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Roof blown off Jazz Coffeehouse

by Hugh McIntosh
Reprinted with permission from The Bakersfield Californian.
Mac McClanahan plays the flute

Doug Davis and the Cal State Bakersfield Jazz Ensemble blew out the back end of the Jazz Coffeehouse with a dynamite performance.

It was the last of five sets, and the number was called "Supreme my Holdings (Greater yet my Need)," an emotional, violent piece written by Davis.

"This is not a nice song," said CSB music professor Davis when introducing the number. "Strange things happen, and one of them is going to happen to you right now."

Strange it was to hear pianist Davis sing - wail might be a better word - the poem. Trumpeter Mike Raney and saxophonist Mark Meyer joined with an equally unmelodic chorus, adding to the eerie feeling.

Passion in the number grabbed the audience, and they loved it.

"Supreme My Holdings" stood head-and-shoulders above other program numbers, which included smoothly performed, finely written charts by well-known jazz greats and relatively unknown composers from the Bakersfield area.

Trumpeter Ken Bausano interpreted "God Bless the Child," by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, in a relaxed, expressive way. Bausano and Meyer played a fast, frenetic, delightful performance of Dizzy Gilespie's "Bebop."

Mac McClanahan, from Bakersfield College, blew a good baritone saxophone in his composition, "Melvin's Morning Coffee," a peppy, happy piece that came off strong with the help on CSB trumpeter Dave Heywood.

"Katwalk," probably the newest song on the program, was written by BC pianist Cam Weckerley following a jam session before last March's Coffeehouse. It raced tightly along, creating a high-strung mood and featured electric bass guitarist Vince Chafin, with Weckerley jumping between piano and electric keyboard.

Debbie McCreight opened a set of vocals with a soft and sensual rendition of Phoebe Snow's "No Regrets." She moved into a brassy, hearty mood as the pace of the song increased. IT was impressive. However, the speed and high range of the next two songs seemed to overwhelm her voice.

The Jazz Ensemble is an amorphous group of musicians built around pianist Davis and a core of polished jazz players: Bausano and Raney on trumpet, Meyer on saxophone, Ernie Cervantes on drums and Glen Fong on electric bass guitar.

"Anybody that wants to can play in it," Davis said. Students from Cal State Bakersfield, Bakersfield College and West High School as well as musicians from the community took turns playing in the ensemble from set to set.

Some numbers and performances are so-so. But Davis has mixed the musicians in the ensemble and arranged the music in the program to blend the Coffeehouse into a smooth, entertaining concert.

The next concert will be June 9 in the CSB cafeteria, a switch in location to accommodate the standing-room-only crowds that have filled the Arena Theater during the last three Jazz Coffeehouses.

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