La Sierra bolsters musical offerings with "Pierce Street" series

Jazz drummer Al Williams, photo courtesy of Lois Greene.
Jazz drummer Al Williams, photo courtesy of Lois Greene.

Oct. 27, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Want to hear great, live jazz close to home? La Sierra University, expanding upon successful summer jazz concerts with top musicians, is launching another series under the title “Pierce Street Jazz at La Sierra University.”

The first performance will be held Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. featuring the Al Williams Quartet. The concert will take place at La Sierra’s Alumni Center, located at 11500 Pierce St., Riverside. Admission is free. A second concert is slated for Dec. 2.

With support from university Provost Warren Trenchard, Dr. Marvin Payne, chair of La Sierra’s chemistry and biochemistry department and director of summer programs organized the summer series and is coordinating the “Pierce Street” lineup.

“La Sierra University wishes to support a very important art form and provide expanding cultural experiences on our campus to supplement the many fine performances held throughout the rest of the year,” Payne commented. “With this series we hope to enhance the already extensive offerings of high-quality music at La Sierra University.”

Trenchard added, “In the spirit of our rich tradition of presenting high quality music in various genres, La Sierra University is pleased to provide a venue for periodic jazz performances by local and regional jazz musicians to expose our students to this genuine American art form and to share this great music with jazz enthusiasts in our community.”

The Al Williams Quartet is a group of seasoned musicians who bring a cornucopia of talent and experience. Williams performs on drums, Doug Webb on saxophone, Gary Matsumoto on piano and Henry “The Skipper” Franklin on bass.

Williams is the founder of the Long Beach Jazz Festival, a signature Southern California jazz venue that held its 22nd event in August. The festival’s high-profile lineup this year included David Sanborn, Ramsey Lewis, Elderedge Jackson and Williams’ the Al Williams Jazz Society featuring Barbara Morrison. Over the years, Williams has performed and recorded with such greats as Hampton Hawes, Teddy Edwards, Willie Bobo, Kenny Burrell, Eddie Harris, Jimmy Witherspoon and Lowell Folsom.

Webb’s music resume boasts a lengthy list of recordings for major feature films and television shows including Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino,” “Changeling,” “The Big Time,” “Grace of My Heart,” “Soul Food,” “Mystic River,” “Law and Order,” “America’s Most Wanted,” and “The Simpsons.” The list of artists with whom Webb has recorded and performed reads like a who’s who of the music industry and includes Quincy Jones, Carly Simon, Stanley Clarke, Doc Severinsen and His Big Band, Englebert Humpedink, Kenny Rogers and Rod Stewart. Webb has been featured on over 150 jazz recordings. His new record with the Doug Webb quartet, “Last Trane To Georgia,” will be coming out on Azica Records, according to his Web site. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Matsumoto and Franklin perform jazz at Riverside’s Mission Inn each weekend.

Matsumoto graduated in 1999 from the University of California, Irvine with a bachelor’s of music and in 2002 from the California Institute of the Arts with a master’s degree. At UCI he studied with Dr. Lorna Griffith and with Miles Davis pianist Kei Akagi. He studied with David Roistein at the art institute.

A relative newcomer to the professional music scene, Matsumoto has amassed a lengthy resume of performance and recording experiences including work with famed MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer and his opening performance for Cheap Trick, film composer Nathan Wang, and performances with international recording artists Coco Lee, JJ Lin, Vivian Hsu, and Jenny Tseng. In 2008, SP Records released “The Matsumoto Trio - Days Ahead.” Other playing credits include work with Henry Franklin, Azar Lawrence, Bobby Rodriguez, Clayton Cameron, Charles Owens, Mark Ferber, Jeff Littleton, Ricky Woodard, Jeff Clayton, Herman Riley, Sam Most, and Phil Ranelin.

For more than 40 years Franklin has honed his craft with the greats of the business. To name a few, he has played with Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Count Basie, Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson and was part of the legendary Hugh Musekela’s band during the late 1960s. A native of Los Angeles, his storied background includes recordings on gold albums and performances on more than 100 records, many of which he produced. He creates albums under his label, SP Records. “I strive and work hard to do the best for jazz,” Franklin says in his biography. “It’s America’s only art form.”

La Sierra held four jazz concerts between June, July and August, featuring experienced musicians who honed their talent in the studio and on stage working alongside industry’s hottest acts. Drawing up on numerous industry contacts, Franklin organized each band. He is also pulling together musicians for the “Pierce Street” series.

“It’s important to bring jazz to all communities, especially here because here there are no real jazz clubs on a regular basis,” Franklin said. “Jazz is America’s own home grown music and it needs to be supported before it becomes extinct in its own country. ...It’s a shame. I just came from Hungary and Serbia doing festivals and there were people of all ages waiting in line to hear the music. The Europeans appreciate the music more than we do.”

La Sierra’s Payne plays bluegrass and jazz on his guitar. His favorite artists include Wes Montgomery, Doc Watson, Dan Crary and Keith Jarret. “For me it has been a hobby, but I really appreciate hearing the artists that have spent a lifetime developing their musicianship to a high level,” he said. “It’s a real pleasure to hear these people in the listening environment we have here."





PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


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