Fred Adler: A Surprisingly Quiet Man With A Passion For Jazz   Leave a comment

April 2016 (A late post)

Having spent 20 years working in or traveling to music hubs like New York City, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, San Francisco, and others, I’ve learned a great deal about jazz. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time talking with jazz greats like McCoy Tyner, George Benson, Horace Silver, and Diana Krall. Along the way I’ve learned something about this thing called Jazz. Here’s what is salient: one can learn to play jazz by reading sheet music, or listening to jazz recordings, or attending concerts. But without a natural emotional connection, you’re less likely to become a jazz musician, and more likely to just play.

The emotional component is key. It’s that intangible, organic piece of the puzzle. Regardless of all of the hard working people 04FredAdler5 300who help make it happen, the Whale & Jazz Festival might not have gotten to number 13 without that emotional component, clearly evident within a key individual. In a conversation with Fred Adler, I learned the secret to success in selecting artists for the festival: listen to them. Sounds simple, right? Of course, it isn’t. So much goes into a performance, that with the final note, one’s powers of observation make a declaratory judgement, and hopefully the conclusion is “wow”.

When I asked Adler, for example, why he had selected the Yancie Taylor Quintet for the festival’s Main Event, he talked in some detail about Taylor and his obvious talent, and then pivoted to musicians that Taylor cited as influential jazz vibraphonists, including Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson. That’s heady company, and Adler’s track record gives credibility to his decision to bring Taylor to the coast.

Perhaps, and only perhaps, with a significantly larger checkbook, other quality musicians who have more well-publicized names might grace the stages of the Mendonoma Coast in April. But Adler’s forte is not really checkbook driven. He’s looking for compelling musicians and creative individuals who’ll deliver an inspired performance, and not just “phone it in”. On the surface the festival’s offerings might lack some obvious marquee value, but the audience truly benefits from the anticipation that comes with occasionally diving into the unknown. Fred Adler is the curator of the 13th Sonoma-Mendocino Coast Whale & Jazz Festival. Whatever your pleasure—music, film, poetry, food—and no matter which venue (Gualala Arts, 215 Main, Arena Theater, Annapolis Winery, The Sea Ranch Lodge, St. Orres, the Pier Chowder House & Tap Room, the Garcia River Casino) you can trust that the festival is presenting a family of artists of which we can all be proud. Many of them you’ll see or hear again as they continue to record, tour, and impress.

Some months or years from now maybe you‘ll get into a conversation with someone who asks if you ever heard of this guy Yancie Taylor (or other talents Adler has brought to the coast) and your response may include a barely suppressed hint of superiority when you respond, “heard of Taylor? I saw him in 2016 in Gualala. You should’ve been there.” Adler’s unique and special talent is finding the finest Bay-area musicians who he can work with creatively, in order to help shape the concert, giving the evening a special flair. Fred did the work but you get to enjoy the moment. And the festival. Then feel free to smile away.

David Steffen

© 2016 David Steffen



Posted June 10, 2016 by Jazzdavid in Uncategorized

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