Dave Holland, Others Play The Hinterlands

Western Jazz Presenters Network funds tours for artists willing to veer from beaten path.

Taos, N.M., Hastings, Neb., and Golden, Colo., are not cities that name jazz acts — bassist Dave Holland, pianist Brad Mehldau and the group Trio 3, for example — generally get around to visiting.

But thanks to a nonprofit organization that funds artists willing to stretch their itineraries, these musicians are set to introduce their music to audiences in some out-of-the-way places.

The Western Jazz Presenters Network (WJPN) is giving presenters in several Western states and two Canadian provinces enough money to attract the jazz artists off their usual direct path from New York to California. The WJPN provides 30 percent of the artist fees, which amounts to about $8,000 for a 12-city tour.

"The challenge in the West is that everything is so far apart from major venues," WJPN Executive Director Yvonne Ervin said. "The larger cities are few and far between. What [the WJPN] does is enable people to bring in Dave Holland or Trio 3, who wouldn't normally be able to do that because of the money involved."

Holland and his quintet of saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, drummer Billy Kilson and vibraphonist Steve Nelson will hit 11 sites partially funded by the WJPN, including Hastings College in Nebraska and the Athenaeum in La Jolla, Calif. The WJPN will also give grants to six presenters for the Brad Mehldau Trio — bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Jorge Rossy and Mehldau on piano — and a dozen for Trio 3, comprising drummer Andrew Cyrille, saxophonist/flutist Oliver Lake and bassist Reggie Workman.

"I'm always very interested in going and bringing the music there and meeting the fans who have been listening to us on CD," Holland said. "There's actually in some ways a greater appreciation in those places because it's a rarer thing for them to be able to hear the music live."

Holland's latest CD, Prime Directive (ECM), contains the song "Make Believe" (RealAudio excerpt).

Artist And Audience

Since 1996, presenters ranging from the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, N.M., to the Monterey Jazz Festival in Northern California have received money from the WJPN to fund performances by artists such as pianist Chucho Valdés and trombonist Steve Turre. The WJPN will provide money for a tour that includes obscure locations and more established venues.

"Charles McPherson did a tour and we set up 27 presenters," Ervin said of the saxophonist. "He got in a van and drove all over the West. McPherson played one thing for the Bat Festival, they had a big Bat Festival because the bats were coming out of Carlsbad Cavern [in New Mexico], and he opened up the bat festival. He said that 'these people were looking at me like they've never seen a black man before.' There were people there who have never heard jazz in their lives and they loved it."

The results can be symbiotic. Not only do the audiences get turned onto new sounds, but the artists are changed by the new environments.

"Music is an art that is a reflection of the experiences of your life," Holland said. "So when you go to these places and you see these things, they have an effect on you. Eventually, inevitably, they get translated into the way you feel and how you feel comes out in your music."

Going It Alone

The WJPN was part of the nonprofit Western States Arts Federation from 1994–1998. Besides the work of the WJPN, WESTAF helped organize programs in Western states for literature, visual arts and folk arts. Funding came from the National Education Association and the Wallace-Readers Digest Fund.

However, when the Western States Arts Federation dropped the WJPN in 1998 because WESTAF felt it could help fund enough jazz performances through its own organization, Ervin and the WJPN decided to continue their work on their own. Fortunately, the Wallace-Readers Digest Fund gave the WJPN money to fund jazz performances until March of next year. Meanwhile, Ervin is searching for other funding sources.

The WJPN consists of 50 presenter members. If at least four members decide they want an artist to perform in their city, then the WJPN tries to raise the funds.

WJPN-funded artists' tour dates:

Brad Mehldau Trio

Oct. 15; Albuquerque, N.M.; Outpost Performance Space

Oct. 16; Santa Fe, N.M.; Santa Fe Jazz Festival

Oct. 17; Taos, N.M.; Taos Community Auditorium

Oct. 18; Golden, Colo.; Mt. Vernon Country Club

Oct. 20; Redlands, Calif.; University of Redlands

Oct. 21; La Jolla, Calif.; Athenaeum

Trio 3

Oct. 14; San Diego, Calif.; Spruce St. Forum

Oct. 15; Fresno, Calif.; Wahlberg Recital Hall

Oct. 16; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Kuumbwa Jazz Center

Oct. 19; Denver, Colo.; Cleo Parker Robinson New Dance Theater

Oct. 20; Albuquerque, N.M.; Outpost Performance Space

Oct. 21; Taos, N.M.; Taos Community Auditorium

Oct. 23; Tucson, Ariz.; Mat Bevel Institute

Oct. 24; Portland, Ore.; Old Church

Oct. 25; Seattle, Wash.; On the Boards

Oct. 27; San Francisco, Calif.; Herbst Theatre

Oct. 28; Edmonton, Alberta; Yardbird Suite

Oct. 29; Vancouver, British Columbia; Waterfront Theatre

Dave Holland Quintet

Oct. 19; Northridge, Calif.; Performing Arts Center

Oct. 21; Edmonton, Alberta; Yardbird Suite

Oct. 22; Santa Fe, N.M.; Santa Fe Jazz Festival

Oct. 23; Albuquerque, N.M.; Outpost Performance Space

Oct. 24; Taos, N.M.; Taos Community Auditorium

Oct. 26; Hastings, Neb.; French Memorial Chapel

Oct. 27; Vancouver, British Columbia; Vogue Theater

Oct. 28; Seattle, Wash.; On the Boards

Oct. 29; La Jolla, Calif.; Athenaeum

Oct. 30; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Kuumbwa Jazz Center

Oct. 31; Fresno, Calif.; California State University, Fresno

Nov. 1; Boulder, Colo.; Boulder Theater