Gualala Arts logo


Gualala Arts

Promoting public interest and participation in the arts since 1961.

Archive of past events: 2004 through 2014

  Fifth Annual   Redwood Coast Whale & Jazz Festival   Main Event

Montclair Women's Jazz Ensemble

Gualala Arts Center
Saturday, April 7, 2007

Doors open 6:30 p.m., Concert at 7:30 p.m.

Redwood Coast Whale and Jazz Festival

Redwood Coast Whale and Jazz Festival: Montclair Women's Jazz Ensemble Join us for hot jazz and cool ocean views on the coast!

The Main Event Jazz Concert at Gualala Arts Center will feature the Montclair Women's Jazz Ensemble with vocalist Rhonda Benin, selected from the Montclair Women's Big Band, and 11-year-old jazz flute sensation, Elena Pinderhughes.

This year, Saturday night's Main Event at Gualala Arts Center focuses on Women and Youth with the Montclair Women's Jazz Ensemble, six musicians selected from the Montclair Women's Big Band of Montclair, California. This group can swing mightily on standards and blues and also play tenderly on poignant ballads.

The ensemble includes Ellen Seeling (Director/Trumpet), Jean Fineberg (Tenor Sax), Mad Duran (Alto Sax), Lori Stotko (Piano), Jan Martinelli (Bass) and Mohini Rustagi (Drums). Joining the group will be jazz vocalist Rhonda Benin and special guest will be 11-year-old jazz flute sensation, Elena Pinderhughes.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for beer, wine and a martini bar along with savory and sweet tapas plates available for purchase. Limited open cabaret seating at 7:00 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 if purchased in advance or $35 the day of the event. Call Gualala Arts at (707) 884-1138 weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Visa and MC accepted.

Festival Music Coordinator and KTDE 100.5 FM personality Fred Adler will emcee the concert.

About the Artists

Ellen Seeling: Director/Trumpet

Ellen Seeling A consummate musician equally adept at jazz, R&B, Latin and pop/rock, Director Ellen Seeling has had a multi-faceted career as a trumpet player, composer, bandleader and educator. The first woman to earn a degree in Jazz Studies from Indiana University, the Milwaukee native moved to New York City in 1975. There she toured and recorded with a wide variety of artists including Laura Nyro, Machito, Luther Vandross, Ray Barretto, Sister Sledge, Chic, The Temptations, Latin Fever, Joe Cocker, Cornell Dupree, Isis, Ben E. King, Larry Elgart, Martha Reeves and many others.

Seeling also actively cultivated her jazz chops, performing with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, Slide Hampton, Paquito d'Rivera and the Paul Jeffrey Octet. In the early 80s, Seeling and saxophonist/composer Jean Fineberg formed the jazz fusion band DEUCE, recording their first album of original compositions in 1986 and their second, WindJammer, in 1996. Relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, Seeling continued to perform with DEUCE as well as Patti LaBelle, Phoebe Snow, Diva, Maiden Voyage, and local jazz, R&B and blues bands.

In 1998, Seeling and Barbara Price formed the Montclair Women's Big Band in an effort to provide visibility, performance opportunities and networking for the large Bay Area community of women jazz artists. The big band released their first self-titled CD in 2005, produced by Seeling, Barbara Price, Leslie Ann Jones and Jean Fineberg for the Pivotal Records Label.

Seeling also currently teaches at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, California, and served as jazz instructor for Pennsylvania State University, Indiana University, the International Women's Brass Conference, the Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival and the Young Musician's Program of the University of California, Berkeley.

The recipient of two RIAA platinum record awards, a National Endowment for the Arts award in Jazz Performance and two Meet the Composer grants, Seeling has also been profiled in several books on women jazz artists including Stormy Weather (Pantheon Books), American Women in Jazz (Wideview Books), Madame Jazz (Oxford University Press) and the recent Eden Built By Eves (Alyson Books). She serves as a consultant to the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Jean Fineberg: Tenor Saxophone

Jean Fineberg Assistant Director and tenor saxophonist Jean Fineberg is a native New Yorker with more than 50 albums to her credit. She has performed and recorded with David Bowie, Laura Nyro, Phoebe Snow, Patti LaBelle, Chic, Sister Sledge, Isis, The Larry Elgart Orchestra, Bo Diddley, and The Four Tops. Her international tours include performances at the Montreux and Pori Jazz Festivals with the renown Melba Liston ensemble, and a Carnegie Hall concert with Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry.

She co-leads the fusion band DEUCE, which has appeared nationwide at venues such as the NYC Kool Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival. DEUCE's two recordings feature her high energy original compositions, and her ongoing contribution of original big band charts continues to energize the MWBB's repertoire.

A recipient of two ASCAP Composition Awards, an NEA Jazz fellowship, and Meet the Composer grants, Jean is profiled in The Saxophone Journal (cover story), Stormy Weather, American Women in Jazz, Madame Jazz, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul (cover), For The Record, and Eden Built By Eves. She holds a Master's degree from Penn State University, and did post-graduate work with David Baker at Indiana University. Jean is currently a faculty member the Jazzschool in Berkeley, CA. and a panelist for the San Francisco Arts Council.

Mad Duran: Alto Saxophone

Mad Duran After 20 years of concertizing in Europe and all over the US, and co-leading ensembles with her husband / guitarist / mentor Eddie Duran, Mad Duran steps out on her own with her first CD as a leader entitled Lady Mad, Another Lester Person. The new CD featuring Mad on alto saxophone with an upper crust rhythm section, guitarist Eddie Duran, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Akira Tana.

Steeped in the jazz tradition, Mad is a lyrical, thoughtful, and inventive player with her own original sound. As a tenor player, Mad sounds similar to Stan Getz but retains her original voice. She has prepared herself for stretching the boundaries of jazz harmonies and prides herself on being the primary composer and arranger of her group, the Mad Duran Project. Mad utilizes her ability on all her instruments, and writes and arranges as for an orchestra. The combination of instruments in her group are flute/alto flute, tenor, alto and soprano saxes, trombone, vibes, guitar, acoustic / electric bass, drums and percussion. This combination makes for an interesting and wide tonal palate as a platform for her writing.

Mad takes great pride in being "first-call" in the Montclair Women's Big Band, under the direction of Ellen Seeling, and she goes on to explain, "I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to be part of history. I want to do whatever I can to position the female jazz artist into prominence. We have not been taken seriously, and it's time for a change. And what better way than by being part of the strongest female big band on the west coast?"

Lori Stotko: Piano

Lori Stotko Lori is a Bay Area pianist who currently works and plays contemporary big band jazz with the Foothill Jazz Ensembles and the Montclair Women's Big Band. She and her husband, bassist Stuart Nafey, created the duo, Redhouse Jazz, and she plays with various other trios and ensembles, including the Jazmin Trio, an all-women group. She has also played trombone since 1975 and performs in the Bay Area with various big bands and combos.

Stotko made the quantum leap from classical music performance to jazz in 1989. She originally studied classical piano at Northeast Louisiana University where, as well as competing and performing in young artist competitions, she spent time in various combos and college jazz bands. Her formal jazz training began in the Bay area when she hooked up with talented teachers such as Smith Dobson, Don Haas and Dick Hindman.

Jan Martinelli: Electric Bass

Jan Martinelli A native San Franciscan, Jan began playing instruments at a very early age, starting with piano, guitar and drums and finally choosing the bass. In her twenty-five year professional career, she's mastered a variety of musical styles with an emphasis on funk, jazz and Latin jazz. Jan has toured with dozens of bands, playing major festivals, performance halls and clubs around the country, and has more than twenty recordings to her credit. Some of the artists she has worked with are Terry Garthwaite, Larry Lynch, Holly Near, the Blazing Redheads, Mary Watkins, Robin Flower, Linda Tillery, Orquesta Once, Adriana Moreno, Mutama and the Tamarind Quintet.

Currently Jan plays bass for Wild Mango. Jan is an original member of Wild Mango, a seven piece World Jazz ensemble that tours nationally and internationally and has produced multiple releases. Wild Mango notable performances include the Aspen Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Barbados Jazz Festival, Smithsonian and they have opened for the Manhattan Transfer, Poncho Sanchez, and Joe Lovano.

Mohini Rustagi: Drums

Mohini Rustagi Mohini was raised in Birmingham, AL and moved to Palo Alto, CA in 1998. Both of her parents are musically inclined: her mother, Rashmi, is well-versed in classical Indian music and her father, Pradip, played bluegrass on a violin. She was a member of the California Youth Symphony Percussion Ensemble and the Gunn High School Jazz Ensemble and has since been a part of many jazz programs, including PAJA, SJSC, and the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

Her talent has been shaped by Bay Area legends George Marsh, Tootie Heath, and Howard Wiley. Mohini is currently pursuing a degree in Architectural Design at Stanford University, where she plays for the Stanford Jazz Orchestra. She can be heard in a variety of jazz groups all over the Bay Area.

Rhonda Benin: Vocals

Rhonda Benin Rhonda Benin has a voice described as sweet, sultry, like caramel sweetened with honey. Blessed with a natural singing ability at the age of 13 she began training with her choir director Blanche Laws McConnell, the eldest sister of Ronnie & Hubert Laws, in her home town of Los Angeles, CA. After years of school choirs, glee clubs and chamber chorales, Rhonda formed a jazz trio, called "The Sound of Soul" and entered a teen citywide competition called "The Battle of the Bands" and won the 1972 vocal jazz ensemble division. The Battle had given other LA teens like The Carpenters and Fatrice Rushen their start in the business, but Rhonda and her family felt she should earn her college degree first.

After earning her BA in 1976, Rhonda returned to music, found two singers, formed a trio and spent 5 years as a session singer working with noted artists and producers like Eddie and Brian Holland, Ronnie Laws, Stanley Clarke and Paul Jackson Jr. to name a few. Rhonda moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 after working with singer Maria Muldaur.

Listen to an
Interview with Rhonda Benin
recorded April 1, 2007

Fred Adler
"Coastal Interviews"

Fred Adler
KTDE 100.5 FM
Gualala, CA

In 1990 Bay Area vocalist Linda Tillery invited Rhonda to be a part of an experimental group called the Cultural Heritage Choir (CHC). Today, 16 years and 16 countries later, The CHC has become an internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble performing African American roots music. In 1997 CHC was nominated for a GRAMMY for their CD, Shakin a TailFeather, with bluesmen Taj Mahal and Eric Bibb. In 2001, the group released Say Yo Business, featuring Wilson Pickett, Richie Havens and Odetta. Rhonda also appears on other CHC recordings, Good Time, A Good Time, Hippity Hop and Front Porch Music. Rhonda has shared the stage with Al Green, Santana, Patti Austin, Janis lan, The Holmes Brothers, Jackson Brown, Hugh Masekela, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Baba Maal, Olu Dara, The Campbell Brothers, Habib Koité, and Rokia Traoré.

At home in the Bay Area, Rhonda began making a name for herself as a solo artist with many Bay Area bands. But it was her 12 year stint with Mal Sharpen's Big Money In Jazz Band which gave her visibility on the nightclub and festival circuits and led her to form her own band Soulful Strut in 1995. Soulful Strut has become a permanent fixture in the San Francisco music scene. "My band has been described as a jazz band drenched in soul with a solid helping of the blues." In 2006 Rhonda produced and released her first solo CD, A Matter of the Heart, classic mix of jazz, blues, and soul. Along with Rhonda's vocals, A Matter of the Heart showcases the best Bay Area musicians, pianist Tammy Hall, drummer Darrell Green, saxophonist Charles McNeal, guitarist Cedricke Dennis and Bassist Ron Belcher. The title song, written by Benin, features a classic vocal/bass duet with veteran musician, composer and music "guru" Harley White. For more information check the website

Elena Pinderhughes: Flute & Vocals

Elena Pinderhughes Elena Pinderhughes Flutist and vocalist Elena Pinderhughes is 11 years old. She has been studying jazz, Latin jazz, and classical flute for four years. She is a member of DC Berkeley's Young Musicians Program (YMP) and performs regularly with the YMP Junior Jazzers, the San Francisco Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble, and Catch 22, a group she founded with her brother, Samora, who plays piano and composes for the group. Catch 22's repertoire includes Brazilian bossa novas, Latin jazz, bee bop, straight ahead jazz, and original compositions and arrangements by Samora.

Listen to an
Interview with Elena Pinderhughes
recorded March 14 & April 11, 2007

Fred Adler
"Coastal Interviews"

Fred Adler
KTDE 100.5 FM
Gualala, CA

She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Yoshi's, Pearl's, Yerba Buena Garden Summer Festival, SF Grammy Awards Annual Meeting, SF's Brazilian Carnival, and many other venues. Through YMP, she has had the extraordinary opportunity to take week long seminars with many jazz greats including Frank Foster, Patrice Rushin, Rodney Whitaker, Herlin Riley, and Marcus Belgrave and to perform with trombonist Wycliff Gordon. She has studied with teachers in the United States and Cuba. In the U.S. her teachers have included: Donna Viscuso, Michelle Caimoto, Geechi Taylor, John Galloway, Ledine Osuki, Jim Meredith, Candice Johnson, and her brother Samora.

Her debut CD, Catch 22, is available through CD Baby. She is also featured on a jazz CD produced by the Young Musicians Program entitled Future Gold. She can be reached at

Earlier in the day...

Gualala Arts Center will host the fifth annual Chowder Challenge along with wine and microbrew tasting on Saturday, April 7 from noon to 3:00 p.m. The afternoon will also include New Orleans Traditional Jazz by Barnebey's Hot Four.

The $20 admission includes a commemorative Redwood Coast Whale & Jazz Festival beer or wine glass, plus 15 tickets that can be used for the chowder tasting, the wine and microbrew tasting, fresh-baked breads from local bakeries and other soft beverages. Patrons may purchase tickets for just the Chowder tasting alone, or additional tickets at $1 each.

The Redwood Coast Whale and Jazz Festival runs four days and kicks off Thursday, April 5 evening at Point Arena CityArt for Poetry & Jazz, with a jazz ensemble accompanying both local and guest artist poets. The Dinner & Jazz, Brunch & Jazz and Sunset & Jazz events hosted by local restaurants are returning by popular demand, along with Chowder & Jazz and the Whale and Jazz Festival Main Event, both at the Gualala Arts Center.

And what about the whales? There will be plenty of opportunities around the jazz events to observe the gray whale migration that passes Gualala heading north at this time of year. Point Arena Lighthouse offers exceptional spots to view the whales, as does Gualala Point Regional Park, and the film, Whales: An Unforgettable Journey, will be shown on Saturday, April 7.

The Whale and Jazz Festival is produced by Redwood Coast Chamber of Commerce and Gualala Arts, Inc. More information about festival events is available in Gualala Arts' monthly newsletter, Sketches, and at

Whale and Jazz Tote Bag
Check out the new
Whale and Jazz Tote Bag,
now available at Gualala Arts.

The Gualala Arts Center, located at 46501 Old State Highway in Gualala, CA,
is open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and weekends from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Please call (707) 884-1138 for more information, or email

Serving the coastal communities of northern Sonoma & southern Mendocino Counties.