Rebecca Coupe Franks returns to the Central Coast.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
After eight years in Santa Cruz, jazz trumpeter Rebecca Coupe Franks decided last year that owning a house was more important than staying in a region she loved, which led her to New Paultz, a town about two hours north of Manhattan.
A gifted improviser whose recordings have featured jazz legends such as tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Buster Williams, Franks now says she is thriving on the jazz energy on the East Coast, even if she misses the laid-back Bay Area lifestyle she grew up with.
Franks returns to California on Friday for a weekend residency at the Monterey Hyatt, performing through Sunday with a quintet featuring house drummer Dr. David Morwood, guitarist Scott Sorkin and Los Angeles-based saxophonist Carol Chaiken.
“I loved Santa Cruz,” Franks says. “I was playing with the Brazilian band Sambada, and doing a lot of casuals. I was playing regularly and I did a lot more teaching in Santa Cruz. But it’s cheaper out here than living in California and I wanted to be on the East Coast for the energy. I wanted to come back and reconnect with musicians I knew out here, go into the city and hear music.”
Known as Coupe to her friends, Franks has quickly reestablished herself on the Gotham jazz scene. She’s leading two bands, a hard bop quartet that focuses on her imaginative arrangements of jazz standards, and the more populist Coupe & Her Groovemobile, a six-piece funk-oriented combo that featured the great guitarist Leni Stern (though she recently gave way to another fret master, Cheryl Bailey).
“I’d like to get that band out to the West Coast,” Franks says. “This new band is just a mixture of all these influences I have, Latin, soul, R&B, and I’ve been writing lyrics. This is the first time I’ve had a band singing my original material. It’s not that the music isn’t serious, but it definitely brings out my funner side.”
Growing up in Palo Alto, Coupe was almost destined to play the trumpet, as her mother, brother, grandfather and great uncle were all accomplished on the horn. She gained recognition early on, winning an award as a soloist at the Reno Jazz Festival and participating in the Monterey Jazz Festival’s High School All-Star Band with Santa Cruz-raised saxophonist Donny McCaslin (who appears on her 1992 album All of a Sudden on Justice Records).
Her latest album, Exhibition, is a loving tribute to her mentor, tenor sax great Joe Henderson. A quartet session featuring pianist Adam Schulman, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Sylvia Cuenca, who spent several years touring with Henderson, the album features Franks’ original tunes and arrangements inspired by Henderson, one of post-bop’s great composers.
She first met Henderson at a jam session in 1983. Impressed by her technique and presence on the horn, he immediately offered her lessons. Over the years they formed a close friendship, and he was generous with career advice and support. It was a role he played for several gifted young musicians, though he rarely called attention to his efforts as a mentor. Indeed, on stage Henderson often came across as shy and introverted, but to his friends he was a vivid conversationalist who thrived on long phone calls.
“He did all his talking through his music on the bandstand,” Franks says. “But he was very good at verbalizing exactly what he meant, telling stories, making me laugh. He had lots of opinions about things going on in the world. He gave me lots of encouragement. He never brought up me being a women player. He loved music, and he put everything he had into it.”
REBECCA COUPE FRANKS PLAYS 6PM FRIDAY, 6PM SATURDAY AND 11AM SUNDAY IN THE HYATT’S ATRIUM, 1 OLD GOLF COURSE RD. IN MONTEREY. ADMISSION IS FREE; SUNDAY BRUNCH IS $22.95. 372-1234.