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‘View from the Mountain’ celebrates composer, performers in an album release concert benefiting Hospitality House

Michael Young
Special to Prospector
During Jerry Grant's 40-year career arranging for recordings and scoring films in LA, he also wrote soundtracks for TV shows like "Quantum Leap,” "Secret World of Alex Mack," “A Team” and “Magnum PI.”
Submitted photo to Prospector


WHAT: Nujazz Alternative Virtual Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9

WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City

TICKETS: Tickets are $20 for general admission and $30 for reserved seating. Tickets are available online at paulemerymusic.com and in person at Briar Patch

INFO: For more information visit paulemerymusic.com

It started out modestly enough.

Jerry Grant, who spent a career in Los Angeles scoring more than 500 episodes of television and six feature films before retiring to Grass Valley, wanted to put on a straightforward album release party for his current project, the Nujazzz Alternative Virtual Orchestra.

Then the light bulb clicked

“I decided to make it more an event with four other bands,” he said. “Nevada County is very fertile musically. There’s a great cross section of styles, lots of very fine musicians who retire here or move for family reasons.”

Thus begat “View from the Mountain,” an album release party on steroids.

Five musical groups will present an eclectic mix of styles, ranging from “Tumble,” a quartet specializing in Zimbabwean trance music, to Gary Regina “looping” up to five instruments, to Harpist Motoshi Kosako, to singer-songwriter Sands Hall to, of course, Grant’s Nujazz Alternative Virtual Orchestra.

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, in the Nevada Theatre and is presented by Paul Emery’s Nevada City Live. All proceeds benefit Hospitality House.

“The concert fulfills my desire to contribute more to Hospitality House,” he said. “It’s called ‘View from the Mountain’ because of the fact that I live here now and who I am has changed a bit. There’s a different sensibility here than in LA.”

One-man band

So why did Grant add the “virtual” to his Nevada County Nujazz lineup?

“When it was born in the late ’90s in LA, it was a real orchestra with 13 musicians. When I needed another, say saxophone, for a gig there were 19 I could call. But up here the list wasn’t that deep,” he said.

So he wrote the music, recorded it on the computer and supplemented that with four live musicians: two saxophones, trombone and guitar. The music is a blend of jazz, rock, classical and electronic.

“It all fits in an eclectic style that speaks with compelling imagery,” Grant said.

During his 40-year career arranging for recordings and scoring films in LA, Grant also wrote soundtracks for television shows like “Secret World of Alex Mack,” “Quantum Leap,” “A Team” and “Magnum PI.”

He had previously spent 10 years as a studio musician on woodwinds and began vocal, string and horn arranging for records and also organized, conducted and composed for the 12-piece jazz/fusion/classical concert group Spectrum.

The year 1999 signaled a return to his roots with a new Jazz orchestra. The Nujazz Alternative was born with the CD, “Rush Hour,” released in 2001 to worldwide play.

Now the Nujazz Alternative has been reborn as a virtual orchestra. It comprises Grant on tenor sax, Dave Riddles on baritone sax, Phil Kember on trombone and Ananda Vaughan on guitar, with all computer programming for percussion, synthesizer, keyboards and bass realized by Grant.

The concert includes movements from a dramatic jazz fusion work titled “Mountain Dances,” an evocative work reminiscent of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”

“My music crosses over many lines,” Grant said.

The performers

Nevada County-based “Tumble” is a collective that includes Robert Heirendt on mbira — popularly known as a thumb piano — , Sean Kerrigan on guitar, Randy McKean on tenor saxophone and clarinets, and Bill Douglass on acoustic bass.

The quartet plays intricate, trance-like compositions that combine folk-like melodies and driving rhythms with an improvisational jazz sensibility.

Heirendt’s interest in African music began in the 1980s when he heard artists like Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel incorporating elements of it into their own. McKean met Heirendt through mutual acquaintances, but the two cemented their friendship after multiple encounters at Grass Valley’s Clock Tower Records.

The duo became a trio in 2014 when local guitarist Kerrigan, who has performed with Gary Snyder and Ludi Hinrichs, joined their ranks. Around the time of these recording sessions in Spring 2015, local bass legend Bill Douglass sat in with the trio and they soon became a quartet.

Douglass, who has worked with countless musical legends including Mose Allison, Tom Waits and Marian McPartland, helped refashion the group’s sound.

Multi-instrumentalist Gary Regina began his career in his native New York, moving to California in 1982. Regina has led his own bands for 30 years, ranging from acid jazz and new age to world beat.

He was a pioneer of the world beat movement in the late ’70s and the “looping” movement in the last 15 years. His bands have played the Monterey Jazz Festival, Concord Jazz Festival and San Jose Jazz Festival, and have opened for Miles Davis, John McLaughlin and the Yellow Jackets.

Harpist Motoshi Kosako started his musical training on classical piano before switching to jazz guitar for professional gigs in Tokyo, his birthplace.

In 1997, he moved to California where he taught himself harp and joined the Stockton Symphony Orchestra as the principal harpist from 2006 to 2010. In 2007 he won the second place in Lyon & Healy International Jazz & Pop Harp Competition. His performance there was noted in Harp Column as “introspective soloing reminiscent of Keith Jarrett.”

He has released two classical solo CDs and 10 jazz albums and regularly tours the United States and Japan to perform and lecture.

Sands Hall is a singer/songwriter in the Americana vein. With roots in the folk music tradition, her songs encompass blues, jazz and country.

She often performs with McKean and Maggie McKaig, leader of the Euro-jazz quartet Beaucoup Chapeaux. She is also a theater artist and an author; her recent memoir is “Flunk. Start.” Her current CD is entitled “Rustler’s Moon.”

The Nujazz Alternative Virtual Orchestra will play at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Nevada Theatre.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $30 for reserved seating. Tickets are available online at paulemerymusic.com and in person at Briar Patch.

For more information visit paulemerymusic.com.


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