PICTURED: Aubrey Logan opens the Ventura Music Festival on July 23 at 8 p.m.

by Mike Nelson

When the Ventura Music Festival resumes with live performances July 23-25, there will be none of this “Let’s ease into our return to normal.”

Not with Aubrey Logan as the opening night performer.

“Hopefully,” smiles the jazz singer-trombonist dubbed “the Queen of Sass” by her fans, “it’s 90 minutes of, ‘Put on your seatbelt and don’t blink!’”

In the first place, this Washington-born, Boston-educated and now Texas-based performer — who opens the Festival July 23 at Pacifica High School Performing Arts Center in Oxnard — doesn’t do “normal.” Logan’s high-energy style is matched only by her high-caliber musicianship that earned her the jury’s first place award at the 2009 Shure-Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and a golden ticket (pass to the finals) on American Idol.

As a featured artist for Postmodern Jukebox and the Dave Koz band, Logan has also worked with Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Josh Groban, Smokey Robinson and Patrice Rushen. She has earned praise for her eclectic array of original songs and interpretations of standards.

Her newest collection, appropriately named Standard, ranges from “American Songbook” staples (“Fascinating Rhythm,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street”) to 1960s and ’70s pop hits (“The Beat Goes On,” “Dreams,” “MacArthur Park”), all of which Logan embraces with a contemporary spice that compels the listener to take notice.

“Aubrey truly makes you stop in your tracks,” says Koz. “With such a communicative voice and style, and a great sense of musical adventurousness, there’s really no emotion she can’t tackle musically.”

Improvisation rules

Not bad for someone who took up trombone at age 13 primarily because “all my nerdy smart-kid friends were in band, and I wanted to be with them,” she says. That was in middle school near Seattle, where her mom was a choir teacher and urged the band director to include Logan, who could sing and read music.

“Fine,” the band director said, “as long as it’s not the flute.”

Logan’s dad, a high school administrator and also a music lover, brought home brass and wind instruments for his daughter to try. “I chose the trombone,” she says, “because I could make a sound with it.”

String/vocal trio Time for Three performs on July 24, 8 p.m. Photo submitted

Before long, Logan was making sounds strong and sweet enough to take her to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Though having played, sung and experienced a variety of musical genres, she focused on jazz.

“I didn’t want to be confined to the notes on the page, as you are in classical,” she says. “And I’m naturally drawn to improvisation, as well as pop. When I grew up, my folks played Carole King, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and bands with big brass sections like Chicago. That was a big influence on me.”

“And,” she continues, “I love to perform. My first job was playing Mary in a production of The Secret Garden when I was 10 or 11, and I got to sing, dance and act. And I saw how everyone had a great time. That’s the feeling I’ve always wanted to leave the audience with through my performance.”

Now based in Austin, where she lives with her husband, software developer Chris Knight, Logan — when she’s not performing — spends time at the gym and is able to indulge in her passion for barbecue, preparing smoked meats, stews and Texas chili. But music remains her first love, and after more than a year of pandemic-mandated idleness, she is more than ready for the Ventura Music Festival.

“My hope,” she says, “would be that you expect lots of laughter and lots of tears, because hopefully my music makes you take yourself not too seriously, and yet bawl your eyes out in the feelings we all share in life with love, loss and laughter.”

Italian classical guitarist Andrea Roberto performs on July 25, 3 p.m. Photo submitted

Performance schedule

The 2021 Ventura Music Festival (VMF) will host three live performances at Pacifica High School’s Performing Arts Center in Oxnard. In addition to Aubrey Logan on July 23 (8 p.m.), the artists include:

—Time for Three (July 24, 8 p.m.), a string/vocal trio who perform a unique array of Americana, modern pop and classical music. 

—Andrea Roberto (July 25, 3 p.m.), Italian classical guitarist and winner of the 2019 Parkening International Competition. 

“I think people are eager for live music and to gather together again,” says Richard Reisman, VMF board president, “especially when they can do so safely. The 2021 festival is planned with that in mind, together with presenting the world-class music for which VMF is famous.”

To assure “maximum safety and peace of mind,” this year’s festival is a 100 percent-vaccinated event, says VMF executive director Susan Scott. “That means artists, crew, audience, staff and volunteers.” 

Ticket prices range from $15 to $70 and are available at www.VenturaMusicFestival.org through a “simple two-step process,” explains Scott. Buyers first upload proof of vaccination for each ticket-holder, after which a second link takes them to the ticket site. For assistance, call the VMF Box Office at 805-648-3146, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday.

The Ventura Music Festival takes place July 23-25, with all performances at the Pacifica High School Performing Arts Center, 600 E. Gonzales Road, Oxnard. For schedule, tickets and more information, visit venturamusicfestival.org