Geoffrey Keezer, the band called Oregon, Tierney Sutton, Bud Shank, and Charlie Byrd. The list is far too long to document here. The list of performers over the weekend was long and they were mainly from the San Francisco Bay Area jazz scene. Some of the notables were: Pete Escovedo and his band, vocalists Clairdee, Jackie Ryan, Nicholas Bearde, and George Cole, bassists Jeff Chambers and Marcus Shelby, saxophonists and Pete's longtime friend Pat Britt, and Mike O'Neil. The list was seemingly endless. Clairdee opened her set with, "What an honor to stand here. We are all a part of Pete's legacy." On Sunday, the tribute opened with the Mission Gold Dixieland Jazz Band who led a procession down the road paralleling the beach up to the Douglas Beach House where they played outside for some fifteen minutes and then went indoors to continue.

Such varieties of jazz and including a classical set with Richard Patterson and Stevan Pasero on two acoustic guitars. The two played an elegant version of "Georgia" followed by "Maleguena." These two masters of the classical guitar put a fresh edge to the rest of the weekend.

Finally, as everything wrapped, Mary Brill, a longtime volunteer at the Bach, said, "Pete would have loved it." And indeed he would have, and if many attending over the weekend have it their way, jazz and classical music will continue at the Douglas Beach House for many years to come.

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