Though it’s not a local band per se, the Jazz Society of Santa Cruz, as an institution, has served as an incubator for many local swing, big band, ragtime and cool jazz outfits since it was established in 2000. The nonprofit hosts a four-hour open jam session for local jazz musicians every Sunday at Bocci’s Cellar and has spawned many local bands by bringing together professionals and weekend warriors—giving people who might not otherwise meet, the opportunity to play in front of a relaxed, fun-loving crowd. Local jazz musician Stella D’Oro—who mesmerizes with Italian “Meglio Stasera”—says that the atmosphere on Sundays at Bocci’s Cellar—a 100-year-old former Italian restaurant at 140 Encinal St.—helped her hone her craft. “People there are very supportive,” D’Oro says, referring to both the musicians and patrons. “They’re great for supporting new musicians and people learning how to get started.” Steve Newman, president of the Jazz Society and master saxophonist, has been with the organization since the beginning. He describes the venue as a “time warp”—a modern day speakeasy where people go once a week to swing dance and get lost in the sounds. “It’s not just the musicians,” Newman says. “The audience loves it, too. People like to hear jazz in an informal, relaxed setting.” At last Sunday’s jam the Jazz Society released an album of 21 tunes, Santa Cruz Jazz 2011, compiled from artists that have been a part of the Santa Cruz jazz scene over the past decade. The collection is dynamic—complete with slow, smoldering, instrumental jams like Newman’s Jazz Kitchen’s sultry “Gravy Waltz”; upbeat, bouncy numbers that showcase the vocal acrobatics of Ruby Rudman and the swing crooning of Greg Oropeza of the Eastern-tinged Badenov; as well as big band and Latin arrangements.
INFO: Santa Cruz Jazz 2011 CD, $15, can be purchased at santacruzjazz.org or at Sunday jam sessions at Bocci’s Cellar, 140 Encinal St., Santa Cruz. 427-1795.