The Valley Jazz Club, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to playing and promoting Traditional Jazz in the San Fernando Valley, celebrated its 50th Anniversary on May 5, 2019, at the Elks’ Lodge in Canoga Park, California.
The large ballroom was festively decorated for the occasion, with a large mirrored ball hung from the ceiling, continuously sending squares of light across the dimly lit room below. A continuously operating slide projector was successively showing pictures on a table-top screen of the many musicians and vocalists that have played the Valley Jazz Club stage. Similarly, the entry area tables featured about 30 feet of displayed photos of bands and individual musicians performing at this Club’s events over the last five decades.
The anniversary program featured two bands, playing different styles, performing two sets each. They were The Night Blooming Jazzmen and The Terry Cano Band.
Over the last 50 years, some outstanding, wonderful bands have graced the Valley Jazz Club stage. This is only a partial list of wonderful concerts:
The Yankee Wailers featuring Jackie Coon; The Golden Eagle Jazz Band featuring Chris Norris; Mike Silverman and The Silvertone Serenaders; Palm Springs Yacht Club; Jonathan Stout’s Campus Five with Hilary Alexander;The Hot Frogs; JazzAmerica (bands of determined teenage jazz students); Ginger and the Hoosier Daddys; The Titanic Jazz Band; The Randy Van Horne Singers; and The Night Blooming Jazzmen, who returned to play in this anniversary program after playing for the Club 50 years ago, with Chet Jaeger as leader both then and now.
Among the stellar musicians who have played for the club over the past 50 years: Bob Haggart, Bob Havens, Dick Cathcart, Nick Fatool, Abe Most, Sam Most, Dave Dolson, Dave Koonse, Barry Zweig, Bob Ringwald, Dean Mora, Jim Ziegler, Betty O’Hara, Richard Simon, Yve Evans, Chuck Conklin, Dan Levinson, and Dan Barrett.
The Night Blooming Jazzmen
The clever name of his classic jazz band, The Night Blooming Jazzmen, tells a lot about its leader, Chet Jaeger. His off-the-cuff Will Rogers humor has enhanced performances that also brought joy with feel-good traditional jazz in laugh-at-life style. His low-key quips could make a chicken smile. Trad jazz fans and musicians seem to have more fun than other jazz fans and musicians, as their preferred form of jazz is played. It just seems to happen. The band played well as a thoroughly entertaining ensemble, with almost all band members featured on individual instrumental and vocal solos throughout their two sets.
Ninety-four year old leader Chet, sang a very convincing “Old Rockin’ Chair’s Got Me,” though apart from the lyrics, song title, and convincing personalized presentation, it’s apparent that the rockin’ chair doesn’t have him, yet. He put his cornet good work on the song, between verses. Last year, he revealed a personal thought on his cornet playing skill, as he aged, “I used to think that I was the best cornet player around; now I think I’m just the best 93 year old cornet player around!”
Reed player Jim Richardson, long time band member, did the vocals on both “My Mother’s Eyes” and “I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad,” and astounded the audience between verses by playing both tenor sax and alto sax simultaneously. Joining in with a plectrum banjo was Mike Olson, adding a little “zip” (and long-neck banjo is an absolute must for a traditional jazz band, according to my personal bias).
From his piano bench, Les Deutsch pulled a small penny whistle from his shirt pocket and soloed on the song. Multi-talented, Les usually plays piano with this band, but he also plays trumpet, tuba, drums, and penny whistle! When not doing something musical, he is part of the remarkable team accomplishing the first successful spacecraft soft landing on the planet Mars, as a lead space scientist for the prestigious Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. (Leader Chet Jaeger has maintained that when Les Deutsch joined The Nightblooming Jazzmen, the average IQ score of the band went up by at least 40 points.) If jazz ever gets to the moon, we’ll know who got it there!
Chet likes to have his band members contribute vocals to the program, and all but one did: Drummer Nick Starmack sang from his drummer’s stool, “Who’s Sorry Now?” and later in the program, “You Made Me Love You.” Pianist Les Deutsch, a notably lofty, dignified thinker, still seated on his piano bench, surprised us all with his vocal selection, “I Love You, But Your Feet’s Too Big” (and I loved it!).
The man with the trombone, Phil Andreen, sang “Everybody’s Sweetheart Now,” and his wife, band vocalist Carol Andreen, presented “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” (like she knew what she was singing about!), with husband Phil’s trombone featured to support her song. Carol is endowed with a wonderful, full voice, perfect for this style of music. Mike Earls played the double bass, but didn’t sing. Other tunes included “Sweethearts On Parade,” “Cod Fish Ball,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” “Just Friends,” and “Up a Lazy River.”
The Night Blooming Jazzmen wore their trademark bright-red polo shirts with large black letters on the back proclaiming “I’m A Night-Blooming Jazz Maniac,” and have enough fans to fill any venue they play. It’s always a pleasure to have them play at the Valley Jazz Club!
The Terry Cano Band
The second band playing for the Valley Jazz Club’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, The Terry Cano Band, is a relatively new group. Though this 10 piece band was formed less than two years ago, their power and remarkable precision are well developed, and their arrangements are elegant and refreshing. They sound as though they’ve played together for ages.
Their “secret weapon” is leader Cano, who has an exquisite talent for creating new, outstanding, and innovative arrangements. Some of the tune selections were surprising, I did not expect to hear “Happy Birthday,” which was made more interesting as a tongue-in-cheek serious number—and well done. A couple included narration from leader and keyboardist Terry Cano, speaking about the music as it was played. Some included vocals, both individual and duet, from Paula Einstein and Vanessa Montenegro. A favorite of mine was “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” performed in the style of the Andrews Sisters. Other songs included: “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” “Route 66,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” “Moon Glow,” “Stand By Me,” “Besame Mucho,” “Hernando’s Hideaway,” “Shangri-La,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” and “In The Mood.”
The musicians performing with The Terry Cano Band were: Alejandro Arivzu & Jim McCauley, trumpet; Chris Hoover & Michael Duran, trombone; Brett Clauson, tenor sax; Betty Stachowiak, alto sax and clarinet; Rafael Torres, baritone sax; Vinny Reyes, guitar; Zanne Zarrow, drums; and Terry Cano, keyboard. The concert featured special guest Wyatt Haupt playing straight-ahead classic saxophone.
A talented and skilled band, they have the depth and ability to jump back and forth in time, to play music new or old—including novelty or unexpected tunes. And, with Paula Einstein and Vanessa Montenegro, it’s like having 2/3 of the classic Andrews Sisters with the band. So if a third “Andrews Sister” can be found…I leave it to the reader’s imagination.