Whale and Jazz Main Event
Jazz violin with vibes and accordion:
unique matchup, memorable concert
By J. Stephen McLaughlin
Independent Coast Observer
May 2, 2014
Saturday night's Main Event of the 11th Annual Sonoma-Mendocino Whale and Jazz Festival was a unique, dynamite evening that brought big, club-quality jazz to the intimate, redwood-nestled Gualala Arts Center.
Festival Music Coordinator Fred Adler built his program with a dynamic quartet fronted by Danish violinist Mads Tolling, backed by Dave Mac Nab, guitar; Sam Bevan, bass, and Eric Garland, drums.
To that solid act, Adler suggested adding Rob Reich, accordion, and invited Tommy Kesecker to bring his vibraharp back for an encore performance at the Whale and Jazz festival.
Each year, Adler spotlights a festival youth discovery, and Gualala audiences have gotten in on the "ground floor" of several excellent young jazz musicians' careers over the years.
Since Tolling is on the staff of the California Jazz Conservatory, Adler asked him to suggest a candidate. Though the famed jazz school in Berkeley includes only the finest young musicians, Tolling said pianist Lucas Hahn was far and away the most outstanding prospect.
Tolling was right. At age 14 (how did such a young person get his requisite 10,000 hours of practice?), young Hahn splashed off dazzling solos, including a great rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk." But he also had the hands of a pro, dropping in just the right chords with impeccable timing during solos by other members of the big ensemble.
Kesecker's blur of mallets on the vibes was spectacular, and he also brought out the ethereal side of the instrument, sometimes stroking the ends of the bars with the handle of a mallet for a non-percussive, floating sound.
Though Kesecker had never before played with Tolling on stage, their vibes and violin duo of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" was spellbinding as they locked eyes in the musical exchange.
Tolling was very generous with solos for all the players, and the Gualala audience was appreciative of every turn.
Their encore, Chick Corea's fascinating and complex "Spain," brought the Whale and Jazz Festival audience to its feet -- again.
© 2014 Independent Coast Observer, Gualala, CA
Reproduced with permission