by Gary Fukushima
Fall in Los Angeles has become a notable time for jazz enthusiasts, thanks to what is now an annual tradition known as the Angel City Jazz Festival. Started in 2008 by jazz impresario Rocco Somazzi, the ACJF’s mission is to highlight some of the most creative and adventurous music currently performed in the world of jazz.
Over the years ACJF has been seeking out partnerships with many local arts organizations, including the LA Country Arts Commission, REDCAT, The Jazz Bakery, Orenda Records, our own Los Angeles Jazz Collective, and the Los Angeles Jazz Society. This last organization has played a unique and important role for the past several years for the festival.
Founded in 1983, the Los Angeles Jazz Society has long been an advocate for the continuation of the rich and deep tradition of jazz in Los Angeles, honoring the numerous historic musicians who have lived and played here, building bridges which connect their legacy to the young musicians who will define the jazz community in this city for the next generation.
In 2013, LAJS debuted a program called “New Note”, designed to support and promote the talents of young musicians in composing new works by commissioning an original suite of music to be premiered every year during the Angel City Jazz Festival. The compositions are meant to reflect and celebrate some aspect of Los Angeles and its surroundings. Recent recipients include alto saxophonist Josh Johnson and his homage to the photojournalism work of Gary Leonard during the 1992 Watts Riots, and bandleader/composer/drummer Jose Gurria, whose Gurrisonic Orchestra will debut his new work, Street Signs: A Love Letter to the Angel City, at the Ford Amphitheater for this year’s ACJF.
With the festival nearly upon us, the Los Angeles Jazz Collective is excited to have the opportunity to provide an encore performance by the very first and second New Note awardees, pianists and composers Richard Sears (2013) and Cathlene Pineda (2014).
Richard Sears currently hails from Brooklyn, NY, but his roots are buried deep in California soil. The Bay Area native lived in Los Angeles for a number of years, during which time he crafted relationships with an impressive short list of veteran players, including Mark Turner, Billy Hart, Azar Lawrence, Putter Smith, Roy McCurdy, and most importantly, Albert “Tootie” Heath. When Richard was asked to write his suite for the Angel City Jazz Festival, he turned to Heath as the inspiration for his writing, and the featured star of the ensemble that would perform the music. In what could be called a “Concerto for Tootie,” Richard wrote music that would feature the legendary drummer’s dual-strengths of functionality and imagination. Richard named the suite “Altadena,” after the Northeast L.A. area which has been home to Heath and many of his jazz contemporaries. We are delighted and honored that Tootie Heath will once again perform with Richard for this performance. http://richardsearsmusic.com/
Cathlene Pineda began her musical journey as a classical pianist, but always felt the pull of jazz and improvised music through her diverse group of friends at California Institute of the Arts and in New York while she finished her classical degree at the prestigious Mannes College of Music. Her infatuation with jazz eventually pulled her back to California, where she returned for graduate studies. Cathlene is now an accomplished performer/composer in Los Angeles as well as a sought-after educator, teaching on the faculty at Glendale Community College and for her own exemplary studio of piano and compositions. Her LAJS-commissioned work is Passing: A California Suite, inspired by the writings of Eloise Klein-Healy, Los Angeles’ first Poet Laureate. Cathlene released a recording of the suite in January of this year. http://www.cathlenepineda.com/
Both pianists are exceptional in their ability to coax unique and beautiful sounds and texture out of the keyboard, and they both have a knack for discovering inventive and fully-formed concepts in their writing and improvisations. Kudos and thanks to the Los Angeles Jazz Society and to the Angel City Jazz Festival for recognizing in these two the potential for some great works of art, and for making it possible for the music to be written and performed. We are certainly glad to be a part of revisiting these compelling pieces, the first two in what is an ever-growing catalog of locally-produced excellence in music and performance.