(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) Jazz In Blue Jay had a rather inauspicious beginning: a local jazz trio and five chairs in a parking lot. That was back in 1991, under the foresighted leadership of community leader and businessman Pat Welsh. August 21 marks the debut of the 17th annual musical event, formerly known as The Blue Jay Jazz Festival.
Leading off this summer’s series will be trumpeter Carl Saunders and his sextet Thursday, August 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Blue Jay.
Saunders, a Los Angeles area stalwart, auditioned for, then joined, one of the legendary jazz bands, the Stan Kenton Orchestra right out of high school, spending 1961-62 on the road as a member of Kenton’s well-known mellophonium section.
Saunders’ resume continues to impress, his stints including appearances with classic singers Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, plus the bands of Benny Goodman, Harry James and Charlie Barnet.
The following week, organizers feature the Latin Soul Jazz sounds of multi-instrumentalist Scott Martin and his sextet at Blue Jay. Thursday, August 28 from 6-9 p.m. audiences will be treated to one of the strongest Latin-soul-jazz performers in America.
With 10 of the band’s recordings to his credit, the composer, arranger and multi-reed player has also performed over the years with countless bands including those of Ray Charles, Tito Puente, Chick Corea, The Temptations, Barry Manilow and Mongo Santamaria.
The blues sounds of Southern California’s King Brothers, Lee and Sam, will highlight the Thursday, September 4 installment of Jazz in Blue Jay. From 6 to 9 p.m. the cousins of blues great Freddy King will bring fans their “new standard” of blues. “It’s danceable,”
says Lee King, “it’s rock-flavored, funk-flavored, gospel-flavored. I don’t know a damn thing about picking cotton; I don’t drink whiskey; and I don’t dip snuff. I don’t fit any of those blues-man stereotypes. We just dig it for the art form, and we’re taking it where it needs to go.”
All three shows are above Rite Aid in Blue Jay Village on Highway 189. General Admission is $15.00. Tickets will be at the door or available by calling (909) 337-7253.
Saturday September 13 marks a special presentation, Blue Jay’s “Jazz by the Lake,” an in-home performance at a Lake Arrowhead estate featuring the 14-year-old Rim High School student Olivia Clark, the vocalist recipient of the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation’s first music scholarship. She’ll be appearing with 17-year-old jazz violin sensation Antonio Pontarelli, who, at 13, was the Grand Prize winner of “America’s Most Talented Kids.”
Fontana-born Clark is from a musical family where she was raised on the sounds of Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck.
Her $1,500 “Keeping Jazz Alive” scholarship is earmarked for music instruction and materials, funded in part by a generous grant from Maria’s Studio of Music and Voice in Lake Arrowhead and, according to festival organizers, “is based on artistic potential, financial need and academic achievement,” adding, “Olivia will benefit from ‘selective’ professional training to enhance her remarkable raw talent.”
The Mission Statement of the nonprofit Blue Jay Jazz Foundation states an objective clearly: “To foster and expand a greater awareness of jazz in all its forms by bringing the finest local, national and international jazz musicians to the San Bernardino Mountain communities of Lake Arrowhead, Blue Jay, Crestline.”
For details on the Jazz in Blue Jay or the Jazz by the Lake performances, phone (909) 337-7253.