The Hum: Redwood Coast Music Festival ~ 5/9-11


As you may or may not remember, 29 years ago the Redwood Coast Music Festival was known as the Redwood Coast Dixieland Jazz Festival. The transition happened slowly, first by adding what was considered “alternative” bands to an all traditional jazz lineup. A couple of other things happened when Deborah Lazio was handling booking. (I have to admit, I don’t remember the exact sequence.)

Big name non-jazz acts were hired as headliners, and a spin-off outdoor blues fest, Blues by the Bay, was added for Labor Day weekend. 

While BbtB was popular, especially with the baby boomer demographic, it lost money, and was discontinued a few years ago. (Acres of Blues is trying keep that spirit going at Redwood Acres, but that’s a story for another day.)

While there’s still an audience for Dixieland, its old fans are dying off, and the fest had added more pure swing, zydeco and R&B acts, basically all sorts of acts, like at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. At some point “Dixie” was dropped and for a few years it was known as the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival. In 2014, “jazz” was dropped from the name, as blues became important to the lineup and Western Swing was added. Redwood Coast “Music” Festival was born.

At this point it seems like the RCMF has completely merged with Blues by the Bay. The big name acts come from the blues world and you can go to the fest and hear no “jazz” at all, if that’s what you want to do. Really, with music in six venues, there’s too much to choose from.

My blues loving friend deejay Good Rockin’ Derral Campbell is afraid he’ll have a heart attack from a blues overdose. “Oh geez this lineup is stuffed with virtuosity and fun. It’s gonna be time for some very tough calls. Little Charlie’s gonna be wearing at least three hats 1) the Charlie Christian thing Saturday at 3 (Sat. at the Sequoia Center); 2) Two nights of performing with Carl Sonny Leyland… fascinates me with the prospects for high humor and hijinks (Fri./Sat. @ the Muni); and 3) A reunion w/ Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Charlie and Kid Andersen at the SAME time? (Sat. 9-ish at the Muni) You know, all my college roommate buddies have had heart attacks now, and I know I’m playing on house money myself. And I may be pushing my luck this Friday night. I’m not excited though.”

(Here’s what he wrote about the fest for Jefferson Public Radio, “The Blues Is Back At The Redwood Coast Music Festival.” Derral is host of Rollin’ the Blues and The Blues Show on Saturdays on JPR’s Rhythm & News Service.)

Here’s what Little Charlie Baty, has planned, he’s the former leader of the Nightcats and will play with Rick Estrin and his former bandmates, as well as with Carl Sonny Leyland and others… well, I’ll let him take over.

“One of my big moments is rapidly approaching,” says Charlie. “It might be my biggest moment – you never know. This weekend I will be appearing as a Special Guest or Guest of Honor or a title with some sort of honorific attached to it at the Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka CA.

“My work starts on Friday. I will perform with the legendary pianist/vocalist Carl Sonny Leyland and his combo, during a set of blues and swing. Then I will rest for a few minutes and then reunite with Rick Estrin and the Nightcats for a brief spell. If all of that excitement doesn’t kill me, I’ll return the next day to perform a special Tribute to Charlie Christian set with a hand-picked combo of 7 or 8 people – drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist Sam Rocha, trumpet player Marc Caparone are just some of the players and we will also be joined by vocalist Dawn Lambeth. Then another set or two with Sonny Leyland. I get tired just typing about it.

“There will be so much talent at this festival. Curtis Salgado will be there. My friend Geoff Miller and the Twilight Drifters will be playing. Pianist John Cocuzzi will be swinging until the girls come home. It is such a fun festival – traditional jazz, blues, rockabilly, swing, and probably all sorts of other music that I’m not up on. Over 200 musicians will be performing. I’ll get a chance to play with some of the most talented swing and trad cats out there. Plus I’ll get a chance to ham it up with Rick Estrin and Kid Andersen again, listen to Lorenzo Farrell’s soulful organ playing, and enjoy the steady pocket of Alexander Pettersen.

“Then there’s trying to keep up with Sonny Leyland. What a talented soul and just a plain nice guy he is! I love the way Dawn Lambeth sings – a beautiful voice without a bunch of unnecessary frills – she just has a way of selling a song with her voice. And, finally, I’ll be able to release this catharsis of Charlie Christian songs and ideas that have building up inside me for months.

“Now you’re caught up – check the oil, check the tire pressure, fill up the car with gas, pack a light bag and head up to Eureka. You’ll be glad that you did!”

KHUM’s blues deejay Chas Lewis recommends “Aki Kumar, Carl Sonny Leyland and Charlie Baty, Anthony Paule Soul Orch w/Wee Willie Walker” (all blues of course).

As Charlie mentioned, there’s a couple of sets by Curtis Salgado, who was the template for “Joliet Jake,” John Belushi’s character in the Blues Brothers. They hung out in Eugene when Animal House was filmed, and Belushi basically lifted Curtis’ act, both the songs and his attitude. That happened while Curtis was in first incarnation of the Robert Cray Band, where he served as brash front man for shy “Young Robert.” Curtis went on to serve as lead singer for Roomful of Blues and by the early ‘90s, he had his own band. In 2010 he was one of the headliners for Blues by the Bay after winning a Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year. He’s played here a couple of times with Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blow-Out (and will do so again elsewhere), but lately he’s been playing with guitarist Alan Hagar

Look for the flags marking venues…

Sarah Marina says, “When picking bands, consider venues. I like pairing them like wine and food for a tailored experience. 🙂 Ex: Morris Graves Museum for an intimate and lofty artistic moment as opposed to the vibrant mass of energy at the Muni. Same band in each setting is a different experience altogether. Same venue with each band… also unique.

“The other factor is guest artists rotating through each band. I heard [fiddler] Tom Rigney duel it out with Brian Casserly [trumpet] a couple years ago and that was an on fire duo. They are back at the Adorni Saturday night to do it again and I expect it to be a great show if you don’t mind missing a portion of the Muni blues.”

Speaking of blues, my friend Katy Stern says, “Don’t miss Anthony Paule and Frank Bey,” part of the big blues-orama Saturday at the Muni (with Curtis as “special guest). Everyone has their faves.

It ain’t cheap, they have different prices depending on if you’re just going to one day, but $30 is the cheapest. Please note: ticket sales locations are at the Muni and Adorni venues ONLY.  Will Call is at the Adorni venue. If you can’t afford a ticket, there’s always the free show Sunday morning with our own Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir singing at 10 a.m. at the Adorni. And Les Craig notes there’s music all over Old Town, “We’ll be on the Gazebo Saturday from 11 to 1, courtesy of Eureka Main Street.”

It’s this weekend!

See ya somewhere, people…

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