Xmas in August
CERTAIN TIMES OF the year lend themselves to visiting those posh foothills resorts. The November and December holidays are good because conventions are rare and the resorts are beautifully decorated and practically deserted. One of my favorite Christmas memories is watching the beginnings of a major desert snowfall on Christmas Eve at Loews Ventana Canyon while listening to a brass quintet.
August can be just as beautiful and the views are practically reserved for Tucsonans. Some, such as the Westward Look Resort, 245 E. Ina Rd., offer a beautiful city view of August evening storms while Ventana, 7000 N. Resort Dr., gives you a close up look at storms brewing over the Catalina Mountains.
I can't vouch for the music at the Westward Look Resort since they've changed from jazz to country music. While folks tell me the Ronstadt Cousins are good, in my book good country music is oxymoronic. (Country fans, please don't be insulted. I do hope to return in another life as a country music fan just to enjoy the vast comraderie.)
I can, however, attest to the talents of the band at Ventana Canyon. Vocalist Martha Reed accompanies herself on piano with Fred Hayes on the drums and Bobby Elias on bass every Friday and Saturday night from 9:30 to 12:30 p.m. in the Cascade Lounge. Depending on the crowd, they'll play jazz standards and bossa novas or pop tunes like "Beauty and the Beast" or "You Are Too Beautiful." If things really get hopping, they'll do "Hot, Hot, Hot" while conventioneers form a conga line. In August, with fewer conventions, they'll probably lean toward jazz. Reed, who has been a mainstay on the music scene for years is a doting suburban mother of toddlers with an admirable collection of maternity evening clothes. She deals with the kids all day and then sings all evening for conventions at the resorts. She even had the energy to organize a benefit earlier this summer that netted about three grand for the musicians who lost equipment in the Old Tucson conflagration.
Another longtime Tucson musician, pianist Peter McWhorter, has been holding forth at The Westin La Paloma, 3800 E. Sunrise Dr., for a few years. During high season he adds a horn player, often local tenor titan Jesse Tovar. But for the summer it's a piano trio in the Lobby Bar playing cocktail jazz ("Lush Life," "One For My Baby," "One Mint Julep" and "Scotch and Soda" --there certainly are a lot of standards about cocktails!). Outside by the giant pool, a completely different kind of trio plays jazz with a Caribbean flavor. Luis Torres, pianist and composer, is on bass. Fred Hayes, who can be found with Martha Reed drumming and singing on the weekends, plays steel drums and composer/arranger Howard Wooten is on guitar. The tourists frolicking in the pool have no idea that some major talent is playing under a tree, clad in white pants and flowered shirts. But what else is a full-time Tucson musician going to do Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Only once have I been able to escape the daily grind to sip and sweat while listening to the group. Take a daiquiri break with your office pals some sultry August afternoon.
Another summer jazz gig which did not make it into last month's column is Loren Nickel's group at El Charro's !Toma! Bar, 311 N. Court Ave., on Friday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. They play Latin jazz and standards on the mist-cooled patio. If you can't make it to the beach this summer, just go there and have a few Coronas, some chips and salsa and pretend the mist is a cool ocean breeze.
"Blue Monday" at the Kingfisher Bar & Grill, 2564 E. Grant Rd., has been very successful. With straight ahead groups like the Blue Monks and the Tom Ervin/Jeff Haskell duo, it hasn't been too "blue," but it has been drawing a good crowd. Who would have thought that a late night Monday music policy would work? Just be careful with those Matt Helm Blue Martinis and watch for little pearls in the oysters. (Trust me, I know.)
Promoters have been teasing me with promises of an Al DiMeola, Jean Luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke concert on Sunday, August 27. Watch The Weekly for more information on that one.
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