Holly Hoffman’s Jazz in North Park series continued with a group where the leader was youngest member. Graham Dechter is an up-and-coming guitarist who is being mentored by his drummer, Jeff Hamilton . Once again , I was invited to shoot the soundcheck.
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Graham is just 23 years old. During his introduction, Holly said that she was happy she was able to book him this year because in a couple years, she won’t be able to afford him- exactly like what happened with Diana Krall.
Graham plays at a level well beyond his years, and I think that he’s got the makings of being a household name later. Like a new bottle of wine, it will be a few years before he matures into something truly remarkable, but he’s keeping good company so I’m sure he’ll do it.
After the soundcheck, I screwed up the courage to go up to Jeff Hamilton and ask him to sign one of the very first vinyl records I ever bought, which he recorded in Japan as part of the Ray Brown Trio. He also gave me his signature drumsticks that he used for the soundcheck. All the years I’ve spent listening to this album, it never occurred to me that I might someday get a chance to meet him.
Jeff told me a story about how they were rehearsing for this concert in Ray Brown’s hotel room, and Jeff was playing on a phone book since he couldn’t set up his drums. Ray told him that he’d be starting off one of the songs. “How should I start it?” asked Jeff. “Just go Bam Bam Bam!” Ray replied. That became the title track.
This show was touted as a chance to witness the next generation of jazz, but as I looked out at the audience, I didn’t see the next generation of jazz fans. I’m ten years older than Graham and I was still one of the youngest members in the audience. Maybe it has something to do with the higher ticket prices that are needed to bring in a band at this level, but I wish that more younger people had a chance to hear this music. Jazz is a thoroughly modern and evolving music which can only continue if it can attract new fans.
Maybe this particular jazz series isn’t the right one to use as an introduction to the next generation, but there are plenty of chances to see this art form in San Diego for free or very cheap. If you need some ideas about where to go and who to see, just ask me! I’d love to see more of the Casbah crowd checking out Dizzy’s, and vice versa.