All together now | June 20, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 20, 2008

All together now

Diverse sounds and styles unite as young and seasoned musicians converge at the Stanford Jazz Workshop

by Rebecca Wallace

Of all the questions an audience member could ask a musician, this one doesn't leap to mind: "Have you ever had internal bleeding?"

Keith Terry got asked that question twice while performing recently in Iceland. He laughs, thinking about it. "No, as a matter of fact, I haven't."

Terry does take a beating when he performs, but it's a gentle pummeling. He's a body musician, making sounds by drumming on his chest, rubbing his palms, stamping, clapping, slapping and sliding. Props such as toilet plungers (pop!) and garden shears contribute to the clamor.

When Terry performs with his Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble, which he'll do at the Stanford Jazz Festival on June 28, other musicians and instruments join the show, blending their sounds, singing voices and dancing. "Everyone contributes in creating the program," Terry says. "We each have our expertise and bring it to the ensemble and teach pieces to each other."

That quote could also describe the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Now in its 37th season, the popular institution creates a musical community each summer, with its festival of performances, educational programs for young musicians, and informal jams in the Stanford Coffee House.

This year, the festival starts Friday, June 27, with a performance by the Terence Blanchard Quintet; trumpeter Blanchard is a New Orleans native who wrote and performed the score for Spike Lee's 2006 Hurricane Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts." The last show is Aug. 9, by the Fly trio — tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bass player Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard — with guest tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman.

As in previous years, the show lineup also includes a range of moods classic and contemporary. This summer's music will be spiced with bebop, Afro-Caribbean sounds, story-telling songs, R&B-inspired ballads, blues, Middle-Eastern influences, Brazilian music and other flavors.

"The great umbrella of jazz includes many different styles and genres. We want to make sure that a little bit of everything is represented the best we can," said Jim Nadel, founder and executive director of the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

The workshop also has a tradition of bringing seasoned jazz musicians together with up-and-coming players. Many musicians who began as young students in the educational programs return over the years to teach and perform.

For instance, drummer Bill Stewart plays Aug. 3 with bassist Grenadier (himself a program graduate) and guitarist John Scofield as the Agosto Trio, and then on Aug. 6 as part of the Wycliffe Gordon Sextet. Stewart was a student at Stanford Jazz a few years back.

"I remember him hanging out with Dizzy Gillespie at our workshop when he was a teenager," Nadel said.

The Stanford Jazz Workshop started as a jam session in the Stanford Coffee House in 1972, when Nadel was a recent Stanford graduate looking for a way to continue his music education.

"There were a lot of small clubs and occasional larger concerts when we started, but...the jam session was sort of in decline in the early '70s, as compared to when music was evolving so much in the '40s and '50s," Nadel said. "So I had a jam session, and that was a great way to bring the community together. Then I invited everyone who played to come back the next night and bring their favorite records and talk about songs we might play the next week."

The Monday-night jam became a regular occurrence, followed by Tuesday-night get-togethers playing records and hanging out. It took off from there.

These days, Nadel typically plans a summer by starting with an educational focus; he thinks about one or a couple of artists he'd like to have come teach, and then starts adding other musicians who would work well or contrast with them. Then he starts putting together "interesting combinations" of Stanford Jazz faculty and other musicians to perform in the evenings.

This year, Nadel started with the Fly trio. To complement the group's contemporary approach to jazz, Nadel added legendary bassist Richard Davis, who has played with such luminaries as Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra and is on Eric Dolphy's 1964 Blue Note recording "Out To Lunch!" and Van Morrison's 1968 "Astral Weeks."

Davis, who has never played at Stanford Jazz before, will be at Stanford for a week teaching and interacting with other musicians. He's set to perform Aug. 4 with bebop master pianist Barry Harris, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, drummer Donald Bailey and other guests.

The next night, in contrast, "you'll hear Davis in a completely modern setting," playing with bassist Grenadier, drummer Ballard and pianist Jason Moran, Nadel said. "These are totally different contexts, and that's one of the things that's fun about our program. There are some magical things that happen."

Several vocalists are also featured in the festival lineup, including Bay Area native Mary Stallings, who first made a name for herself in the '60s; festival regular Dena DeRose, who is also a pianist; and Sandy Cressman, who has a broad repertoire of Brazilian music.

In general, Nadel says, the audience for jazz is aging, so he's always trying to attract fresh faces. This year, tickets to all concerts in Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium, where many of the shows happen, are $5 for people under age 18. The discount is also available for adults accompanying the youngsters (up to five people per group).

There are also two free Early Bird family concerts intended to introduce kids to jazz, with sessions for youngsters ages 1 to 7 and those ages 8 to 12. Keith Terry and his Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble will play on Saturday, June 28, at 10 and 11:15 a.m. Jim Nadel — himself an alto saxophonist — will play with a host of other musicians on Saturday, July 12, at 10 and 11:15 a.m.

Terry says he loves working with children and often brings audience members up on stage to join in the show. Body music is a very old form that has been explored by many cultures, he says: American slaves who weren't allowed to have instruments, for example, or saman dancers in Sumatra who work clapping and slapping into their movements.

The show at Stanford will also have a wealth of instruments, including congas, the cajon drum from Peru, bass harmonica, and banjo. "It's a very rowdy show," Terry said. "It's very interactive."

What: The Stanford Jazz Workshop features a festival of performances, educational programs for young musicians, and informal jams in the Stanford Coffee House.

Where: Performances are in Stanford University's Dinkelspiel Auditorium and Campbell Recital Hall.

When: Concerts begin June 27 and continue on weekends through July 20, and then every day through Aug. 9. Dates for the Coffee House jams are June 23, June 30, July 7 and July 14 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., and then go from 10 p.m. to midnight July 21-24, July 27-31 and Aug. 3-7.

Cost: Admission varies; jam sessions and Early Bird family concerts are free, while other concert tickets range from $10 to $40 general admission, with some discounts available for students, children under the age of 18, and adults accompanying kids.

Info: Go to or call 650-736-0324.


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