Double-bill concert at Jackson Theater

Joey DeFrancesco Trio
with Troy Roberts and Billy Hart

And the Regina Carter Quintet

When: Saturday, June 8
Time: 7 p.m. (doors open at 6)
Where: Jackson Theater, 4400 Day School Place, Santa Rosa

Tickets: $75 | $55 | $45 (Reserved seating)
10% discount for members starting at Jazz Supporter
Event Patron: Thomas Sparks

With all he’s already accomplished in his 47 years, it’s perhaps not surprising that Joey DeFrancesco is striving for something bigger. He has already released close to 40 albums and played on 25 others. He has been gigging professionally since age 10, released his first record at 17, and right out of the gate attracted backup musicians like Illinois Jacquet, John Scofield, and Grover Washington Jr. As a teenager he went on the road with Miles Davis, and not much after formed a fierce trio with John McLaughlin and Dennis Chambers called The Free Spirits.

Joey’s keyboard skills have been called supernatural. He easily stands with the Hammond B-3 greats like Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff and hands down is the leader when it comes to organ jazz in the 21st century. When Joey hits the keys and steps on the bass pedals, what comes out of the speaker is sheer liquid fire. He’s not the only one in the band who meets that description, either.

The drummer, Healdsburg Jazz Festival habitues will be delighted to know, is none other than Billy Hart, the master musician who has performed at a dozen editions of the festival and in 2016 was the star attraction, playing in four bands he led or co-led going back to the 1970s. With a career beginning in the mid-’60s, Billy supplied the rhythm on literally on hundreds of records, including those of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, Paul Bley and far too many others to list.

Billy handled the kit on four Jimmy Smith albums starting in 1964, and also was the drummer on that Pharoah Sanders album Karma, so you can see why he and Joey were sort of destined to join forces. Their work together started in the ’90s, and the Bobby Hutcherson album they both played on, Enjoy the View, was nominated for a Grammy award in 2015. One reason they work so well together is that Joey is a volcanic player and Billy has the chops and experience to temper the energy and match it with his own.

The third member of the trio is an up-and-coming tenor player named Troy Roberts, a neo-hard-bopper who is right in the pocket with his two bandmates. What you can also expect from this show are the indelible melodies Joey has written for In the Key of the Universe, which mark out the album’s transcendent bent. Between the Joey DeFrancesco Trio and Regina Carter’s striving take on Ella Fitzgerald, music fans will not want to miss this Saturday night at the festival.


Regina Carter Quintet: “Simply Ella”

If Joey DeFrancesco’s lodestar is the universe, then so is violinist Regina Carter’s, but in her case, the universe happens to be a person. Namely, it’s Ella Fitzgerald. The transcendence that Regina and Joey both seek was unquestionably contained in the heart and soul of Ella. She was the cosmos, the force, the church and state, and when she opened her mouth to sing what came out was love. Regina’s show at Healdsburg, called Simply Ella – for which she will tap her recent album Ella: Accentuate the Positive – is a bit of a misnomer because what exactly is simple about Ella Fitzgerald?

Here’s one idea. Simple is the pure honesty with which Ella approached her music, whether the style was jazz, country, rhythm & blues, or pop. And this is where Regina takes her cue. She decided to interpret the music the way she feels it, and that means being true to Ella by being true to Regina’s own Detroit roots and the wildly eclectic career she has spun out of them, a career that spans straight-ahead and avant-garde jazz, Motown, funk, Paganini, paeans to the Deep South and Africa – and now Ella, the First Lady of Song. Along that 30-plus-year career path Regina established herself as one of the great violinists of jazz history and won a MacArthur “genius” grant.

So how does she do Ella? The first number, “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive,” sets the tone. As opposed to the upbeat major-key optimism embraced by Ella and virtually every other musician who has interpreted the tune, Regina sort of knocks it sideways with minor-key chord substitutions and a rock backbeat propelling intertwining swooping solos between her and the brilliant guitarist Marvin Sewell. It’s something like a fusion fantasia. Similarly, she takes “Crying in the Chapel” decidedly out of the chapel, making it aspirational in a more small-c catholic sort of way. It too is funked up, this time with a bed of Fender Rhodes keyboard chords undergirding pointillist guitar and a soaring solo by Regina that’s right on the melody.

And so goes the album, which could be viewed as a series of funky jams showing off the delicious talents of sidemen who will support Regina at Healdsburg, and who in some cases have been with the violinist for decades: Alvester Garnett on drums, Xavier Davis on keyboards, Marvin Sewell on guitar and Chris Lightcap on bass. Through it all Regina leads the way with a rustic woodsy tone that invites the listener in, rewarding us with intricate lower-register playing and high jumps into Stephane Grappelli Hot Jazz territory. To put it simply, Regina captures Ella Fitzgerald’s joy going in, and leaves her own joy coming out.

This night at the Jackson Theater will involve a lot of striving for things that may be beyond human comprehension. Chances are the audience will catch a bit of the stardust. After all, who else is it ultimately for?

Wine sponsors: Arbor Bench Vineyards, Landmark Vineyards and Miner Family Wines

Spirits sponsor: Don Julio and Ketel One