March 31, 2005
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On the cover: Saxophonist
performing at Redwood Coast Jazz Festival 2004.
Lower left: Julia "Butterfly" Hill, featured in a film
to be shown during the Humboldt International Short Film Festival
Time: Weekend of Jazz, Week of Films
Journal focuses on Humboldt County's cultural life. We
offer a preview of Eureka's 15th annual Redwood Coast Jazz
Festival, a weekend full of music (and not just jazz), alongside
a look at another event with an even longer history. The 38th
annual Humboldt International Short Film Festival takes
place next week, bringing visiting filmmaker judges and dozens
of films of all sorts (all of them short) to Arcata. Add in the
monthly Arts Alive!, Saturday in Eureka, and you have
a week full of art, music and movies.
All that jazz
-- and more
As the Redwood
Coast Jazz Festival heads into its 15th year, it is a far cry
from the Dixieland festival of 1990. "I would say it's evolved
to be more diverse musically," said Brenda Steinberg, executive
director of Redwood Coast Music Festivals, the organization that
runs the jazz fest and Blues by the Bay.
Steinberg, who started out as a
volunteer five years ago, explained that "it started out
with mostly `trad' -- traditional jazz -- and we've tried to
broaden the lineup, adding swing and zydeco, trying to do a blues
night, that kind of thing."
officially marked the shift in the range of musical styles two
years ago by dropping the word "Dixieland" from the
name of the festival. Appealing to a wider demographic is basically
mandatory since trad jazz aficionados tend to be older. Some
of them, as Duke Ellington put it, "don't get around much
trying to appeal to a broader audience," said Steinberg,
"trying to have more that interests the locals. At the same
time we're still focused on bringing people in from out of the
area. There's a whole core of people who are trad jazz fans,
and there's a circuit of jazz festivals so that they can travel
from festival to festival, following the musicians that they
like and having that experience. We're still drawing those people."
The acts booked
in specific venues are arranged at least in part to accommodate
the trad fans -- the music at North Coast Dance and the Red Lion
Hotel generally sticks to hard-line Dixieland and ragtime.
other venues we try to break it up a bit. We'll put the swing
bands in the places with good dance floors like the Muni or the
Adorni Center," Steinberg said.
The truth is,
you'll find a little bit of Dixie at any of the festival's seven
venues this weekend. You'll also find people dancing to swing
music, western swing and Gypsy swing, along with Cajun tunes,
bluegrass and plenty of music that strays far from jazz.
for people who love to dance," Steinberg concludes. "The
festival really does give you three days of nonstop dancing."
The jazz fest
kicks off tonight, Thursday, March 31, with the "Big Band
Dance" at the Adorni Center featuring the swingin' sounds
of Stompy Jones, a jump blues combo out of San Francisco formed
in the late '90s when retro-swing was making waves with trendy
youngsters. While it's not a free event, this is one of just
a few events not requiring a festival pass.
Another is the festival's free
opening ceremony, previously held at the Bayshore Mall, which
moves to the Eureka Theater this year. It gets under way at noon,
Friday, April 1, with Dixieland music by the Virginia-based Buck
Creek Jazz Band and a swing dance demonstration by Rhythmically
Don't miss Buster
Keaton's classic silent comedy, Sherlock Jr. with a live,
jazzy score provided by our own Humboldt Ragtime Band. The film
runs three times at the Eureka Theater: Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday
at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon. The local ragtimers also join Ivory
& Gold, an outfit from Mystic, Conn., examining the pre-Dixieland
"roots of jazz" starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the
Red Lion Hotel.
Those who love
Cajun rhythms and zydeco might want to hit the official "Mardi
Gras party" in the Simpson Tent (at Sixth and G streets
in Eureka) Saturday night starting at 7 p.m. with longtime festival
favorites Gator Beat, followed by fiddler Tom Rigney and Flambeau,
and the Blue Street Jazz Band, all playing Mardi Gras sets. The
excellent local Cajun band, Bayou Swamis, could well have been
included, but they were not. You can catch them at the Adorni,
Saturday at 1 p.m. (in between Gator Beat and Flambeau) or at
the Muni on Saturday at 5:30 where they play just before the
festival's "special guests," bluesy singer-songwriter
Jackie Greene and headliner, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. (See
story on Dan Hicks below.)
is actually bringing his band to town, but Hicks would rather
not follow an electric band, and since he included a clause in
his contract to that effect, Greene will perform a solo set at
Those who want
to hear Jackie with his full band can catch his 4 p.m. concert
at the Eureka Theater. You might want show up at the Eureka early
to see the 1 p.m. Sherlock Jr. screening, then stick around
for a set by the fine local Gypsy swing band, Cuckoo's Nest,
just before Greene and company.
The final day of the festival,
Sunday, April 3, begins with morning hymnals in three locations:
Blue Street Jazz Band and the Humboldt Harmonaires sing and play
at the Muni for free. A festival pass is required for hymnals
at the Simpson Tent with Night Blooming Jazzmen and at the Eureka
Theater, where Igor's Jazz Cowboys join forces with the Arcata
Interfaith Gospel Choir. All three performances begin at 9 a.m.
venerable Dixielanders, the Hall Street Honkers, are among the
first to play Friday (3 p.m. at the Red Lion) and on Saturday
(10 a.m. at Club West) and they will likely be the last to play
Sunday, when they return to the Red Lion for their old 4 p.m.
Sunday slot. The Honkers had a regular gig at the hotel for 12
years, but lost it a few months ago when, as banjo player Jim
Piehl explained, "We were replaced -- by a big screen TV
and a sports jersey -- they're a sports bar now." The sports
bar becomes a jazz hangout once again this weekend and the Honkers
invite all of their old friends to return for another evening
of dancing -- and all that jazz.
For more information
about the jazz festival call 445-3378 or go to www.redwoodjazz.org.
return of the Hot Licks
W hile you would not necessarily
call Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks a jazz band, Mr. Hicks is certainly
a jazzy guy, and he has always instilled his catchy acoustic
tunes with elements of jazz.
"I'm hard to categorize,"
said Hicks, 63, speaking by phone from his home in Marin County.
"The categories don't cover me. We play all kinds of things.
If you have a radio station that says, `Oh, yeah, we play everything,'
then I get to be on that station."
Hicks began his musical life
as a sixth-grader drumming in the school band in Santa Rosa where
he was raised. "And I was in the high school marching band,"
he recalled. He also played big band tunes in the school dance
band. "My high school band teacher helped me get into jazz.
We'd do jam sessions at noontime: He played piano and we had
a bass player. He was a good mentor."
When he graduated from Montgomery High in 1959,
rock `n' roll was going strong, but he says he preferred swing
music. "I liked Benny Goodman better than I liked Ricky
A few years later, as the '60s
turned psychedelic, he found himself attending San Francisco
State, living in the city. "By that time I was playing guitar,
playing around the city, doing my folk thing; I'd go to hootenannies
and stuff. I had a few actual gigs playing all kinds of different
folk tunes, "San Francisco Bay Blues," a few of my
own songs, but not a lot, maybe one or two. I was a folknik."
A short foray into rock came
when he met the members of The Charlatans, a bluesy outfit in
the Haight-Ashbury district that needed drummer.
Was he a hippie? "If I
had to put a label on it, I go more for hipster. I guess I might
have been in the hippie movement there: I had long hair. I was
in a rock band, one of the bands that played the halls. I took
LSD. I smoked a little bit of marijuana. I lived right on Haight
and Ashbury. I don't know, maybe if it walks like a duck But
hipster is more like it."
Playing drums with The Charlatans
afforded him a few opportunities to present his own material
and he still performed solo gigs. "I had my single act thing
going with a guitar and eventually I expanded that. I added bass
and violin, then added the girl singers, then another guitar.
I thought of it as a folk act."
The band -- which included Halimah
Collingwood, now of Arcata -- borrowed elements of Gypsy jazz,
a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli's Hot Club of Paris,
adding jazzy swing-style vocal parts to add color and body to
original, often sardonic songs penned by Dan.
"I liked it better than
The Charlatans," said Hicks. "I could sing lead, I
was writing my own songs. I could hear the singing; it wasn't
a loud thing. Ralph Gleason [music critic for the San Francisco
Chronicle] wrote a good review at one point when I did kind
of a debut in the city. So I decided to get out of The Charlatans
and go with the Hot Licks thing."
The timing was good. Music fans
of the day were open to new sounds. And it was a period when
San Francisco rock was a hot commodity. "Big companies were
coming in signing groups. It was the happening thing. Epic Records
showed up with a couple of guys. They saw us perform and arrangements
were made to be on that label."
The eponymous Dan Hicks and
His Hot Licks was recorded in Los Angeles in 1969. More albums
followed after a switch to the Blue Thumb label. The band was
going strong, but Hicks was not happy.
"I was tired of being a
band leader. Personalities started getting kind of bitchy. I
felt like I'd created a monster, so I just said this thing is
over with. `That gig we have in Sacramento next week, that'll
be our last gig,' I said. That's what happened."
Hicks hit the club circuit again
almost immediately, playing with a smaller all-male group that
eventually took the name Dan Hicks and the Acoustic Warriors.
"People always wanted to know `Where were the girls?' and
all this stuff. It didn't stop [even though] I think I played
a lot longer with the Acoustic Warriors than I did with the Hot
Then, around the turn of the
century, he agreed to revive the Hot Licks. "I had a friend
who knew this guy who had a record company. I guess he was a
fan of the Hot Licks when he was a kid; now he owns a record
company, the Surfdog label. He kind of talked me into using the
girls again, using the name, Hot Licks, again. I balked at it
at first. I'd kind of been there, done that. I thought the Hot
Licks means a certain personnel, but not really -- it could be
anyone. So I put it together slowly, tried a couple of girls
for some local gigs. I always liked the full sound with the girls
and that instrumentation. I guess I warmed to the idea -- and
I kept going."
In 2001, the revitalized Hot
Licks released Beatin' the Heat, a mix of old material
and new with cameos by Bette Midler, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Waits
and Brian Setzer. That was followed by a live disc and a DVD
recorded on his 60th birthday with just about everybody he'd
ever played with taking turns on stage. His most recent album,
Selected Shorts, is a collection of new Hicks songs written
with the same ironic attitude as his work from the '70s, this
time with guests including Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett.
It's hard to say whether or
not he is glad to be playing with a reborn Hot Licks band. His
dry humor is hard to read over the phone. "People associated
me with the Hot Licks name all the time, so I didn't really have
too much trouble going back to the name," he said. "It's
my name anyway. I'm doing some of the old songs, of course. And
I'm doing new stuff too, that's for sure. They're good songs,
so why not?"
FILM FEST hits
Now in its 38th year, the Humboldt
International Short Film Festival is the oldest student-run festival
in the world. Each spring Humboldt State and the Minor Theatre
become an underground cinema enclave, from unconventional workshops
with renowned independent filmmakers to the Best of Festival
night, where developing filmmakers from around the world -- many
of them students -- show avant-garde short films on the "big
screen" and vie for festival awards.
Eccentric, provocative and sometimes
just plain strange short independent animations, experimentals,
narratives and documentaries will be shown nightly at the Minor
next week, April 4-9, culminating with the judges' favorite film
submissions on Saturday night.
Mark F. Tattenbaum, a New Yorker
who grabbed HISFF honors in 2002 for his film Views from a
Gas Mask, is back this year with a short experimental called
The Minotaur. Following his win three years ago,
Tattenbaum, 51, went on to earn master's degrees in theater and
media studies from State University of New York at Buffalo. He
said that his win in Humboldt played a big role in his acceptance
to grad school.
"I have very strong feelings
about the importance of this festival and how it has positively
influenced my life," Tattenbaum said. Presently, he is working
on a Ph.D. in American Studies.
In all, 167 short films were
submitted this semester. HSU film students whittled the entries
down to the 70 best films, or 15 hours of footage. Early next
week, three festival judges will choose award winners and narrow
the field further, selecting the best four hours to be screened
for Best of Festival night on Saturday, April 9. Two hours' worth
of student favorites that were not selected by the judges will
screen on Friday, April 8, for People's Choice night.
Local festival entrant Bowen
Comings is hoping for Best of Festival honors on Saturday. His
digitally animated short about shelter and nature called Building
a City was among the top tier of student picks this year.
Comings, an HSU graduate, created
his 3-minute film on a home computer, adding a soundtrack that
he played on guitar. As for future aspirations, the 24-year-old
Arcata resident said that he is torn between following a career
in filmmaking or music.
"I really like animating,
but it's very hard work, very tedious work. Playing music in
front of people is instantly rewarding," Comings said.
Considering his two most recent documentaries are
about tree-sitting and marijuana, San Francisco's Doug Wolens
[photo at left], is likely to have a captive audience in Arcata.
His 1996 film Weed examined the superfluous praise American
tourists had for the cannabis culture in Amsterdam during a pot
contest there. In Butterfly, which screens Thursday night
at the Minor, Wolens follows Julia "Butterfly" Hill's
stint aloft a Palco-owned redwood. Wolens, 45, conducted interviews
with Hill from the branches of Luna, and back on the ground with
other, more conservative-minded Humboldt County folks including
"Climber" Dan Collings. "I don't tell people
what to think with this film. People who love [Hill] leave the
theater saying, `That's why I love her.' People who hate her
leave saying, `That's why I hate her,'" Wolens said.
- o -
The fact that her experimental
documentaries do not screen to mass audiences does not bother
Naomi Uman. [photo
below right] In fact, she prefers
it that way. "I am not an entertainer, I have nothing to
sell," Uman said in a phone call from her home in Mexico
City. In fact, her most recent work, which she described as a
video diary, is so intense that she will only show it to four
people at a time. "Rather
than the number, I am interested in having people who will invest
time and effort into the viewing. It is not a passive experience,"
she said. Uman, 42, will screen five of her films at the Minor
on Tuesday, including Removed, a soft-core porn film from
the 1970s that she found while working as a projectionist in
New York. To manipulate the meaning as well as the look of the
film, Uman literally removed the image of the female actress
using nail polish on the film emulsion. In Leche, Uman
documented the life of a close-knit Mexican family on a dairy
farm. The follow-up to Leche is Mala Leche, in
which the members of the same family relocate to California's
Central Valley. Uman's Hand Eye Coordination and Private
Movie will also screen at the Minor.
- o -
"Found" footage is not hard to
come by, according to Craig Baldwin; [photo at left] you
just have to know where to look. Sometimes that means a dumpster,
a thrift shop, or a library. Baldwin, 53, pieces together various
bits of old 16mm found footage, often educational in nature,
to make a cohesive political statement. He calls the end product
a collage essay. "What I do celebrates a richness of visual
culture, but within those parameters I express my opinion and
commentary on the issues of the day," he said. On Wednesday
Baldwin will screen Spectres of the Spectrum, a film made
of sci-fi footage from the 1930s-'70s that is something he calls
a compilation narrative. The concept is unique, perhaps unmatched.
Baldwin has woven together a series of different characters and
scenes from found footage to represent one main character and
one central narrative. "It's about articulating ideas with
the materials at hand, not the width of your screen or the number
of pixels," he said.
for listings of festival workshops and film screenings.
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