‘Past, present and future’: Sierra Jazz Society presents inaugural Bill Douglass & Nora Nausbaum Jazz Picnic at Pioneer Park
Special to Prospector
Nevada County is home to an impressive number of world class musicians, so much so that residents may take for granted the level of mastery found on the entertainment calendars at local eateries and other venues on a regular basis. This Sunday an exceptional gathering of jazz greats will gather to pay tribute to a couple of those local legends when The Sierra Jazz Society presents the First Annual Bill Douglass & Nora Nausbaum Jazz Picnic at Pioneer Park in Nevada City beginning at 6 p.m.
In 2001 the Nevada City Arts Council hired Douglass to organize a jazz camp, but after losing funding just a couple of years later, Douglass and Nausbaum formed the 501c3 the Sierra Jazz Society in 2003. The Sierra Jazz Societyis dedicated to jazz education and promotion. Best known for their annual Jazz Camps and workshops held in Nevada County and the surrounding areas, the Sierra Jazz Society had an indelible effect on the local music scene for about 15 years going dormant shortly after Douglass was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2018.
Recently brought back to life with a new board of directors consisting of musicians, educators and promoters, David Clouse, Matt Langley and Peter Wilson, the revived nonprofit plans to continue the educational work but will introduce a performance series, beginning with this tribute on Sunday.
“This is the second generation of it. In taking over, we are celebrating and acknowledging the organizations past and introducing the future,” Clouse said. “In the past, the Sierra Jazz Society focused on clinics and an annual Jazz Camp and occasionally, rarely, they would do concerts. Going forward, we hope to have the Jazz Camps, certainly, and clinics, but in addition to that we are going to have a regular concert series. This is the inauguration of that.”
Nausbaum said she is thrilled to know the Sierra Jazz Society will live on, after having to stop when Douglass became ill. “It was a massive amount of work. Bill was the inspiration and me and Julia Glass were the perspiration. I hoped someone would pick up the mantle and so it happened this year. The three of those guys (Clouse, Wilson and Langley) are doing such a great job. I am so pleased Sierra Jazz Society will continue and in good hands.”
Clouse worked to curate the event which features esteemed vocalists and musicians unlikely to share the stage ever again. “This concert is featuring Bill, which is a real rare opportunity and I think that is why there is so much enthusiasm,” Co-producer Clouse said. “And it is getting in some pretty heavy hitters, all celebrating his legacy and music and what he has done. We’ve taken the Sierra Jazz Society faculty and coupled them with stars we have brought in from the Bay Area.”
San Francisco-based jazz singer Clairdee (a coup to have in her own right) and Sacramento vocalist Beth Duncan will be joined by other “heavy hitters” including Grammy winning bassist Ruth Davies who has played with Elvin Bishop, Charles Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker, and countless others.
“She has performed at the White House, not many people get to do that,” Clouse said in relating a bit of Davies experience. Other headliners include pianist Ken French, bassist Jason Wilkins. Locals include well-known guitarist John Girton, drummer and percussionist Kit Bailey, and board members Matt Langley (saxophone) and Clouse will also take the stage. For more information about the lineup and some of the impressive credentials of the musicians, go to https://sierrajazzsociety.com.
Clouse said people here may not be aware of what a gift and talent Bill Douglass is. He credits Douglass with being the start of the migration of musicians who now call Nevada County home.
“He’s a native son. He is one of the keys, first call jazz musicians in the United States. He’s recorded over 100 albums. He is right in our midst and people don’t even know it. This is something in his honor. To honor Bill and a chance to hear him again is not to be missed. It’s a big deal to make a cameo appearance, who knows if this will ever happen again.”
Nausbaum and Douglass have been together for over 28 years and moved back to Nevada County from the Bay Area in 1999. An accomplished musician in her own right, she credits The Sierra Jazz Society and the jazz camps with helping her improve her skillset over the years. She said this concert is the past, the present and the future coming together, “It’s wonderful. There is some faculty from the old days coming together, the concert itself is the present and the future being the new version of Sierra Jazz Society with me not calling the shots (thank goodness).”
She concluded, “I feel very humbled, and honored and happy that Bill is getting this tribute. He deserves it. He is an extremely patient teacher, and a very generous player.”
The event is free to attend but a donation of $20 is suggested at the door. Pioneer Park is expected to fill up, so come early. Clouse said he and his team have produced and participated in countless events but this one is taking on a life of its own.
“It’s rare that I have seen this level of enthusiasm struck up right from the start. From all of the people involved, certainly for the musicians, and non-musicians who have heard about it. It’s shaping up to be a really special day.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
KNOW & GO
WHAT: 1st Annual Bill Douglass & Nora Nausbaum Jazz Picnic
WHO: The Sierra Jazz Society
WHERE: Pioneer Park, 421 Nimrod Street in Nevada City
WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 1, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
HOW: Admission is free but $20 suggested donation to support SJS
MORE INFO: SierraJazzSociety.com
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