Ben Flocks, 21-year-old sax extraordinaire, understands there is no place like home. A former member of Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band (he calls Kuumbwa “a sacred place”) who played the Monterey Jazz Festival stage this September (“one of the greatest experiences of my whole life”), the Bonny Doon native is currently studying at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. There, he says, “350 jazz musicians are packed into two floors of a building in the Village.” He’s been looking forward to stretching his legs—and his refined musical skills—during his winter break and holiday return to town. “At school people tell me to bring my ‘Santa Cruz vibe,’ and now I’m trying to bring my New York vibe back and bridge these two places,” he says. Flanked by good friends and fellow Bay Area locals Jesse Scheinin on saxophone, Zach Brown on bass, and Michael Davis on drums, Flocks will lead his quartet through two sets at the Crepe Place, Thursday, Dec. 30.
The hometown show will present a set-up more akin to a sax trio format in which the brass will drive the melodies. Flocks and Scheinin, longtime friends who’ve been knitting together their respective sax solos for years, will lead the group through a few surprise covers and original songs Flocks composed just for this performance; there will be folk, rock and reggae components to the pieces. For the familiar songs, expect to hear the two tenor saxophones belting out an atypical frontline sound for classic reggae and folk tunes. While his academic pursuits in the Big Apple are eclectic, eye-opening, and challenging (“New York has kicked my ass, to say the least,” he admits), and he’s being exposed to a slew of players, Flocks calls his cohorts in this week’s show “three of my favorite musicians in the world.” And the place? Not bad either. “I’ve been counting down the days to Santa Cruz,” he begins. “I’m excited to be back with my family and playing with friends—and I’m looking forward to eating Tacos Moreno.” | Linda Koffman
INFO: 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8/adv, $10/door. 429-6994.