From the 35th San Diego Jazz Party

We attended the 35th Anniversary of the San Diego Jazz Party this past February and with beautiful weather at last! The Hilton Del Mar is the site of this event and the accommodations, staff, food service and general atmosphere enhance the experience at this venue.

The twenty musicians invited included many from last year’s party and a few new faces. Unfortunately, Houston Person (tenor) was not able to make the trip from New York at the last minute, but this creative team of professionals was able to supply substitutes on each of the sets that included or featured him.

Red Wood Coast

Friday afternoon welcomed the Mission Bay HS Preservationists with director JP Balmat to the Jazz Party’s Master Classes. The Preservationists will be going to New Orleans again April 19-23 and have met their fund-raising goal! I am very excited for them to visit that city again and so are they. At the Jazz Party, students learning piano, drums, bass, reeds, trombone, trumpet, and guitar have the opportunity to spend a few hours with the professional musicians attending the Party. Since they are all held at the same time, I was only able to visit a few of the sessions.

The Mission Bay Preservationists at the High School with Jason Wanner (p) at far left and Dan Barrett (tb) third from right

Evan Arntzen (reeds) discussed the principals of dynamics in musical fundamentals, specifically breathing techniques. He encouraged the students to concentrate on one note, progressing from a soft sound, then medium, and to a loud sound with various gradients in between. A deep breath provides the same air and the sound emanating from the instrument depends on how fast the air moves. He suggested practicing at least 5-15 minutes each day to increase the musical effectiveness of the various sounds. Within any tune, the sound can manipulate feelings expressed by the wind instruments.

Jon-Erik Kellso (tp) spoke about the various names of the scales and chords, including “walking the arpeggio up the scale” and other musical patterns. Major and minor scales, chord solos, chromatic scales were discussed. Jon-Erik encouraged them to take advantage of the listening texts at their school and practice, practice, practice!

Hot Jazz Jubile

Dan Barrett (tb) favored Tommy Dorsey, Kid Ory, and Jack Teagarden with his students and acknowledged that those musicians “heard notes others didn’t”—many studied classical composers i.e. Debussy and Ravel. He had the students playing a few melodies with harmonies and then discussed other trombonists i.e. Vic Dickenson who was swinging and soulful; Miff Mole who had a punching syncopated style; Lawrence Brown and J. C. Higginbotham with the Ellington band and Jimmie Lunceford. He talked about well-known endings such as the Organ Grinder’s Swing. Dan managed to repeat that ending at the Cocktail Party following the classes and I knowingly caught a big smile from him!

The Friday Cocktail Party in the Del Mar ballroom reception area
with Duke Heitger (tp), Dan Barrett (tb), Evan Arntzen (cl), Jason Wanner (p), Danny Coots (dr) and Sam Rocha (bs)

Jason Wanner (p) discussed how the piano “weaves in and out” in any band and supports the other instruments. It is important to focus on one’s technique and use the entire keyboard, not just the middle two octaves. It isn’t just about “knowing the song” but knowing how to complement the various sounds from the other members of the band and provide the needed support.

I was very impressed that the students were knowledgeable in the terms being used and how much they enjoyed the instructions. Some of the students had been to several of these Master Classes over the years and their improvements were very noticeable.

The late Friday afternoon cocktail party had the available sixteen instrumentalists taking turns in groups of five or six for a delightful “get the party started” session.

After a dinner break, the evening started off with a “Stompin’ at the Hilton” set and Benny Goodman numbers with Duke Heitger (tp), John Allred (tb), Ken Peplowski (sx/cl), Evan Arntzen (sx/cl), Jason Wanner (p), Sam Rocha (bs) and Danny Coots (dr).


The theme for the weekend celebrated composers and arrangers of well-known tunes of the Great American Songbook. Dan Barrett (tb) always does an outstanding job of comingling the talents of the invited musicians and combining sometimes unusual pairings of the instruments. One doesn’t often get to hear a trombone/piano duet!

The sets average about 30-50 minutes each depending on the number of musicians and the larger instruments stay on the stage, with only five minutes in between sets to change the line-up. A few Blues numbers followed with Harry Allen (tenor), Rossano Sportiello (p), Richard Simon (bs), Chuck Redd (dr) and Yve Evans (v) and some Ben Webster arrangements.

On the stage with Vinny Raniolo (gtr), Evan Arntzen (cl), Sam Rocha (bs), Jon-Erik Kellso (tp), Dan Barrett (tb)

We last saw Yve in Lacey, Washington, over seven years ago and she is always a treat. I would love to hear some her “racier” numbers and she does often engage the audience in a “call and response” tune making the attendees feel like a part of the band.


Jon-Erik Kellso (tp), Duke (tp), Dan Barrett (tb), Evan (cl), Jason (p), Sam (bs) and new-to-the-party Josh Collazo (dr) had a strictly “trad” set. Following them, Harry (tenor) and Rossano (p) had a special duet.

Yve (both p/v) and Vinny Raniolo (gtr), Peter Washington (bs) and Danny (dr) provided a backdrop for Yve’s sassy lyrics and interpretations of classic tunes. One in particular—“Side By Side” —had the audience audibly laughing and trying to sing along at the same time!

Ken (cl) with Chuck on vibes, Jason (p), Richard (bs) and Josh (dr) closed out the evening with a “Night Cap” of melodies.


Saturday morning began at 10:30 with an elaborate brunch until noon. The first set had Dan (tb) and Rossano (p) playing some mellow tunes as background. Following them, Evan (cl) and Jason (p) enjoyed a more rousing set with “Airmail Special” being one of the numbers.

In a “Painting the Town Redd” set, Chuck on vibes recalled a 1931 composition from Ted Black’s Orchestra made famous in 1957 with Pat Boone on a vocal rendition of “Love Letters in the Sand”—very suitable for a number featuring the vibes. Ken (cl), Sam (bs) and Josh (dr) added to the arrangement. 2023 Scholarship awardee, Christian Rodriguez (gtr) displayed his talents on the not-often-heard 7-string ala master guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli.


Danny’s famous uncle, J. Fred Coots, wrote hundreds of known songs and his set featured a few of them. With Duke (tp), Evan (cl), John (tb), Chuck (vibes), Rossano (p) and Richard (bs), their arrangement of “You Go To My Head” brought that era forward to the present.

A set titled “Berlin Calling” started out with Alexander’s Ragtime Band and Jon-Erik (tp), Evan (cl), Dan (tb), Jason (p), Vinny (gtr), Sam (bs) and Josh (dr) played some familiar wartime tunes

Following the military numbers, Harry (tenor), Peter (bs), Rossano (p), and Chuck (dr) entertained us with more favorites.

A Music Man play on words had the “76 trombones minus 74” feature John and Dan (TB) with Jason (p), Sam (bs) and Danny (dr) in the rhythm section.

Rossano (p) and Ken (cl) worked on some Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn tunes with Ken performing an exquisite piece—A Single Petal of a Rose—that had the audience giving a standing ovation. Ken’s tremolo lasted minutes and the haunting single note had everyone in awe of his technique and sound.

Jamming in the Hotel Lobby with Dan Barrett (tb), Duke Heitger (tp), Jason Wanner (p), Harry Allen (tenor), two Patrons/musicians, Peter Washington (bs)

Duke’s next set had Jason (p), Peter (bs) and Chuck (dr) in a fast moving quartet followed by Mr. Wit himself—Richard Simon. Richard (bs), Jon-Erik (tp), Harry (tenor, John (tb), Vinny (gtr), Christian (gtr) and Danny (dr). Richard is a master at turning a phrase or finding the humor in most anything at hand. His off-the-cuff remarks are both witty and wonderful!

Saturday evening had a special presentation of popular songs by composers from the Great American Songbook. The Tin Pan Alley Cats included Dan (tb), Evan (cl), Duke (tp), Jason (p), Sam (bs) and Josh (dr) engaged in familiar renditions followed by Ken (cl), Rossano (p),

Richard (bs) and Chuck (dr) playing some of Houston Person’s favorite songs.

John (tb) led a set with Jon-Erik (tp), Ken (cl), Jason (p), Vinny (gtr), Peter (bs) and Danny (dr) acknowledging composer Johnny Mandel with The Shadow of Your Smile and other tunes.

Rossano Sportiello was the 2024 Legend of the Year and current Jazz Party President Sandi Joyce presented him with a beautiful award. Rossano’s wife Lala, arranged for 40 of Rossano’s friends from both New York and Los Angeles to attend the Saturday evening events. The banquet hall was standing-room-only as shouts, cheers, waves and general frivolity emanated from that side of the room. Rossano was thrilled and respectively honored to be the recipient of such accolades.

A tribute to Fats Waller had Rossano (p), Harry (tenor), Duke (tp), John (tb), Richard (bs) and Josh (dr) playing only a few of the hundreds of songs Fats made famous during his short career.

The evening ended with Liz Shapiro and her “Del Mar” Triggermen consisting of not only “regular” Triggermen Dan (tb) and Sam (bs) but the addition of Evan (sax/cl), Ken (cl), Vinny (gtr), Jason (p) and Danny (dr) to round out the band. Lizzy introduced us to one of her original compositions—Eve’s Lament—which told the story of Adam and Eve from a woman’s perspective. She also did a duet with Ken (cl) using her voice as the 2nd clarinet in a Duke Ellington/Johnny Hodges number titled Good Queen Bess. Her voice mimicked the clarinet note for note along with Ken’s melody or harmony and it was an outstanding performance. Again the audience was in awe of these two musicians!

Lizzy and The Triggermen will be in Las Vegas for a week residency and then a five week tour of the Northeast with John Allred (tb) subbing for Dan Barrett. Be sure to check her website for the various dates and locations in the New York, Connecticut, etc. areas to see if she will be performing in or near your city.

Sunday morning started early at 9:00 am with Sam (bs) completing a “wake-up call” with Dan Barrett on piano this set. Christian (gtr) and another 2023 scholarship awardee, Mitchell Peyton (alto) comprised the quartet.

Lots of jazz and coffee introduced Evan (sx/cl), Duke (tp), Vinny (gtr), Richard (bs) and Danny (dr) before the “Del Mar Trio” took over. With Ken (sx/cl), Rossano (p) and Josh (dr), no one could claim to want to catch another forty winks!

Hoagy Carmichael’s prolific repertoire provided a setting for John (tb), Jason (p), Peter (bs) and Chuck (dr) to feature some of his southern charm.

Vocalist Lia Booth rounded up Harry (tenor), Rossano (p), Richard (bs) and Danny (dr) to showcase her remarkable voice and intonations. I first saw her last year and thoroughly enjoyed her versatility and vocal arrangements. She performs regularly in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas with various jazz artists and her own band.

Jazz Party vibist Chuck Redd at the Century Room in Tucson, AZ with Angelo Versace (p), Tom Wakeling (bs) and Kenji Lancaster (dr)

Vinny and Christian (GTR) had some spectacular duets with Peter (bs) and Chuck (dr/vibes) providing additional rhythm background.

A set featuring “The Stock Market” had thirteen musicians on the stage as a “little big band” with classic arrangements from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Using stock arrangements from the various publisher’s houses, Dan (tb) recreated the excitement and thrill of a really big band of the era with four saxes, two trumpets, two trombones, and a full rhythm section with two guitars, drums, piano and bass. It was exciting and even Dan was impressed as to the sight-reading abilities of this band. He did do the charts for a number titled “Cavernism” but all of the other charts were from the published archives.

Jason (p) had a solo interlude before Yve (v) entertained us with a Blues set featuring Richard (bs) and Josh (dr).

Lia Booth led another set with songs by Cole Porter and Dan (tb), Jon-Erik (tp), Evan (sx/cl), Jason (p), Sam (bs) and Chuck (dr) provided the background to her fabulous vocals.

Richard (bs) presented two of the three 2023 Scholarship Awardees (Christian Rodriguez and Mitchell Peyton) with a combo also featuring Rossano (p) and Danny (dr). The Awardees told a little about themselves and what their future plans were concerning their jazz studies. Christian graduated from Mission Bay HS and is attending two schools in a master’s and Phd. program. Mitchell is currently attending Palomar College and pursuing interests in other reed instruments. The third awardee, Ben Diego Delgado (tp) is another graduate of Mission Bay HS and is currently attending Loyola University in New Orleans pursuing an education in a range of jazz styles. It would be fun if I ran into him at the Jazz Fest in New Orleans later this month!!

The Grand Finale had everyone back on the stage for more swinging music and some rousing renditions of known favorites.

The Musicians’ dinner is a chance for many sponsors to enjoy a meal and a chat with their favorite musician in a relaxing setting. Photo opportunities encourage participation and everyone is discussing the highlights of the weekend while looking forward to next year. The Jam Session in the hotel lobby invites the Party’s musicians and others who are in the audience to bring their ax to the lobby. I always enjoy the looks on the faces of the hotel’s front staff and arriving or departing guests when they witness the scene in the lobby! Toe-tapping and head-bobbing are common gestures while smiles and ovations fill the room as the musicians keep the music going. People think the lobby always has a piano and small drum kit featured until they realize what a special event they are watching! Lots of farewells take place and the elevated mood is a highlight of the weekend.

Rossano Sportiello receiving the Legend of the Year award from President Sandi Joyce

Sandi Joyce announced that the 2025 Legend of the Year would be tenor saxophonist, Harry Allen. Sandi is also stepping down as Board President this year and switching places with Vice President Russell King. So the extremely competent Board of Directors remains with the same participants in a few different roles.

Monday morning had several musicians—Jason (p), Richard (bs), Danny (dr), Dan (tb)—and all the Jazz Party Board Members including Don and Janet Fall with us in tow driving down to Mission Bay to meet with JP Balmat and the Preservationists at the High School. What must have been over 250 students (many in the various bands and choirs that are taught at the school) were all in the large auditorium to cheer on their classmates and observe the instructions and advice given by the visiting musicians. Richard made a point of telling the two vocalists that they needed to face the audience and sing to them, not each other. He emphasized that the audience is a huge part of the ensemble. He instructed the members of the band to move closer to each other in order to “converse” with another band member.

Danny (dr) had an excellent analogy about the “conversations” taking place in the band and wrote out the following for me to include in this column:

Often times… especially at jazz festivals, I’m approached by folks who are amazed how jazz musicians can step on stage and improvise songs with no preparation by merely choosing a tune, deciding on a key, pick a tempo and feel and off they go. Together they create a seamless performance with complex communication that seems to come from a simple glance and occasional hand sign. I explain that it’s far more complicated than that but you already are a master yourself in that sort of communication. A conversation when you meet on the street is a similar form of interaction. That is improvisational as well and is based on incredibly complex rules of exchange both orally and visually. Your subject matter is your theme. One person talks as the other is nodding and, perhaps interjecting vocal responses to acknowledge that they understand what’s being said. They support you with their listening. You can feel when that person is finished speaking and it’s your turn to speak. There’s body language, facial expressions and very specific distance from each other that all mean things we all not only know but are masters of…that’s a duet. Add a third person it becomes a trio. Add four or five…ten…it becomes more complex but we do it all effortlessly. We are pros! We aren’t thinking about our instrument (our voices). We think thoughts and it comes out in words. But after all, we’ve been jamming with virtuosos since we came out of the womb. Our parents leaned in close, inches from our face and played their instrument until it started to make sense. Our circle of masters grew with family, friends and school. Every day we practiced, Improvised, memorized …all to become one of them. To trade thoughts, to connect and let the rest of the world around us know how we feel and what is valuable to us.

When people listen to jazz players, it is miraculous. It’s so much about being alive and being human. So much of it is already deep in your soul. Jazz is already about you.

And how true this is—thank you Danny for this analogy and how it makes perfect sense and clarifies the meaning of improvisation.

Monday afternoon we had a flight back to Tucson along with Jazz Party patron and Evergreen Jazz Festival director Jeannie Mann who was visiting friends for a few days. Turns out Chuck Redd (vibes) had a featured gig at the Century Room in the Hotel Congress and we were all going to attend the following Saturday. It would be like we never left the Jazz Party!!

Chuck gave a fine performance with our local musicians Angelo Versace (p), Tom Wakeling (bs) and Kenji Lancaster (dr). We stayed for two glorious sets and Chuck played one of our favorite tunes—Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?—of course we do, but the prior weekend held its own charm and tonight we were missing San Diego!

After 48-1/2 years, Shelly Gallichio is a retired Real Estate Associate Broker in Tucson, Arizona and despite growing up in Chicago, fell in love with the clarinet and the New Orleans sound at the age of three—she intends to spend the next 48-1/2 years seeking that sound! Reach her at [email protected]

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