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Gualala Arts

Promoting public interest and participation in the arts since 1961.

Archive of past events: 2004 through 2014

  Sixth Annual
Redwood Coast Whale & Jazz Festival

Arena Rhythm 'n Jazz
A Motown Jazz Soul Revue

Arena Theater
Saturday, April 12, 2008

Doors open 7:30 p.m., Concert at 8:00 p.m.

Redwood Coast Whale and Jazz Festival logo

A Motown Jazz Soul Revue at the Arena Theater with Rhonda Benin and Calvin Tillery lead vocalists, Tammy Hall piano, Jean Fineberg tenor sax, Charles McNeal sax, Cedricke Dennis electric guitar, Ron Belcher bass, Marlon Green drums, with extra added attraction 13-year-old LaTonya Short vocals.

Set I: The Norman Whitfield Jazz Suite arranged by Tammy Hall includes instrumentals interspersed with vocals and includes such legendary numbers as "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "I Heard it on the Grapevine," "Papa was a Rolling Stone" and "Just My Imagination."

Set II: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell duets sung by Calvin and Rhonda, plus Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson songs sung by LaTonya and a dynamic Junior Walker set with the entire ensemble. Dancing!

Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. with the show starting at 8:00 p.m. There will be a beer and wine bar. Tickets are $30 if purchased in advance (or $5 more at the box office, if available). Tickets are available online at, or at The Sea Trader and Four-Eyed Frog Books in Gualala, The Record in Point Arena, and Tangents in Fort Bragg.

Festival Music Coordinator and KTDE 100.5 FM personality Fred Adler will emcee the concert. Special thanks to Coldwell Banker Pacific Real Estate.

Jazz Artists: Lead Vocalists

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.

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

Calvin Tillery: Vocals

Calvin Tillery For nearly two decades, Calvin Tillery has embodied excellence with an unlimited range of vocal versatility. He is considered one of the Bay Area's premiere vocalists, covering the spectrum of R&B, Blues, Smooth Ballads, Gospel and/or Funk.

During his high school years, he held the lead singer role for an award winning gospel group called "42 Voice Ensemble." This group embarked upon a 10-country European tour accompanied by Martha Wash - "Two Tons of Fun", Melvin Seals, Elvin Bishop and Victor Willis - "Village People."

He recorded his first hit in 1976, while touring with his renowned cousin Linda Tillery for the Coke Escovedo Classic. He recorded five albums with Bill Summers & Summer Heat for Fantasy and MCA Records. This produced two R&B hits named "Call It What You Want" and "Jam The Box."

Additionally, he has countless lead and background hit recording credits, and his silky vocals have added depth to albums by Johnnie Lee Hooker, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, and Narada Michael Walden. He has toured and shared the stage with Carlos Santana, Teddy Pendergrass, the Gap Band, Boz Scaggs, Ray Obiedo, Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis and Harvey Mandel to name a few. His personality is part of his appeal -- Calvin has a warm and friendly stage persona with lots of positive energy.