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35 years of Jazz in Santa Cruz, California Celebrated through Jazz Alley Mural


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Santa Cruz, California's Kuumbwa Jazz Center has grown from its small beginnings to one of the most highly respected jazz-presenting institutions in the country, attracting artists of national and international renown. In 2010, the venue turned 35 and celebrated by helping to commission Jazz Alley, a 80-foot-by-12-foot mural depicting five famous jazz artists, but not the usual suspects that have been immortalized on similar murals throughout the world.

The artists were chosen by Kuumbwa Jazz as musicians that have been regular visitors to the venue over its 35 year history. The larger than life musicians include: bassist Christian McBride, guitarist John Scofield, violinist Regina Carter, trumpet player Roy Hargrove, and singer Betty Carter. Kuumbwa Artistic Director Tim Jackson said the five artists were chosen for their individual connections to Kuumbwa. “We wanted them to be ethnically and gender diverse, “ Jackson said. “But, really more than that, the most important thing was that they had significance with Kuumbwa. And, in each of these cases, we consider these particular individuals part of our family at Kuumbwa. With the exception of Betty Carter, who was already an established star when we started and who died in 1998, we felt we kind of grew up with these artists."

The mural was painted in 19 days by Santa Cruz artist Marvin Plummer. Plummer's two tone painting style was adopted from the famed 40s & 50s Blue Note jazz album covers that were printed in the duo-tone style. To give people a sense of the time it took to complete the mural from start to finish, Plummer created a six-minute time-lapsed video of the entire process which can be viewed on : YouTube.

This spring, Kuumbwa Jazz teamed up with the Santa Cruz City Redevelopment Agency and City Arts Commission to envision the new mural, leading to the famed, if somewhat hidden, jazz venue. “This mural project is a gem and it brings distinction to the area," said Santa Cruz City Councilwoman Lynn Robinson. “It's an iconic piece with an iconic institution." While jazz aficionados throughout the world know Kuumbwa to be a top-tier jazz venue, many of its closest neighbors down the street have never noticed the unassuming building couched in a small parking lot between the Bagelry Café and Poet & Patriot Irish Pub.

Kuumbwa Jazz is an internationally recognized nonprofit cultural institution known for it's excellent sound, intimate room, and enthusiastic audience. Established in 1975, Kuumbwa Jazz is one of the longest-standing nonprofit jazz presenters on the West Coast. Kuumbwa Jazz also provides critically important music education and enrichment to young people.

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