Jazz resonated across the mountain

Sep 1, 2022 | Front Page


By Mary-Justine Lanyon

That mountain residents and visitors were excited to get out and listen to some exceptional jazz last weekend was borne out by the sell-out crowds at the Blue Jay Jazz Festival.

Chris Levister, president of the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation, kicked things off on Thursday, Aug. 25 at Tavern Bay Beach Club by saying they want every child who wants to play an instrument to be able to do so. To that end, the Foundation accepts donations of instruments which they repair, if necessary, and loan out to Rim students.

After the Cal Baptist University Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dan St. Marseille, performed several numbers, including “Genie in a Bottle,” the five Future Generation Jazz scholarship recipients joined them on stage. With Ara Tokatlian on alto sax, Alexander De Leon on trumpet, Evangeline De Leon on tenor sax and Luca Stickney on drums, they played pieces by Miles Davis and Sonny Rawlins. Parker Lawrence then joined them to sing “Fly Me to the Moon.”

“These scholarship winners are so professional and so prepared,” St. Marseille said. “There’s a lot of talent here.”

They were joined on the stage by Dee and Paul Goebel, who had donated a number of instruments owned by their late daughter Sarah to the music department at Rim High. One of those was the tenor sax being played by Evangeline.

“Music is an integral part of my life,” Evangeline said. “I couldn’t live without it.” Turning to the Dee and Paul, she added, “Your daughter’s story and soul are in her sax. I will keep it going.”

Noting that he is in choir at Rim High, Parker said that “music means more to me than anything.”

Alexander, who was the drum major and graduated in June, said he had played the trumpet for eight years. “I enjoy playing jazz. I have a lot of fun.”

“Music has always been part of my life,” said Ara, adding he has a passion for jazz and has played the alto sax for eight years.

“Music is an art form,” Luca said. “It is the single most important thing people can devote themselves to. Things you can’t experience through words come through in music.”

The headliner on Thursday was saxophonist Jessy J. Her repertoire included Latin, bossa nova and straight-up jazz – all of which wowed the crowd.

The big surprise on Friday, Aug. 26 was that Rim High senior Ara Tokatlian opened for the Ron King Big Band. He played “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Tenor Madness,” which brought the crowd to its feet.

Rim High graduate Olivia Clark joined Ron King to sing several numbers, including “At Last,” which she had sung at the jazz festival in 2008 at the age of 14. She was awarded the first Future Generation Jazz scholarship during her freshman year at Rim High.

Levister welcomed Matthew Kallis to the stage on behalf of Friends of Lake Arrowhead Mountain Communities (FLAMC), a new supporter of the festival. “We are grateful for people who reach into their pockets and support us,” Levister said.

And then she welcomed Lisa and Rob Cavallo, who work in the music industry as has their father, Bob Cavallo. “We want to give back,” Lisa said. “We are into mentoring young talent.”

Olivia then sang Natalie Merchant’s song “Kind and Generous” as a thank you to the Cavallos. And as she sang “All of Me” and “Call Me Irresponsible,” one guest commented on how she sings with her soul. “She emotes,” he said.

The jazz festival concluded on Saturday, Aug. 27 with the Yuko Mabuchi trio – Mabuchi on keyboard, Del Atkins on bass guitar and Bob Breton on drums. They were joined by jazz pianist Billy Mitchell who sang “I Wish You Love.”

As Mabuchi introduced their music, she said they blend “the many flavors that make up Caribbean music.” As she played, the guests on the lawn at the Lake Arrowhead Resort were mesmerized by her fingers flying over the keys. She then pulled the microphone closer to herself and sang “I’ve Got Rhythm” in English and Japanese. As she played, she occasionally stood, then sat back down and kicked her foot up.

Noting that she has always loved Mozart, Mabuchi played a medley that was her tribute to the composer. “If Mozart was born now,” she said, “he would probably be a jazz musician.”

The trio was then joined by Ara Tokatlian on sax as they played “On Green Dolphin Street.” Mitchell then threw Ara a bit of a curve, saying, “He’s never done this but would you play along as I sing?” And Ara did as Mitchell sang Duke Ellington’s “In a Mellotone.”

It was then Rim High junior Parker Lawrence’s turn. He sang “Fly Me to the Moon,” accompanied by the trio and Ara.

For more information on the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation and to support their efforts to keep jazz alive on the mountain, visit https://bluejayjazz.org/.



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