There are as many types of jazz as there are regional styles of pizzas. Born, as many claim, in New Orleans, the jazz sound trickled down and found its way to the hard bop of New York, the fluid bebop blues of Kansas City jazz, the cool jazz (but not quiet storm) in San Francisco and other parts of the West Coast, and then later to the wild and free improvisational meccas of Chicago, Toronto, Sheffield and Tokyo.
Proponents of the Houston jazz school arrive in Ventura for two nights at My Florist Café, courtesy of the burgeoning, tireless efforts of Houston expatriate and jazzer Christopher Jones. The axis of the weekend’s appearance consists of Danish jazz flautist Joe Peine (“a drunk who has played with everyone in the business,” Jones promises), vibraphonist and Pacific Rim habitué Mike Mizma, teacher and trumpeter Pat Brink and Jones himself on bass, joined by My Florist house pianist Bob Selvin and Rex Harte on drums.
It’s the first serious manifestation of jazz in Ventura County (besides Davey Miller’s recent soirees at Charline’s, Café Fiore and Andres) — even if only for two nights, since the late lamented jazz salons produced by Jeff Kaiser. And the Houston sound isn’t just the deep-fried Texas boogie of ZZ Top or the gangsta rap monstrosities of the Geto Boys; it’s encouraging to realize that there is, in fact, another school of jazz, literally, beyond the big cities like Chicago and New Orleans. Names ring out from Texas Southern University, for example: Ronnie and Hubert Laws, Kirk Whalum, Arnett Cobb, Clark Terry and Jimmy Ford. Sitting in on the My Florist open jam will be players from UCSB, Pepperdine and UCLA. So just what is it that makes today’s Houston jazz so different, so appealing? Christopher Jones, in conversation:
VCReporter: In what way does Houston jazz differ from that of, say, New Orleans or Chicago?
Christopher Jones: The Houston sound is more toward a blues with a backbeat on the 3 [of the bar]. This differs from the straight-ahead 4/4 beat. New Orleans jazz would have a more flowing feel, and almost toward gospel and cakewalk dancing, like Dixieland or the Jelly Roll Morton sound. The Chicago sound is more on the 2.
VCR: What’s the jazz scene like on the West Coast in general, and in Ventura in particular?
It seems like the Ventura scene exists more for the club owner. That’s common in a lot of cities. To my dismay, some Ventura clubs have mentioned to me that they needed a Top-40 sound and set list so as just to “please” an audience. Clubs like My Florist and Candlelight want to support jazz, but the musicians have to bring the audiences, instead of the audiences of jazz — usually intellectuals — finding and supporting the music and musicians.
VCR: Why is jazz so often paired with eating?
True jazz is not a dining experience. It’s not like buying artwork to match your couch or dining room table. Recent hurricanes have inspired a movement of great and historic jazz musicians to move to Houston from New Orleans, but Houston, being one of the youngest thriving metropolises in the world since the 1920s, is moving from a predominantly country-western music market to jazz, and is rapidly growing up. Jazz is all about experiencing an art form. It’s a way of understanding and knowing about the world through the painting of sound, a story being told, an aural codex of sorts. It’s not just something to be simply entertained by, or something to dance to at a bar, and not something to quaintly eat to in the background, but instead about the telling of stories.
Friday, Nov. 20, through Saturday, Nov. 21, 9 p.m. Free at My Florist Café, 76 Oak St., Ventura. 653-0003, www.myfloristcafe.com.