The Jazz Bakery in Downbeat
JAZZ BAKERY FEATURE by Kirk Silsbee
Ruth Price plays a waiting game with regard to the realization of a second site for her suspended Jazz Bakery. Ever since early 2009, when her landlord unceremoniously terminated the lease on the club’s Culver City home, she’s been an impresario without a permanent venue. Far from idle, she books an ongoing schedule of tantalizing shows at various locations around Southern California under the Bakery’s banner of “Moveable Feast.”
Even in this limbo-like holding pattern, Price fulfills the important role of presenting quality artists in Los Angeles who probably wouldn’t otherwise secure one-night bookings in the bigger clubs: Trio M (with Myra Melford, Mark Dresser and Matt Wilson), guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle, pianist Chano Domínguez, guitarist Pat Martino with pianist Eldar, violinist Regina Carter’s Reverse Thread band, and singer-guitarist Dori Caymmi.
The frustrations of booking (last-minute cancellations, inclement weather keeping attendance down, venues with sub par pianos or sound equipment) are magnified as she continuously deals with many sets of variables while also keeping an eye on the ongoing progress of the Bakery’s new Culver City home.
As nerve-wracking as her post-eviction life has been, Price counts great blessings that have come to her. First the Annenberg Foundation gave the Bakery an unsolicited two million dollars. Then Culver City gave her an ideal site for free to keep her business within the city limits. Recently another gift materialized: renowned architect Frank Gehry offered to design her forthcoming building.
“He came to the Bakery a couple of times,” Price recalls, “only I didn’t know who he was. He was usually with Herbie Hancock, and he didn’t say much. Frank told me later that when he heard we lost our lease, that he thought about helping us in some way.”
“It was almost a shock,” she recounts, “when he came to us and offered his services on a pro bono basis at the first of the year. He said: ‘I’m doing this for two people—Sydney Pollack and my wife, Berta.’ It turns out she was a frequent visitor to the Bakery, as was Sydney.”
Price’s hand is also strengthened by the recent addition of the Bakery’s new executive director, Jeff Gauthier. A well-known jazz and new music violinist, he works with Angel City Arts, which books cutting-edge musicians into local clubs, and works on the artistically ambitious Angel City jazz Festival each summer. Gauthier also helms Cryptogramophone, unquestionably the best independent West Coast jazz label.
Price is unequivocal in her praise for Gauthier. “I love having him aboard,” she exults. “I’ve known him for a long time and I’ve always respected him as a musician. We did a paid search for an executive director and he was the choice; I was thrilled.”
The Bakery will co produce the Angel City Jazz Festival this year. Though he’ll be stepping away from his position at Angel City Arts, Gauthier will participate with ACA founder Rocco Somazzi and Price in programming the festival.
He’s equally enthusiastic about the collaboration between the Bakery and the Angel City Jazz Festival. “I saw this as an opportunity to bring the two organizations closer together,” Gauthier states, “and help realize the Bakery’s vision for a beautiful new center for jazz in Culver City. I've been creating opportunities for music and musicians for a long time in L.A., and I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to really make an impact and advocate for jazz and creative music in Los Angeles.”
Gehry’s involvement already has Price and Gauthier’s artistic wheels turning. “Frank has asked to consult with several musicians before putting the finishing touches on the room,” he reveals, “so he really wants to have a dialogue with musicians. We’d like to ask four different jazz composers to write a suite inspired by the new building and have it performed by an all-star group of L.A. players during the first season. Wouldn't that be something!”