Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 3:25 pm | Fair 61º


Jazz Festival Gets Jumping, Jiving in Solvang

Trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez gets the festival off to an early start with a school performance

The Solvang Jazz Festival kicked into gear Thursday with a concert at Solvang School, featuring trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez and his Ensemble, who wowed the students last year.

About 1,000 youths from throughout Santa Ynez Valley poured into the gym at 1:30 p.m. to hear Rodriguez and his musicians. Rodriguez was expected to repeat his performance of last year, in which he played call-and-response with his trumpet and the students, exploring the many forms of jazz.

The festival is the brainchild of the Universal Guild for Jazz and Progressive Music, the nonprofit group that has presented the festival since 2007. For Thursday’s concert, the kids will represent grades 3 through 12, from Santa Ynez Valley elementary, middle and high schools.

Rodriguez’s format is to stand in front of his ensemble and call out to the kids such basics as “Which came first? That’s right, the blues,” followed by a solo on his trumpet. And on through the stages of jazz, from its origins with black slaves who brought the blues to the United States during its founding to the present day.

A leading light of the Friday-Saturday festival is Stix Hooper, who founded it and is president of the UGJPM. Hooper spoke this week about the principal aims of the festival.

“I’m glad to be back,” he said. “Our objective is mainly to educate and indoctrinate students in jazz, and give them an opportunity to meet jazz musicians. We have a competition for aspiring young musicians, and we hope to give them an understanding of the artistic merit in jazz.”

Hooper, a generally amiable veteran with years as a jazz artist, became a bit crisp when asked about music of the present, such as rap, on radio and recordings. “They call it the music industry,” he said. “It’s a product, aimed at making a profit.”

In contrast, Hooper said, true jazz has its roots in the blues and is a vehicle for talented musicians to find their voices. “It doesn’t perpetuate mediocrity,” he said. “It requires talent and dedication and a true repertoire. It’s the difference between what’s real and what’s manufactured.”

Hooper said he is a little surprised by the heat in Solvang this year. “I hang my hat in Kenmore, Wash.,” he said, laughing. “It’s not as warm as Solvang!”

Click here for detailed information about the festival, the competition winners and the featured professional jazz musicians, who include Kamasi Washington, Take 6, and Justo Almario and the Eugene Maslov Trio.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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