Wind in the Pines
Jazz flute legend Kenny Stahl brings a powerhouse quartet to his hometown.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Kenny Stahl was a musical gypsy until he was seduced by Monterey.
One of jazz’s finest flutists, Stahl spent two decades on the road, performing with pop and jazz stars such as Cal Tjader, Ira Sullivan and Stevie Wonder, never looking to put down roots. He came through Monterey for the first time to play a gig at the Hyatt, and decided maybe it was time tosettle down.
“I was just amazed at this place,” says Stahl, who is also accomplished on the alto and bass flute, piccolo and tenor sax. “I remember a famous musician who traveled all his life told me one time, you have to live somewhere. I found my little niche here.”
Stahl performs at the Jazz & Blues Company on Saturday with a world class quartet, featuring pianist Murray Low, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Eddie Marshall. Low is best known as a gifted accompanist well-versed in Afro-Caribbean rhythms, performing regularly with the powerhouse Machete Ensemble, which includes trombonist/arranger Wayne Wallace, timbales master Pete Escovedo and percussionist John Santos.
“Murray is one of the most phenomenal players,” Stahl says. “He’s helped me a lot with the Latin stuff. And he’s interpreted some of my compositions, particularly ‘Mariano,’ one of my best known tunes, a Brazilian bluesy piece.”
Drummond, one of jazz’s elite bassists, also has deep ties to the Monterey Bay area. He is often in the region to visit family and participated in the Monterey Jazz Festival’s education program. With his huge sound and propulsive sense of swing, the longtime New York resident is in constant demand as a sideman. He’s appeared on hundreds of albums (including more than a half dozen excellent sessions under his own name, mostly for the Arabesque label), including sessions with heavyweights such as guitarist Kenny Burrell, trumpeter Art Farmer, and tenor saxophonists David Murray, Benny Golson, Stan Getz and George Coleman.
Marshall is the dean of Northern California drummers, a supremely sensitive player who held down the drum chair at the storied North Beach jazz spot Keystone Korner throughout the 1970s. Over the years he’s performed and recorded with jazz legends such as Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson and Woody Shaw.
“Eddie was one of my first drummers at Kuumbwa back in the 1980s when I moved to the area, and we’ve worked together quite a bit over the years,” Stahl says. “But this is a reunion for Eddie and Ray. They first teamed up many years ago in the 1970s and I don’t think they’ve played since then.”
For the performance at the Jazz & Blues Company, Stahl says he’s drawing on his Chicago roots, focusing on blues and hard bop. An avid composer, he has developed an extensive book of original pieces.
“I’ve got some new compositions for this band,” Stahl says, “inspired by Murray, Ray and Eddie.“
Stahl notes that since moving to Monterey, he’s delved deeper and deeper into Brazilian music, inspired by two local musicians: percussionist Helcio Melito and pianist Weber Iago, who plays on his latest album, Tenderness for Christmas.
“I remember it all started when Weber gave me a book on choros,” he says, referring to the intricate instrumental Brazilian genre often compared to bluegrass. “I was just amazed. I stayed up all night practicing out of it. I was just intrigued by these compositions, which were influenced by Bach but more rhythmic. I started playing with Helcio and Weber and discovering what an incredibly prolific composer Jobim was.”
When he is not leading his own combos, Stahl works regularly with the melodically inventive guitarist Jeff Linksy and with gifted vocalist Shana Carlson.
Kenny Stahl plays Saturday at 7:30pm at the Jazz & Blues Company, in the Eastwood Building, San Carlos at 5th Street, Carmel. $40. 624-6431.