Musical friendships: Chris Jonas/Randy McKean Quartet & Ross Hammond/Jay Nair Duo to perform in Grass Valley
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Col. MaCaw’s Magical Cure-All featuring the Chris Jonas/Randy McKean Quartet and Ross Hammond/Jay Nair Duo
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains, 246 S. Church Street, Grass Valley
TICKETS: Adults are $15 and $5 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the door
This Sunday Col. MaCaw’s Magical Cure-All, the occasional event series produced by local musician Randy McKean, will be commemorating musical partnerships old and new, as McKean revives his first jazz quartet, and guitarist Ross Hammond and Indian vocalist Jay Nair celebrate the release of their debut CD.
Local audiences have become familiar with clarinetist/saxophonist McKean through his work both as a sideman, with Beaucoup Chapeaux, John Girton, Paul Emery and Lorraine Gervais, and as the leader of several modern jazz groups, including Tumble, Bristle, and the Goggle saxophone quartet.
McKean’s first efforts running the show began nearly 30 years ago with the eponymous quartet he formed just after finishing graduate school at Oakland’s Mills College.
McKean said the key to that group was fellow saxophonist Chris Jonas, who he met through a mutual friend.
“He was this empathetic and adventurous player,” McKean said. “I was just finding my sea legs as a composer — he helped give life to these fledgling compositions and concepts.”
McKean adds that all of his current projects feel indebted to this initial group.
The partnership continued in different forms when both moved to New York City in the 1990s, and endured subsequent relocations, Jonas to Santa Fe in 2001 and McKean to Grass Valley in 2002.
Jonas has worked with legends Anthony Braxton, William Parker, and Cecil Taylor, with the Santa Fe Opera and classical groups the Del Sol String Quartet, but it was Jonas’s recent CD with the Santa Fe group Ornetc that inspired McKean to revive the two-saxophone freebop sound of their original quartet.
They’ve recruited the Bay Area’s finest to play their original compositions, influenced by Steve Lacy, Ornette Coleman, and the New York Art Quartet: bassist Lisa Mezzacappa of McKean’s band Bristle, and drummer Jordan Glenn of Weiner Kids.
The Grass Valley gig is the midway stop in a three-day mini-tour of Northern California.
Sharing the bill with the group is a more recent partnership. Sacramento guitarist Ross Hammond met vocalist Jay Nair, a native of India and a recent transplant to the city, in 2017, at one of Hammond’s solo gigs.
The two started playing together, creating improvisational music influenced by Appalachian folk and Indian devotional musics. The result is their new release “Universal Peace” on Prescott Recordings.
“Jay and I aren’t playing traditional Raga music,” said Hammond. “I’d never claim to be a Raga musician. But what we are doing is using our ears as much as the tools from our separate disciplines. We’re improvising and communicating with one another.”
Nair trained in Indian Devotional Music for over 10 years, and started performing solo concerts in India at the early age of 10.
Since then he has performed Indian classical music, devotional music and Bollywood music in over hundred stages.
He moved to the United States in 2001, eventually settling in Sacramento. Hammond has played on large stages and in small corners throughout the United States and beyond.
His sound is equal parts jazz, folk, blues, spirituals and world music. Ross has collaborated/gigged/recorded with Oliver Lake, Vinny Golia, Dwight Trible, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Alex Cine, and more.
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It was the decision by a half dozen performing organizations to require proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend events at their venue, which paved the way for smaller stages and art houses…