The California Jazz Foundation
By Roger Crane
December, 2007
First printed in LA Jazz Scene

Unlike pop music whose success depends only upon the market place, jazz is an art form and depends upon a small, albeit stable and loyal, fan base. Because it is not a popular music, the jazz life is not an easy path to wealth or, sometimes, even to basic living. Jazz artists confront the day-to-day plight of sustaining and growing an audience despite a media consumed with the mass appeal of rock music and all its various cousins (hip hop, rap and such). As the old joke goes, “How do you become a millionaire in jazz? Begin with $5 million!” Along the same line, a jazz player once said, “You do not choose jazz, it chooses you.” No music depends so much on the individual as jazz, and those individuals sometimes need help. As their slogan declares, the newly founded California Jazz Foundation (CJF) is “here to help.”

Many fine organizations exist that promote jazz music, but the purpose of the non-profit CJF is to provide services and support to the creators, namely the jazz musicians and others who have made substantial contributions to this art form. Attorney and jazz lover Edythe Bronston saw what was being done in New York by benevolent charities that serve jazz musicians in need. She recognized that out-of-work and out-of-luck jazz musicians exist in Los Angeles as well as New York. Thus on January 30th of 2006, she formed the CJF and later introduced it to the public at a very successful fundraiser at the Local 47 Musicians Union Hall on March 18th of 2007. That event was followed in July by an afternoon concert fundraiser at the Orange County home of Mike and Lucy Peak. As I write this, a special fundraising concert called ‘Jazz Summit’ is scheduled for December 2nd at Catalina’s jazz club in Hollywood.

Unfortunately, jazz musicians often have little access to the machinery of capitalism. Many of those that the CJF assist do not make enough to pay their rent, or to repair their car, or to receive medical care because they are not able to play as many gigs (or even find gigs) due to illness, injuries, age and ailments. Phones don’t ring anymore; the gigs have disappeared. Older musicians also have financial problems and may not have savings. They were often paid in cash and never received pension plans. Many lack the financial ability to access appropriate medical care. For those in need of such, CJF has an extensive network of medical professionals who are available on a sliding fee scale. Furthermore, some musicians need education as to their professional rights and their benefits. Thus, in addition to emergency financial assistance, a major objective of the CJF is to educate such musicians as to those rights and benefits and to help in the preparing of required paperwork.

So far, the CJF has assisted a number of jazz musicians with such services as payment of rents for a performer who had major back surgery, payment of utility bills for an elderly out-of-work musician, performing as a clearinghouse connecting those in need with appropriate service agencies, and other similar tasks. The CJF, of course, honors the privacy (and pride) of those it assists but, let me tell you about one individual, Sandra Booker, who has been helped dramatically by the CJF and has graciously given permission to be interviewed.

During April of 2007, after leaving a jazz venue in downtown Los Angeles, vocalist Sandra Booker’s car was hit and totaled by an MTA bus and she was seriously injured. She is a single full time musician and, not being able to work, wondered how she would be able to deal with growing financial issues, “I felt I was on the fast track to losing everything, including my home.” The CJF not only helped with her living expenses, but brought meals to Sandra’s home and drove her to medical appointments. To paraphrase Sandra “it is so important to have this organization (the CJF). Such volunteer effort is vital to assist the disenfranchised. It has not only helped me financially but, equally important, psychologically. They were wonderful, doing more than I expected.” With help from the CJF Sandra is recovering and is now a fulltime UCLA music major and will be returning to a singing career.

Yes, the California Jazz Foundation is “here to help” and has, in fact, already assisted many musicians in its short existence. Isn’t it nice when folks not only care but organize and act on their concern. For further information or to become a member or to contribute to this wonderful organization you can contact the CJF at 818-528-2893 or write by going to the website at or email Edythe Bronston at

From: Los Angeles Jazz Society Newsletter

On Sunday, March 18 the California Jazz Foundation held their first fundraiser, “Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon,” at the Local 47 Musician’s Union in Hollywood. The California Jazz Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization recently formed to provide financial, medical and legal assistance to musicians and others in need who have made substantial contributions to jazz.

Emcees Dick McGarvin, Jeffrey Winston and Chet Hanley kept the standing-room-only audience engaged between enchanting performances from amazing musicians, including the Thom Rotella Trio featuring vocalist Janis Mann, the Bobby Rodriguez Latin jazz Combo, the Rickey Woodard Septet and the Phil Norman Tentet. Jazz great Buddy Collette was on hand to greet the crowd and lend his support to the Foundation as well. The mood was festive and the audience, volunteers and musicians all seemed to enjoy the inaugural event.

Foundation President Edythe Bronston extended her gratitude to the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s “wonderful cadre of volunteers [who] were certainly instrumental in the success of our first event.” Ms. Bronston also enthusiastically acknowledged the support of local jazz clubs who supported the fundraiser, in part by donating food for the cause.

For more information about the California Jazz Foundation, visit their website at

“California Jazz Foundation Show At Local 47 a Hit”
By: Bob Agnew Source: L.A. Jazz Scene, April 2007, page 11

The Thom Rotella Quartet with guest vocalist Janis Mann, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez Latin Jazz, The Rickey Woodard Septet and The Phil Norman Tentet all were conspicuously present, and performing at their best, in their contribution toward the success of “Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon” at Local 47 of the Musician’s Union in Hollywood on March 18. It was a fund-raiser by the newly formed California Jazz Foundation, a non-profit group organized to provide assistance to jazz musicians, or those who have been contributors to jazz, if and when they have a need. The packed house confirmed the worthiness of the cause, and the audience sat back to enjoy not only the best in jazz but tasty food and beverages, as well.

Veteran jazz artist, Buddy Collette, made an appearance at the event, commending the Foundation for its goals and for attracting such a large audience to its show. Three personable emcees kept the program on pace: Dick McGarvin, Jeffrey Winston and Chet Hanley, and, of course, there were numerous jazz greats in attendance.

Guitarist Thom Rotella’s Trio gave the show a vibrant send-off, as they performed “Blues for Youse” (a Rotella tune), “I Hear a Rhapsody” and “Little Sunflower.” Keeping abreast of Rotella’s dynamics with their own fine solos were Llew Matthews at the piano and Roy McCurdy at the drums.

Former New York singer Janis Mann, backed by the Rotella trio, then wowed the audience with her upbeat version of “Old Devil Moon” enlivening it with her brand of soul and scat. Then it was a 180-degree turn to the sublime as she sang “If You Could See Me Now” and wrapped her part of the entertainment with a fast-paced “Never Let Me Go.”

Following a pause for the setup between acts, while the crowd mingled, ate and drank, Bobby Rodriguez Latin Jazz combo then burst upon the scene with their foot-tapping, rhythmic flow of music to excite the listeners with tunes like “Consideration” and “Descarga.” With his great trumpet playing leading the way, Rodriguez was backed by Ricky Hopkins on tenor sax, Serge Kasimoff on the piano, Vashoen Johnson on bass and Munyungo Jackson on the congas. Rodriguez, who recently earned his PhD, spoke glowingly of the Foundation’s efforts and recalled a time in his early days when he was featured on his “baby trumpet” with the Buddy Collette band. His anxiety about his performance was relieved afterward when Collette looked at him and said, “Fantastic!” Rodriguez said it made him feel as if he “belonged,” analogously referring to how a musician in the future might feel when he needs the help of the California Jazz Foundation.

The jazz treats for the afternoon continued with the Rickey Woodard Septet, which included Bob Summers on trumpet, Albert Alva, on alto sax, Ryan Porter on trombone, Jane Getz at the piano, Roy McCurdy at the drums and Edwin Livingston on bass, with the always extraordinarily talented Woodard on tenor. The tunes played were Hank Mobley’s “Peck-a-Set,” Carl Perkins’ “Groove Yard’” Woodard’s “Kerstin” and “Spontaneous Combustion.” Individual solos abounded, and, all in all, it was a choice jazz set.

The finale for the day came with the appearance of the Phil Norman Tentet, which, happily, the leader has kept in business for over a decade now. Norman sat in the tenor sax chair and narrated between tunes, leaving occasional directing to pianist-arranger-composer Bob Florence. Also in the band were Jeff Brisco on alto sax, Brian Williams, baritone sax, Andy Williams, trombone, Carl Saunders and Ron Stout, trumpets, Tom Rizzo, guitar, Joel Hamilton, bass, and Kendall Kay, drums. Among the tunes featured were “Whisper Not,” “The Outlaw and Middle Jazz,” Carl Saunders’ “Friends Ballad” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” a jazzy romp of the Gene Autry song made popular by Bing Crosby and The Sons of the Pioneers.

As a closing act, it was a grand finale, indeed, with the band’s fine arrangements beautifully spotlighted through a profusion of solos by the Tentet’s outstanding musicians.