Explorers perform at Jazz Bakery venue

Chronicle Staff

The Jazz Bakery welcomed the Jazz Explorers and featured student guests on Aug. 20 as the Explorers performed at their first major venue.

Bonnie Flannigan, mother of Ian Sprague ’08, a member of the Explorers, first introduced the idea of performing at the Bakery when she contacted Ruth Price, the Jazz Bakery founder and owner, early this summer.

Flannigan then submitted a CD featuring several of the Explorers’ songs and got a call back in mid-July asking them to perform.

Price, who founded the jazz club in 1995, did not plan on opening the present day “club,” but rather a venue for talented musicians.

However, since the establishment of the Jazz Bakery, its popularity and prestige has increased so much, that, according to LA Weekly’s Brandt Reiter, “performing at the Bakery is a sure sign that you’ve made it into the music’s highest ranks.”

The Explorers were eager to play at the non-profit establishment, which has hosted legends such as Charlie Byrd, Diana Krall and Branford Marsalis, Sprague said.

“We did really well for our first performance, especially since none of us have played in such a legit jazz club,” Sprague said.

Group leader and pianist Jay Dockendorf ’07, drummer Lucas Berman ’07, bassist Leland Farmer ’07, saxophonist Kurt Kanazawa ’07, trumpeter Sprague and tenor saxophonist Ian Stanton ’08 compose the student-led Jazz Explorers.

Dockendorf, who also organizes the Jazz Festival, is hoping to further expand the Jazz Explorers to venues outside of the school and interact more with bands from other schools.

“We’re going to try to take the Explorers to the next level of talent,” Dockendorf said.
The band has already gotten a head start. On Aug. 30, they performed at a private party held at UCLA and were paid to play background music.

They performed alongside guest vocalist Taylor Heisley-Cook ’07, as well as Matt Bernstein, a senior guitarist from the Brentwood School.

Their song selections, ranging from compositions by Grammy Award winner Herbie Hancock to bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim, allowed the Explorers to showcase their talent and “advancement beyond high school level,” Jason Gamer ’90 said.

Gamer, a member of the inaugural Jazz Explorers and Sprague’s trumpet instructor, sat among family members and Jazz Bakery regulars to support the Explorers during their performance.

“It was a neat thing for me to have been a founding member of the ensemble and then to have one of my students as a featured member,” Gamer said.

“That was something gratifying for me and terribly moving. They’re just at the beginning and I think that there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.”