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Jazz under the canopy

One benefit of writing about an experience is revisiting the joy of a good day — unpacking it, note by note, and recalling details that might have been overlooked.

The elements did align, however briefly, last Sunday afternoon, when Lane and I visited Grizzly Peak Winery situated nicely in the Ashland hills. We’d arrived for an al fresco concert of modern jazz. It featured the Peter Anastos Quintet, with Peter on trumpet, our own Theresa McCoy on drums, John Mazzei playing keyboards, Adam Harris blowing saxophone, and our man, Jeff Addicott, who appears to be playing multiple venues simultaneously, accompanied by his upright bass.

Wildfire smoke made way for smiling blue skies, and scorching temperatures took one look and knew they didn’t fit in. Sunday was just a nice summer day, reminiscent of the ideal.

Lane and I are major jazz lovers — particularly modern and classical — Dixieland, not so much. So when a new modern jazz combo with original tunes pops up on Southern Oregon radar, we’re there.

One dubious perk for jazz fans is that there are fewer of us. Not so great for the talented musicians perhaps, but we can count on having plenty of space and spending time with like-minded head-bobbers who are there to listen. They understand that jazz is more than background music. It’s full of innovation and nuance — a magic carpet ride. Whoops, wrong genre.

We were pleasantly surprised at the level of play exhibited by the quintet. Surprised because it’s a rare treat for Southern Oregon to host a great modern jazz group — especially one that’s apparently local. Many of the songs were originals, and most were what Lane likes to call “cookers.” As with classical music, I like to close my eyes and travel to some distant happy place. What’s great about Grizzly Peak is that when you open your eyes, you’re still there.

Adam Harris on sax is from Seattle. I bought his CD, “The Adam Harris Quintet Live at the Jazz Station,” which is a great listen. OK, confidentially, I don’t often care for trumpet players (though I had a huge crush on Herb Alpert). When they start playing Twister all over the staff, my ears cry foul and they lose me. But there’s a knack for blowing a horn with finesse, while teasing around and through the melody, and that is delightful and transporting.

Anastos, who hails from San Francisco, has the recipe down and mixed several of the tunes up himself. John Mazzei is in sync on the keys — able to leave the mainstream and confidently journey back around in due time. As for McCoy and Addicott, they continue to be, in the terminology of the aged, solid senders.

Al and Virginia Silbowitz, owners of Grizzly Peak, are strong supporters of music, hosting concerts year round on their lush grounds — some indoors and some beneath the beautiful oaks. I hope more wineries will consider booking jazz musicians. It’s a natural with good wine.

I must admit, I can’t for the life of me figure out how they trained all those acorn woodpeckers to call and scat in time with the licks. It was truly amazing! And in surround sound, too — sometimes directly above, other times nearer the band. Those harlequin natives surely showcased their gift that day.

As we sipped merlot and munched (quietly) on cheese and crackers, I let the music carry me away. A couple of times it carried me clean to Yreka before bringing me back around and depositing me in the hilltop enclave.

Coming up, The Septet, described as the “little big band” with Anastos at the helm, is scheduled to perform outdoors at La Baguette in Ashland. La Baguette is another venue with an appreciation for jazz. Saturday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. Buy tickets online at info@angelakoregelos.com or phone La Baguette.

Though high temperatures for the day remained tethered to the 80s, the afternoon warmed, but the Peter Anastos Quintet gave me chills.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.