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In which Curtis Cartier gets the lowdown on the local compilation album 'Santa Cruz Jazz 2008.'

By Curtis Cartier

For those who didn't get the 19 local jazz albums they explicitly asked Santa for this Christmas, the Jazz Society of Santa Cruz County has the next best thing. Its fourth edition Santa Cruz Jazz 2008 compilation disc features 19 tracks from some of the area's hottest horn blowers, bass thumpers and key ticklers and costs a lot less than a stack of CDs from Streetlight Records.

Producing the album, as always, is local jazz puppetmaster Steve Newman. The grizzled sax master said it was tricky editing down the 40 tracks submitted for the record but that the final lineup, which includes 72 different musicians, reflects the diversity he was going for.

"I set out to make a time capsule of local talent," he said over the notes of the Jazz Society House Band getting loose at Bocci's Cellar. "There's a ton of great musicians here. A lot of people don't realize that."

The disc opens with a cool jazz sendup of the classic Beatles gem "Norwegian Wood" by Martan Mann before Mark Whitney takes a Latin turn with the 1942 Victor Schertzinger standard "Tangerine." Cover songs make up a minority, however, with 10 of the 19 tracks being original jams like the sprightly sax and piano showdown "Hillary Billary" by the Jazz Society House Band or the big brass bop of Midnite Mambo playing their signature song "Squeembo." Other standout tracks include the sultry vocals and piano of Johnny Fabulous on "Private Affair" and the funky lament of Louis Jordan's 1944 classic "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" performed by local sextet Double Standard. All in all, the disc reveals a multitude of styles, from the classic baritone sax of Jim McCaig to the blues-heavy pipes of Kaye Bohler and is a great starter lesson for the aspiring jazz fan as well as an essential refresher course for the established connoisseur.

Sue Marvin, pianist for Double Standard, was at Bocci's Cellar along with Newman for the Jazz Society's weekly Sunday open-mic jam session. The statuesque blonde eighty-eighter was in the back of the barn-turned-fine-restaurant watching dozens of musicians team up and get down.

"Santa Cruz is a great place for jazz," she said. "I love all the musicians I've met here."

Marvin isn't the only one who has met band mates and friends at the weekly open mic. Bocci's longtime jazz night is frequented by most of the artists featured on Santa Cruz Jazz 2008, who appreciate the chance to take part in a multigenerational jam session.

"As far as small towns go, Santa Cruz has a ton of jazz," said Santa Cruz High School sophomore saxophonist John Vouwsma. "I didn't make it on the album this year. But I get to play with a lot of the people who did. Maybe next year!"

SANTA CRUZ JAZZ 2008 is available online at for $19.95 and at the weekly Sunday open-mic night at Bocci's Cellar, 140 Encinal St., Santa Cruz. The Jazz Society is also throwing a New Year's Eve party featuring the Richard Nelson Smith Jazz Group and the Little Big Band, Wednesday, Dec. 31, at Calvary Church Hall, 655 Capitola Road #200, Santa Cruz; tickets $25 door; 7:30pm-1am.

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