Tenorman blows along the shore of the evening sunset in a faraway place, sounds like Africa. He hits so gently and ethereal in tone, allowing you to float along the sublime sensuality of his breath through a silver horn of grandeur and beauty. Slowly the birds chime in and the fish dance along the current of the waves of the rolling to shore. A ship calls from the distance to signal its coming and…
… You feel yourself transformed in body and spirit, magically whisked away as is only fitting and right at this time and place. It’s 8:47 p.m. and you’re counting your lucky (jazz) stars-1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8. Defined as “Brilliance in Harmony,” the SF Jazz Collective is jazz at its highest and in octet form, found for their final show at the Jo Long Theatre of the Carver Community Cultural Center.
On the evening of April 5, the auras of five countries filled the soulzzafying space to a new level, truly embodying the “multicultural and multiethnic” experience that Carver Executive Director Yonnie Blanchett said is the hallmark of the Carver’s creed.
“We strive to have a season that reaches all people, there is something for everybody,” Blanchett said. “We want to create an experience that our audience wouldn’t have elsewhere.”
Hospitality and a sense of community are very important to the Carver Center when performers come to visit. “I’ve been here since 2007 and I always go back and meet the artists personally,” Blanchett said. “I give them a lot of personal time, they feel like part of the family.”
A true testament to the environment that Blanchett and crew have established, the entire ensemble joined the audience after the show, spending twenty minutes fellowshipping and signing autographs in order to even more fully appease the appetites of all present.
“So many great players, the cream of the cream, the top of the top,” said baritone saxophonist Phil Fay, who came all the way in from Austin to see the performance. “They say that to be a master of something you must give 10,000 hours to the art. They have given way more!”
Dressed to the tens, a sharper more elegant style with laidback notes that define the same in him, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, hailing from Israel, wrapped up a spirited exchange with a KRTU jazz radio fan and spoke in humble ease of his partnership with the other seven.
“There are no ego issues, no one trying to steal the show,” Cohen said, his eyes the color of the music he so passionately displayed. “Everyone is secure in his own playing and everyone is an amazing instrumentalist.”
The interaction on stage with these musicians is, according to a Cohen, a reflection of the camaraderie that has been built over the course of the tour. “We get along so well, eight friends that are always together,” Cohen said. “When the show is over, we spend time together going out.”
“This ensemble celebrates different generations of jazz, old school and new school,” Zenón said. “Everyone brings their own experiences, there is no musical director.”
Zenón referred to the presentation of the music, which featured an introduction by a different member each song – usually a song they have added their own touches to. This performance featured charts by Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, as well as personal compositions from the musicians.
“Whatever chart we’re playing, we give everybody a chance,” Zenón said.
As the natural interaction and human element of conversation took over the space, Zenón revealed a sincere feeling about this concert, spoken with contrition and authenticity. “Here in San Antonio we’ve had one of the best interactions, a really great crowd,” Zenón said. “Such a great city and so glad to end the tour here.”
Carver Center Marketing and Communications Manager Teresa Vásquez-Romero connected the dots. “What the Jazz collective represents is what we represent – musicians from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, New Zealand, Israel,” she said. “We have a wide range of multicultural events in jazz, step, pop, and soul.”
A fortunate change in the schedule for those who missed out, the Carver Center will be hosting “Raisin’ Cane” this Saturday, April 12 at 8 p.m. Billed as a Harlem Renaissance Odyssey, the show stars award-winning actress Jasmine Guy with music by the Avery Sharpe Trio.
“What’s so fascinating about this performance is how it digs into the roots. She’s going back to the 20s when Harlem was at its peak,” Vásquez-Romero said. “She will explain the music, dance, everything that was happening.”
A testament to the class of the musicians employed by the Carver Center, Vásquez-Romero related the story of how the Avery Sharpe Trio came through despite Miss Guy’s last-minute cancellation from the original show. “The trio still performed for the youth’s matinee performance,” she said. “They adapted the score for the children.”
Blanchett echoed the sentiment of the community-based atmosphere created when world-class musicians enter the Jo Long Theatre. “Youth matinees are more interactive, performers will invite kids on stage to participate,” Blanchett said. “The Carver is such an intimate, unique space.”
Grammy-award winning bassist and multilinguist Esperanza Spalding graced the stage not too long ago, and felt so comfortable she kicked off her shoes and made herself at home. “She just relaxed, and had fun with the crowd,” Blanchett said. “People here get close to the audience, sign every album and poster and smile while they’re doing it.”
The Carver Community Cultural Center is always creating room for the community to interact and participate, as arts education is very important to their mission. “We have a 501(c)3 board that funds the Carver School of Visual and Performing Arts,” Blanchett said. “There are classes every Saturday from 9:30-11:30 a.m.”
The school branches out in many directions, such as African drumming, ceramics, and many forms of dance. “In the summer we have a three-week long dance camp for children, and they perform a professional show at the end,” Blanchett said. “We want everyone to benefit from the Carver.”
The Carver Community Cultural Center has three shows remaining for this season, including Raisin’ Cane – The Jasmine Guy” this Saturday, April 12, and the Jason Moran Fats Waller Dance Party, an all-day event on May 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The dance party will feature the piano prowess of Mr. Moran as he channels the vivifying spirit of the great progenitor on jazz piano Fats Waller. You may purchase tickets for all events through the Carver Center’s website, www.thecarver.org.
*Featured/top image: (SF Jazz Collective members from left to right) Robin Eubanks, Avishai Cohen, and David Sánchez belt it out on Herbie Hancock’s “And What If I Don’t.” Photo by Adam Tutor.