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Jazzing up the scene

Reprinted with permission from The Bakersfield Californian.

Jazz, one of America's native contributions to the art world, has been reduced to a struggling wheeze by today's musical tastes. This is unfortunate.

Aside from the fact that it is fun to play and to hear, the music provides a beneficial emotional release and is a profound stimulant to creativity. It's therapeutic.

One stalwart who is not ready to retire the art form to some dank museum shelf is Cal State Bakersfield's jazz instructor, Doug Davis. He keeps the beat alive with his "Jazz Coffeehouse" sessions, held four times a school year on the campus. The public is invited.

One such session is scheduled Saturday night at the college cafeteria, beginning at 7:30. In addition to the music, the audience is treated to plates of cheese, crackers and fruit. Also available are wine, soft drinks and coffee.

The Coffeehouse sessions, now in their fifth year, originally were held in a room behind Dore Theater. Their popularity, however, necessitated moving to the larger confines of the cafeteria. More than 400 attended the last session.

The Coffeehouse sessions are primarily a showcase for Davis' students, for whom he has high regard. The "gig" also draws talent from throughout the community, including high school and Bakersfield College musicians who seize the opportunity to play in a relaxed atmosphere and format.

"We'll probably do around 25 tunes during the evening, eight of which will be original compositions by my students," Davis said. he has high praise for the composing talents of students Mac McClanahan, Dave Heywood and Cam Weckerley.

The jazz will be mostly traditional, which means most people can recognize the melody.

Past sessions have drawn big names in the jazz field, such as Chick Corea and his group, and Toshiko Akiyoshi and husband Lew Tabackin of the big band sound.

Money raised from the sessions ($4 general admission; $3 for students) goes back into the CSB jazz program to buy equipment and finance recording. The musicians who participate receive nothing other than the exhilarating pleasure of playing the music they love with others who feel the same.

If you're looking for a different night out and one that doesn't require a second mortgage to finance, you might consider the "Jazz Coffeehouse." Help Doug Davis keep jazz alive, and have a good time, too.

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