No matter how well a concert is planned, there
will always be times that try the souls of
program directors such as Dan Atkinson of the
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.
He had no reason to expect disaster when he
booked the Terence Blanchard Sextet to play the
auditorium of the Neurosciences Institute (NSI)
on Thursday, May 18. Blanchard is internationally
renowned both as a jazz trumpet stylist and the
composer of scores for movies such as "Clockers,"
"Mo' Better Blues" and "Malcolm X."
Atkinson only books class acts, and Blanchard's
reputation stands in the international top rank,
so there shouldn't have been anything to worry
about - until the rhythm section was grounded in
Chicago because of a cyclone warning.
Obviously the sextet would not be in San Diego
by the Thursday evening and, despite all efforts,
Atkinson was unable to find local musicians to
fill in at such short notice.
He had to make the decision to postpone the
concert until the following night. Normally when
the sextet is on tour it plays every night, but
fortunately no gig was scheduled that Friday.
Immediately the entire Athenaeum's staff began
phoning everybody who had reservations and let
them know the concert had been rescheduled.
Atkinson, his assistant, Lucy, and public
relations associate Susan Dilts drove to the NSI
to greet approximately 30 audience members who
presumably had set off for the concert without
checking their messages.
"We got so many compliments from people
afterwards about how well this was handled,"
Dilts said later.
But they weren't done handling yet. Pianist
Edward Simon and bassist Derek Nievergelt did not
even land in Los Angeles (LAX) until 5.45 p.m.,
Friday, and would have to be driven to San Diego
through rush-hour traffic.
"Dan [Atkinson] was so calm cool and collected
about this whole thing," Dilts said. He booked
Rob Thurson, a well-known local bass player, to
sit in during the first half of the concert.
Blanchard, reorganized the set fully expecting to
play piano himself when not playing trumpet.
According to Dilts, Athenaeum volunteer Nicole
Bayer was dispatched to LAX to bring back
Nievergelt and Simon. Although she claimed she
had made this trip in under two hours in her
student days, nobody gave this much credence.
Nonetheless, Atkinson dialed her cell phone at
7:30 and asked, "Where are you?"
"Carlsbad. Coming south," she replied.
They reached the NSI at 7:50. "I missed fame by
six minutes," a disappointed Thurson joked after
the complete sextet took the stage.
From the highly polished performance nobody would
suspect such drama had gone on behind the scenes
but for the constant jokes about it made by
Terence "I'm well rested" Blanchard between
His trumpet playing is as immaculate as it is
moving. At age 38 he has the status of a
musician's musician in the Miles Davis mold. It
was no surprise to see San Diego's trumpet legend
Gilbert Castellanos among the audience.
The sextet, all sharply suited post-boomers,
plays straight-ahead jazz without any post bop
pretension. There is something very finely
structured about their music. The rhythm section
sounds finely understated. Hauntingly lyrical
improvisations came out of the saxophones of
Brice Winston, tenor, and Aaron Fletcher, the
alto player of whom Blanchard quipped, ""He
doesn't need any rest. He's 20 years old. He can
play all night long."
The surprisingly short concert included tracks
from the recently released "Wandering Moon" CD,
kicking off with "Supplemente Simon" and, later
in the program, following with the standard "I
Thought About You." Blanchard introduced his
composition, "Joe & O," by explaining how he felt
about the way his musical taste diverges from
that of his more traditionalist father.
As Atkinson had told the NSI audience at the
beginning of the evening, "Jazz is the art of
improvisation. We improvised by changing the
date. And you improvised by coming here."
The Athenaeum's summer series of concerts
continues at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) with a
fully sold out performance by guitarists Mundell
Lowe, Herb Ellis and Bob Magnusson in the music
room of the library itself at 1008 Wall Street,
La Jolla. Admission is $17 and $15 (Athenaeum
For waiting list information, call (858) 454