Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Pablo Jazz Festival

I thought I’d start this blog with a story about the first jazz concert I ever attended.
I grew up in Lancaster, California. It was a small town in the Mojave Desert and located approximately 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It was 1975 and on the L.A. jazz radio station, KBCA 105.1 (later to be KKGO, later to be defunct), they were running commercials for the Pablo Jazz Festival. It was at the Shubert Theater in Los Angeles.
The festival was to feature Joe Pass [1929-1994], Oscar Peterson [b. 1925], Ella Fitzgerald [1917-1996] and Count Basie [1904-1984]! At the time, I was a 15 year old high schooler and a few months away from legal driving age. Fortunately, a friend of mine, fellow saxophonist Bruce Schaefer was also interested in going. Even better, he was a year older than me, and thus was a licensed driver. Thanks, Bruce, wherever you are!
We decided that since we were going all this way to attend the concert, we should go for the best seats possible. The top ticket price was $15, a princely sum to a teenager back then, but it was a small price to see such a line up. (Using the government’s inflation calculator, I found that $15 in 1975 has $53 worth of buying power today!)
The concert had several dates. We chose March 26, 1975, a Wednesday (it must have been spring break). It’s frightening to realize that it’s been 30 years already; where does the time go?
The concert turned out to be fantastic. I particularly remember Al Grey and Jimmy Forrest taking solos that stood out. Jimmy Forrest did a version of "Body and Soul" that I still haven’t been able to find a recording of.
Afterwards, it was time to collect autographs. Through some information from a musician friend of my mother’s, I was able to find out how to get backstage. I brought Count Basie’s "Evergreens" album since it was gatefold and had a lot of empty white space inside. I was able to get headliners Basie, Peterson, & Fitzgerald to sign. Additionally, I got lead alto Bobby Plater [1914-1982], trombonist Al Grey [1925-2000], Basie’s longtime rhythm guitarist Freddie Green [1911-1987] and Ella’s accompanist at the time, pianist Tommy Flanagan [1930-2001] (he was on Giant Steps!).
What a start!

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