Celebrating Jazz in Healdsburg:
We thought that it would interesting for all of us to look back over the great musicians that have come to our tiny town here in the heart of wine country. We hope you enjoy the look back even as we get ready for the best Festival ever – the next one!
Year 1: June 3 – 5, 1999 The first Healdsburg Jazz Festival seems small in retrospect, but it was a big event in this then-sleepy town. Big stars headlined, with Higgins performing a solo concert as well as backing the other performers, and film historian Mark Cantor made his initial apearance. The first Sunday finale was held in the Healdsburg Plaza. And it was free.
It started with Raven Theater Jazz Night at the Movies, followed by the Bobby Hutcherson Quartet with Cedar Walton, Tony Dumas and Billy Higgins the next night. On Saturday afternoon, we witnessed an afternoon with Billy Higgins in solo concert, again at the Raven, with the Cedar Walton Quartet with took center stage that night. Sunday afternoon brought our first finale, a free concert in the Plaza with the Cannonball Sextet, Tacuma King with the Children’s World Music Workshop, muc to the delight of Healdsburg residents and vistitors.
Our second year opened was again just one weekend long, opening with a gala dinner at Villa Chanticleer. For the first time we put on a concert at Rodney Strong Vineyards, featuring the legendary Pharoah Sanders and George Coleman. Many of the names and faces that have become familiar to Healdsburgundians showed up, including Billy Higgins, George Cables, Fred Hersch and Charles Lloyd, with the first appearance of local guitar prodigy Julian Lage.
Wednesday, May 31 Villa Chanticleer Pre Festival Gala Dinner and Concert Fred Hersch solo piano Thursday, June 1 Raven Film Center Jazz Night at the Movies with Marc Cantor Friday, June 2 Small Raven Theater Fred Hersch and Jane Ira Bloom Duo Saturday Afternoon, June 3 Rodney Strong Vineyards George Coleman Quartet with Harold Mabern, Jeffrey Littleton and Victor Lewis Pharoah Sanders Ensemble with William Henderson, Jeffrey Littleton and Billy Higgins Saturday Evening Raven Theater (large) Von and Chico Freeman Quintet with George Cables and Victor Lewis. Sunday, June 4 Hot Jazz Brunch with Greg Hester Quartet at Belvedere Winery; Geyser Peak Winery Picnic Area Tacuma King and the Children’s World Music Workshop Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring John Abercrombie and Billy Higgins with special guest Julian Lage
Year 3: May 30 – June 3, 2001
This year’s Festival was to honor percussionist Billy Higgins but he unfortunately passed away in just weeks earlier. We redirected the festival as a tribute, but felt his engaging spirit with us the entire time. It was a long weekend full of highlights, including the Gala dinner at Trentadue Winery in Geyserville, our first Latin Jazz concert at Rodney Strong with Jerry Gonzales and Pete Escovedo, a special tribute to Lester Bowie in film and music, and a rare appearance by all three Heath Brothers, as well as a full set of drummers in honor and celebration of Billy.
Wednesday, May 30 Trentadue Gala dinner and concert with Don Moye, Craig Handy and Ray Drummond Thursday, May 31 Raven Film Center Jazz Night at the Movies With Mark Cantor Friday, June 1 Renee Rosness Trio with Billy Drummond and Peter Washington Saturday, June 2, afternoon Rodney Strong Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band Pete Escovedo Orchestra Saturday, June 2 Raven Theater Ray Drummond Quartet with Craig Handy, Rob Schneiderman and Billy Hart Tribute to Lester Bowie in Film and Music With Don Moye, Amina Claudine Myers and Arthur Blythe Special Film about Lester Bowie created for this event Sunday, June 3 The Heath Brothers, Jimmy, Tootie and Percy with Jeb Patton Billy Higgins Sextet (lead by Harold Land with Chuck McPherson Jr. replacing Billy) Harold Land, Oscar Brashear and George Bohanon and Jeffery Littleton. Festival Finale – Full set of drummers honoring Billy Higgins. Don Moye, Tootie Heath, Billy Drummond, Steve Barrios, Jerry Gonzalez, Myron Cohen
By the fourth year, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival was well integrated to the summer schedule of the wine country. The new Hotel Healdsburg became part of our festival by hosting several events, and we roped Felix & Louie’s on the Plaza into a couple shows as well. Once again the finale was held in the Healdsburg Plaza, with a well-received concert with Babatunde Lea and other Bay Area favorites.
Pre Festival Event May 27 Jazz Cinema Under the Stars with Mark Cantor May 31 Randy Weston African Rhythms – Solo Piano Recital Raven Film Center Friday, May 31 Hotel Healdsburg Lobby Jeff Pittson Trio with John Wittala and Deson Claiborne Saturday afternoon, June 1 Rodney Strong Vineyards, Triple Bill: Julian Lage Group with Art Hirahara, Todd Sickafoose and Alan U’Ren Curtis Fuller Super Band with Louis Hayes, James Williams Jackie McLean with Cedar Walton Trio with David Williams and Albert “Tootie” Heath Saturday, June 1 Felix and Louie’s Eddie Marshall Quartet with Ron Stallings, Jeff Chambers and Leonard Thompson Sunday, June 2 Jazz Brunch at Felix and Louie’s Mark Levine Trio with Peter Barshay and Alan U’ren Sunday, June 2 Plaza concert Babatunde Lea Quintet with Richard Howell, Angela Wellman
For the first time the Festival ran a full week, with jazz diva Abbey Lincoln headlining the finale — held at Rodney Strong on the final Sunday for the first time — along with a top flight of stars of the art form. James Newton brought a quartet, Bobby Hutcherson hung with George Cables and Ray Drummond, Joe Lovano played with his lady Judi Silvano and the Mary Stallings Quartet reigned at Quivira. Julian Lage, John Heard, Khalil Shaheed, Angela Wellman and Billy Hart were some of the other performers at the Fifth Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival.
Driven by legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes, then 79 years young, the Festival roared into the summer with saxmen Kenny Garrett and Frank Morgan, piano virtuosos Geri Allen and Fred Hersch, vocalists Carmen Lundy and Kim Parker (daughter-in-law of Charlie), and the always-welcome return of Charles Lloyd, playing a sold-out Raven Theater appearance with percussionist Zakir Hassain. Regulars John Heard and Billy Hart were on hand as well, and the usual appreciative wine country audience.