Making a Noise

Oakland doesn't have to prove it has a jazz scene. Getting the bay to listen, though, is a challenge.

Despite the greater jazz opportunities in other cities, she has never been seriously tempted to leave San Francisco. "I have tried to wet my feet in other places, but there's nothing like home to me," she says. "I'm very dedicated to my family, I love my people, and if they'd pack up and move someplace else, maybe I would too, but I'm very grounded in my town." At the festival, Stallings will be a special guest with the 18-piece Count Basie Orchestra, using the arrangements written for her when she was a full-time singer with the band. The current director, trombonist Grover Mitchell, introduced Stallings to Basie, who died in 1984. "I think Grover Mitchell has done a marvelous job in keeping the music as it was," she says. "Because people want to maintain the Basie feeling and the Basie sound."

Jazz, she argues, is going through something of a revival, not only in the Bay Area, but worldwide. "You go to parties, and jazz music is the music that is most requested," she says. "You do a casual or a wedding, everybody wants jazz. I don't care what kind of event takes place -- they want a jazz piano, or jazz piano with vocal, or they want a jazz trio. As long as it's jazz music being played. I don't care if you're just donating your time at Christmas at one of the hospitals or whatever, they will ask: 'Is there going to be any jazz?'

"I think there's a great interest in the music, and that's why you have so many young people who are trying to play it or sing it now. ... So many people are producing their own music and selling it through the Internet. Because record companies pick a few, and they don't support you like they should. People are disenchanted, so they do their own thing."

Khalil Shaheed, Oakland jazzman-of-all-trades.
Khalil Shaheed, Oakland jazzman-of-all-trades.

Details

Runs July 28-30 at the Oakland Convention Center, 10th & Washington streets, and at the City Center Stage, on Broadway between 12th and 14th streets. Tickets for Convention Center shows are $40-70; all City Center Stage shows are free. Call (510) 635-2184 or see www.oaklandjazzthere.org for more information.

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Although some musicians sound better in the studio, she says, "I think my best work is live, because it's like the people are the ones who give me the energy, the spirit, that I need. We work together. The audience works with me, and I work for them. Because everything for me is in the moment."

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