Local jazzers celebrate their new CD.
Thursday, May 4, 2000
Along Came Betty drummer Patrick Tregenza says it was a classic case of the tail wagging the dog in terms of his group''s decision to record its first CD, appropriately titled Along Came Betty.
Fresh on the heels of their warmly received opening night performance at the 1999 Monterey Jazz Festival, the band knew that in order to build on their success at the Jazz Fest and play similar high-profile gigs, they would need to lay down some tracks in the recording studio.
"We pretty much knew from the beginning that to get festival-type concert gigs, which is what we always wanted to get, we would have to have a CD," explains Tregenza.
What Tregenza and the quintet didn''t fully realize before they entered the studio was the wealth of original material they had developed since first getting together in the fall of ''98.
The band was formed to pay tribute to the classic jazz and be-bop tunes from the ''50s and ''60s, and the group''s repertoire included a mix of music from such masters as Horace Silver, the Art Blakey Band and Benny Golson, who penned the tune "Along Came Betty."
The group quickly became much more than a cover band, says Tregenza, as pianist Biff Smith started bringing his original compositions to rehearsal; tunes which soon formed the core of the group''s regular repertoire.
The result is an energized and sophisticated jazz quintet, and a CD that boasts nine Smith originals that are sterling examples of be-bop jazz at its finest--complete with slick arrangements, a dazzling horn section, and solid solo playing.
In addition to Tregenza on drums and Smith on piano, Along Came Betty features local jazz stalwarts Stu Reynolds on tenor and soprano saxes, Brian Stock on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Pete Lips on bass. Trombonist Matt Barclay is included on three of the new CD''s tracks.
For Biff Smith, a self-described "local guy" who also teaches at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, the new CD was a great opportunity to pursue his love of jazz composition and arranging.
"I''ve always been drawn to jazz, except when I was forced to take classical as a kid," says Smith, who cites Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, his "absolute favorite" Keith Jarrett, and Miles Davis as major influences. "No one had to make me practice after that."
For fans of the quintet''s first CD, Tregenza says don''t be surprised if there is a follow-up recording in the near future.
"The way Biff writes, we have half a CD already," notes Tregenza.
Along Came Betty''s new CD is available at Do Re Mi, the Jazz & Blues Co., and will be available at the Big Sur Jazz Fest. The group plays Sly McFly''s May 4 and the Kuumbwa Center in Santa Cruz June 16.