Mana'o, Maui's homegrown subscription radio station, broadcasts all sorts of music, including jazz in the daytime - providing the volunteer host loves the music. At around 9 a.m. on a recent day, there was a long string of tasty jazz tunes. Hmm, sounds as if Jimmy C is picking the recordings. Sure enough. No mistaking that voice. The choice of music and the smooth segues prompted a phone call. Everyone appreciates a little applause.
Jimmy is a professional drummer and singer who has worked with a wide variety of bands. The life a sideman is tough on Maui. Bands are lucky if they have regular one-night-a-week gigs. Playing the kind of music the way they love to play it is another matter. Got to keep the customers satisfied.
"We're having a jazz workshop this Sunday, he said. "You're welcome to stop by."
It was a day just right for a ride out Kaupakulua way. Spotted the foliage-shrouded driveway. Baby muttered up to The Winery, a one-time recording studio. The building goes back to the days when grapes were grown in Haiku. It's been Harry Davisson's home for decades.
Turned off the motorcycle and stood to get a post-ride nicotine fix. A snide comment about rhythm came through the open casement windows. After laughter, someone counted off a tune. This is going to be good.
It had been a long time since the last visit to The Winery. It sported fresh paint inside and out. The two-story open space had acquired a hardwood floor. One side was dominated by a small stage. The rhythm section - bass, drums and guitar - faced a line of two reed players, a trombone, lead guitar and a keyboard.
Park my bike boots in a litter of slippers and move quickly over to a set of steps leading up to a second-floor kitchen and living room. Jimmy and Harry smiled greetings. The steps made a kind of bleacher. Two drummers were waiting for a different tune.
Conga player Agustino Maggliosi was sitting out the non-Latin tune. Patrick McDowell was alternating with Jimmy C on drums. Maggliosi introduced himself. After playing in noisy saloons, pro players don't pay attention to offstage conversations. McDowell commented, "The acoustics in this place are great."
The tune, one of a series of standards, ended with a flourish. McDowell moved up to the drum kit. Jimmy announced a tune selected by the next soloist. Maggliosi got ready to add a touch of salsa.
"I hate being the leader of the band but someone's got to do it," Jimmy said. He's been organizing the irregularly scheduled sessions for more than two years. The workshop was founded by Miguel Maldonado.
"It's a three-hour workshop, not a performance. It's a place where the players can experiment," Jimmy said. It's all about the music, not customers or even listeners.
The papa bear of the group was Phil Smith. His in-between comments were sarcastic. He was quick to acknowledge a particularly adept solo. His sax playing echoed legend Lester Young. On ballads, he played a liquid clarinet. Along with Robert Sajak, Smith plays an alto sax. Maybe it's a tenor. I can't tell the difference unless they are side by side.
Henry Arroyo is a young guy. His trombone solos were inventive. It's one of the tougher single-line instruments on which to improvise.
Keyboard player Michael Elam only occasionally soloed. His piano and organ contributions tended to be understated.
Lead guitar was played by a German named Al Sheck. He was the only player who relied on his ears. He doesn't read. His playing was much better than his English.
Sajak occupied the other end of the line from Smith. His sometimes bebop-like solos on an alto, maybe tenor, had a sweet tone. Jazz saxophones often honk, not the prettiest sound. His was melodic.
Jon Toda, apparently being mentored by Sajak, was in my left ear. He kept his bass guitar singing or maintaining the basic underlying chords.
Jimmy C's singing has improved over the years. His voice is stronger and his pitch more secure. His drumming has always been on target.
Davisson did a yeoman job on rhythm guitar and ventured solos only on tunes he knew in his bones.
So why open his home to an ever-changing group of musicians? "I get to listen to some very good players who help me get better," Davisson said. Besides, "it makes my barn sound good." I agee, especially on a pretty Maui day.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.