“The Sierra 5” jazz ensemble at North Star House on August 24

Locals looking for quality jazz no longer need to travel to clubs in Sacramento. Instead, they can sip wine and eat a gourmet picnic dinner on the lawn at the North Star House.

On Sunday, August 24, the faculty backbone of the celebrated Sierra Jazz Society and Jazz Camp will come together in a rare appearance known as The Sierra 5 for an outdoor community concert benefiting Bear Yuba Land Trust.

Held at the beautiful North Star House, the concert is the second in a three concert summer jazz series designed to raise funding and awareness for BYLT’s ongoing land conservation projects and outdoor education programming.

Billed as a community party with ticket prices starting at just $20, The Sierra 5 concert is designed to be accessible to everyone.

“I think the county should know there is really good jazz right here,” said guitarist John Girton, known historically as the lead guitarist of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. For the past decade, Girton has played traditional old school jazz blues standards regularly with husband and wife team, bassist Bill Douglass and classically trained flutist Nora Nausbaum.

For the Land Trust event, Girton, Douglass and Nausbaum join fellow jazz camp faculty members, drummer Kit Bailey and trombonist Al Bent. Each musician in The Sierra 5 has five decades of musical history to their name.

“We try to listen to each other a lot. We try to make it sound like a whole,” said Girton. Besides writing, arranging and recording three albums with Dan Hicks, Girton was a guitarist, saxophonist, clarinetist, and occasional mandolinist with the popular vocalist, Maria Muldaur.

At the August 24 concert, fans can expect to hear tunes like the jazz classic, “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington or the well-known blues crossover tune,“Swingin’ Shepherd Blues” popularized by composer Moe Kauffman. Other songs on the play list include, “Manha de Carnival” a bossa style from the movie Black Orpheus and the swing-style tune, “On the Sunnyside of the Street.”

“Jazz is the greatest American music as far as I’m concerned,” said Girton

The audience is part of the music

For 20 years, Bill Douglass performed and recorded on the East coast with Marian McPartland, host of NPR’s long-running show, “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.” He has also performed and recorded with Mose Alison, who was honored as one of the 2013 Jazz Masters by the National Endowment for the Arts. Douglass has worked with other top artists such as: Bobby McFerrin, Terry Riley, Art Lande, Mark Isham, Bobby Bradford and Tom Waits. Douglass is the Artistic Director of Sierra Jazz Society and annual Jazz Camp.

“He’s played with many of the big names of Jazz and some other musical disciplines too.  John Girton on guitar, is the same sort of experienced guy. You can find him playing humbly at Friar Tucks on Sundays, but he’s been with some of the major musicians and bands of the West Coast,” said Land Trust board member Bill Trabucco and Jazz Camp student.

Locally, Douglass plays once a month with the musical group, “Reflections” at the Stonehouse in Nevada City with Girton, Bent, Karl Chelette on drums and Jim Trefethen on saxophone. Besides “Reflections,” Al Bent’s trombone can be heard in Bay Area Latin bands, big bands, and jazz combos of every style.

Drummer Kit Bailey began hitting things for fun and profit at age 11, drumming in bagpipe bands, wind ensembles, ballet and theatre pit orchestras, swing and jazz combos, rock and jazz fusion bands, big dance classes and orchestras including San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Symphonies, and Music in the Mountains Orchestra.

For the last 22 years, Douglass and classically trained Nora Nausbaum have made music together. The two married four years ago. Nausbaum received her Masters of Music degree from New England Conservatory of Music, taught in colleges in the Midwest and South before coming to California in 1985. She favors playing the alto flute.

Influences of The Sierra 5 are many and varied: Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Hank Jones, Jim Hall and Diana Krall.

“I would call our sound mellow, imaginative, collaborative, experienced, always listening to one another. Each tune has a melody and then we improvise based on melody, chords and structure… Serendipity is welcome… intuition plays its part. Jazz asks us to be in the moment, listening,” said Nora Nausbaum.

Nausbaum is looking forward to the Land Trust concert, where the listening audience, to her, is an essential part of any live performance.

“That’s why this concert is beautiful for us because of the special attention of the audience. For us, the audience is part of the music. The music gets better when people are listening,” said Nausbaum.

Besides the joy that music brings, concert attendees will get the added bonus of giving back to a cause they believe in.

“They get two for one. They get the music connection and they get to support Bear Yuba Land Trust,” said Nausbaum.

Bear Yuba Land Trust is a community supported non-profit group that works with willing landowners to conserve land for community hiking and outdoor education, farming and ranching, forestry and healthy natural open spaces beneficial for native populations of plants and animals. To date, BYLT has conserved 9,000 acres and built 40 miles of trails.

For a picnic dinner on the lawn, concert goers can pre-order a Hawaiian-themed gourmet boxed dinner from Christopher’s Catering Company. During the concert, attendees can purchase wine, beer or a specialty cocktail at the Land Trust Bar (no outside alcohol please) or shop for local goods and services at a Silent Auction.

Gates for the event open at 5 p.m. with music beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $20 for members, $25 for not-yet-members and are available online, at BriarPatch Co-op and the Land Trust office, 12183 Auburn Road, Grass Valley.

For more concert and ticket information, call: 272-5994, email: info@bylt.org or visit: www.bylt.org

-Laura Brown, Bear Yuba Land Trust

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