Athenaeum Jazz concerts at Scripps Research to celebrate 25th anniversary of COVID-19 closure in 2020

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The 25th anniversary of the Athenaeum Jazz at Scripps Research concert series is a milestone for music fans and for the brave Athenaeum.

Its fall edition will feature concerts – all in October – by saxophonist Mark Turner and his quartet, flautist Jamie Baum and his octet, and a star quintet including trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, pianist Gerald Clayton and guitarist Anthony Wilson.

The significance of the 25th anniversary is almost matched by the fact that the series picks up again this year. The spring and fall 2020 concert series at the Scripps Research Auditorium have both failed due to the COVID-19 pandemic halt. Until this summer, the chances of concerts taking place at Scripps seemed slim at best.

“It’s the plain truth,” said Daniel Atkinson, Athenaeum’s jazz program coordinator, who also runs the Western Jazz Presenters Network and kicked off San Diego Jazz Ventures’ new concert series this summer at The Alexandria. at Torrey Pines.

“Until mid-June, none of my fellow presenters in the western United States intended to have all indoor concerts this fall. So everything had to be speeded up considerably to fill people’s series, including ours at Scripps. “

How accelerated?

“Usually I would have booked our concerts at Scripps at least 6 months in advance, if not earlier,” Atkinson said. “So having three months to put everything together was definitely a challenge. “

Hailing from San Diego, Atkinson and the La Jolla Athenaeum Music & Arts Library launched the Scripps series in 1996. An extension of the jazz series he founded in 1989 at the nearby Athenaeum, the Scripps concerts were designed to showcase national and international artists whose power of attraction, technical requirements and performance costs necessitated a larger venue.

Scripps has a capacity of 350 seats, more than double that of the 160-seat auditorium at the Athenaeum. The larger venue was known as the Neurosciences Institute Auditorium from its opening in 1996 until 2012, when it became the TSRI Auditorium. The name was changed again this year to reflect the new, simplified moniker of the Scripps Research Institute.

The auditorium – like the entire institute – was designed by New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates in cooperation with Joseph Wong Associates of San Diego. The hall’s sight lines are clear from any seat in the hall and the audio quality is top-notch, thanks to a combination of the carefully refined hall design and the meticulous attention of the engineer of the hall. his Mitch Grant to the details at every concert he mixes.

New York flautist Jamie Baum will perform with her band as part of the Athenaeum Jazz at Scripps Research fall 2021 concert series.

(Courtesy of Jamie Baum)

A quarter of a century of jazz

Over the past quarter of a century, the venue has hosted an array of the most gifted artists in the jazz world, starting with its inaugural season in 1996. That year, concerts were given respectively by the legend of the organ Jimmy Smith, the great saxophonist and flautist James Moody, and the band TanaReid.

To date, over 130 jazz luminaries have performed as part of the series. They include pianists Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau and Carla Bley; guitarists Jim Hall, Allan Holdsworth and John Scofield; singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Luciana Souza and René Marie; and saxophonists Charles Lloyd, Charles McPherson and Mark Turner, who returns for a concert on October 26 with his band.

Turner made his Scripps debut in 1996 as a member of the TanaReid group. He returned there in 2009 to perform with his own trio, Fly, and again in 2013 with a quartet co-directed by pianist Gerald Clayton.

“It’s a really nice piece to play and it sounds good,” Turner said Tuesday from Brussels, where he performs in the opera “The Time of Our Singing”.

“I don’t at all remember needing a lot of amplification in the auditorium. I don’t even think I had a microphone for my sax. Sounds good in there without a sound system or not really a system. ”

Turner’s enthusiasm is shared by two nationally recognized San Diego musicians, flautist Holly Hofmann and pianist Mike Wofford. The married couple have performed at the Scripps Auditorium, together and separately, more than any other artist. Wofford recorded his superb 2003 live album on location.

“Having also seen so many performances at the Scripps Research Auditorium,” said Hofmann, “I know it’s very special for the musicians who perform there and for the audiences who listen to them.

“It provides wonderful viewing privacy for the audience and for the musicians, because it’s such an acoustically powerful place that it doesn’t need a lot of amplification. It feels so natural and unamplified in there.

Wofford is even more adamant.

“This room is an artist’s dream,” he said. “It’s just big enough to accommodate a reasonable number of people, but it’s also intimate enough that it feels very personal. In addition, it is a very friendly room for musicians and listeners. Holly and I were amazed by the acoustics. I love to be there. “

San Diego's best jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos

San Diego jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos will perform with a group of Los Angeles stars at the opening concert of the Athenaeum Jazz at Scripps Institute series this fall.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Legends and potential legends

Rarely does a jazz concert series last 25 years.

Due to its longevity, the Athenaeum at Scripps series has hosted a significant number of revered jazz artists who have since passed away. It also introduced a new generation of musicians who have gained international notoriety, as well as acclaimed veterans.

Evidenced by the 2019 edition of the series, which featured the 80th anniversary concert by famous San Diego saxophonist Charles McPherson and his New York City Quartet, and a performance by young vocal sensation Veronica Swift, who is now 27.

“We were able to start the series in 1996 when a number of legendary musicians were still playing,” Atkinson said. “It allowed us to introduce people like Jimmy Smith, Ray Brown, Hank Jones and many other great artists who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Little by little, most of these jazz giants passed away and I had to adjust the programming to suit that – another generation. And it’s interesting to see people like Mark Turner, who was in our first Scripps series as a sideman and became a major figure in jazz and performed for us several times at Scripps and the Athenaeum.

Another big factor in the success of the series is the international flavor that Atkinson brought to it.

Over the years, the programs he booked have included notable artists from Europe and Latin America. Some key examples include Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez, French guitarist Dorado Schmitt, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, the names of Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés and Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro.

“Dan Atkinson has the flair to offer the public the older masters of jazz and to present to the public the next generation of new or future masters, ”said flautist Hofmann.

“Dan is awesome,” agreed saxophonist Turner. “He’s definitely one of the nicest promoters I’ve dealt with. We meet a lot of different people doing concerts. Some are closer to music than others and some like music more than others. Dan is definitely close to the music and in a very authentic way which is not always the case with promoters.

Atkinson admits he had no idea the Scripps series would thrive for 25 years. During this time, he saw the jazz audience here shrink after 9/11 and during the country’s economic downturn, and then increase again. And he received constant support from Athenaeum Executive Director Erika Torri and the board of directors of the non-profit arts organization.

“It is certainly surprising that we are still able to do this after so many years,” said Atkinson.

“The Scripps Research Auditorium is a gem and has been a gift to the San Diego community for the past 25 years. I hope we can continue for the years to come.

Athenaeum Jazz at Scripps Research Auditorium Fall 2021 Concert Series

With: Gilbert Castellanos, Gerald Clayton, Anthony Wilson, John Clayton and Roy McCurdy (October 4), Jamie Baum (October 16), Mark Turner (October 28). All concerts are at 7:30 p.m.

Or: Scripps Research Auditorium, 10620 John Jay Hopkins Drive, La Jolla

Tickets: $ 40 members; $ 45 for non-members; serial tickets are $ 114 for members and $ 129 for non-members

Telephone: (858) 454-5872

In line: ljatheneaum.org/jazz/#scripps

Health protocols: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours must be presented at the door. All participants, regardless of their immunization status, must wear a mask.


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