Photo of Bobby Rodriguez

LA Jazz Scene: You have had quite a long career as a musician, band leader, instructor and mentor. Of all those careers which is the most enjoyable and why?

Dr.B I believe that my career has flourished because I am multifaceted. I play the trumpet, compose, produce, I’m a leader, a side-man and a professor of Jazz and LatinJazz and let’s not forget the advantage I have because of my beautiful and talented wife Yvonne, who helps me with everything…graphic design, accounting, my career, etc. My career has taken turns that I never thought could happen. For example…I never wanted to be a teacher because I always thought of myself as a student. But because I accepted a small trumpet teaching job I came to realized “I do know a lot.” I’ve now been teaching and performing school concerts for almost 30 years. And acquiring a doctorate degree has been very helpful. I’ve come to a time in my career where I fully accept my role as a mentor to the next generation and feel comfortable taking on that responsibility. Everything I’m involved with in music is a great commitment and I take that responsibility very serious. In my 20s and 30s I didn’t realize the power of mentors, through I had them. Bill Taggart; my elementary school teacher. John Prince, my college professor; Paul Lopez, my Salsa Guru and later Don Ferrara and Uan Rasey, my trumpet teachers.

LA Jazz Scene: Are the students you work with today different from students in the past? Today they have computers, for example, and access to other students and people already in the music business. What are you noticing these days? Is the enthusiasm there? Are they working ! 1 hard? Do you think that some of your students could become teachers or professionals themselves?

Dr. B: Teaching at UCLA for the past 18 years under the direction of Kenny Burrell and UC Irvine for the past 15 years under the direction of Kei Agaki has been wonderful. Through Kenny and Kei I’ve learned so much more about the educational music business, protocol, the UC system and of course music it self. Daily I’m working with James Newton, Clayton Cameron, Justo Almario, Tamir Hendelman, Derek Oles, Jerry Pinter, Jason Harnell, Roberto Miranda and otheres. And through it all, I’ve found that students haven’t changed much. They still come in with pre-decided plans but find, as they matriculate, there are many options to investigate. It seems to me that with all of the options that are now demanding a student’s time, there are still students who want to become a professional musician with the caveat of having a back-up plan or something to fall back on, such as a double major or minor.

LA Jazz Scene: Do you think that today’s music students are well prepared for work, for jobs in the music industry? It would be nice to keep some of that talent in Los Angeles.

Dr. B: In my classes, I always talk to my students about the realities of the Music Business. I tell them that the music business is wonderful to be part of but because it’s so emotional, it can take you to heights of ecstasy and to the depths of despair all in the same day. I think many Jazz students find, as they go through school, that there are lots of relatable employment options inside the Music Business other than as a performer. ! 2 My career is somewhat unique from other Jazz musicians because of my commercial music involvement through Quincy Jones and the Brothers Johnson. I remind them what ‘Q’ told us youngsters, “Your 20s are your commercial (let’s be a star) years, your 30s are learning life years, your 40s are the re-evaluation years. And hopefully you have your 50s.” Are students ready for the “real” world? Were any of us really ready for the real world. So much comes at you when you’re young. When you’re 40 everything (health, work, relationships, etc.) depends on what decisions were made 20 years earlier.

LA Jazz Scene: We’ve lost a lot of musicians and composers in the past few years. Who do you miss and why?

Dr. B: I miss Buddy Collette because he was a genuine giving and kind man. Also, Gerald Wilson because he was real.

LA Jazz Scene: What does receiving the “NICA” award mean to you?

Dr. B: Getting into the higher levels of Jazz recognition is a win-win for everyone. It elevates the awareness of Jazz through the positive publicity, the grand event which raises money to help more musicians and the chance for Jazz fans and organizations to be seen and heard. When I was nominated for a Grammy award it took the music and me to a higher place. It’s always wonderful to be recognized but this kind of award is very special because it’s recognition of all the different kinds of work I do and all of the different organizations that present Jazz events. This kind of ! 3 entrepreneurial award from the California Jazz Foundation is a wonderful spotlight and I’m very honored and grateful that I was chosen. BTW, here are some of the musicians who will perform at the GALA: John Stephens, Ann Patterson, Lee Secard, Justo Almario, Rickey Woodard, Tony White, Wendell Kelly, George Bohanon, Paul Stocker, Charlie Davis, Jon Papenbrook, Ron Barrows, Austin Villegas, Billy Mitchell, Richard Simon, Clayton Cameron, Richie Gajate-Garcia, Kenn Phillips, Munyungo Jackson…

LA Jazz Scene: What’ is your latest project?

Dr. B: My new CD, “Jazz it Up!” is coming out in May of 2018. It’s a new sound with contemporary beats, funky feelings and of course Latin percussion. I hope you’ll love it. I’m also working on my memoir, “From East L. A. to Carnegie Hall,” also my third text book, “ABC’s of Jazz Improvisation” and a children's book entitled, “Follow Your Dreams.”

Photo of Joe Rothman and John McClure

Most of us who enjoy jazz and attend events all around the Southland have been spoiled. We had all types of music available at hotels, clubs, boats, outdoor events, theaters and even at private homes. We were able to hear some of the finest musicians and singers in the world. Some were new names, who were just beginning their jazz careers. Others were out of colleges and music schools, ready to challenge the world. Some performers had been “working jazz” for decades and they continued to wow audiences.

We may think we know what it takes to present the music to audiences, but we don’t know anything! Our niche of “show business” is very difficult. It shouldn’t be, but jazz is a format that includes so many elements. There is so much work to do before a performer steps on stage in any venue.

There are two impresarios in the Southland who have presented the finest entertainers in the world to grateful audiences. Joe Rothman and John McClure have seen it all, experienced it all and they’ve made it look so easy. I had a few questions for them.

L.A. Jazz Scene When, why and how did you decide to create the West Coast Jazz Party in Irvine in 1995 and the Newport Beach Jazz Party in Newport Beach in 2001?

Joe Rothman and John McClure Probably the best place to start is going back to 1995, several years after Joe Rothman’s retirement of 31 years with Marriott Hotels and in his final position as General Manager of the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. While at that hotel in 1987, Joe had heard about a “Jazz Party” being held at a competitive hotel and as a big mainstream jazz lover, it became a high priority of his to move it to the Marriott which he did the next year. Being the host hotel of this quality event for 4 years really hooked him on the idea of creating a first-class jazz event. Joe felt Orange County would be an ideal place for a new jazz party and the Irvine Marriott was selected, over Labor Day Weekend, as the host hotel. In addition to Joe Knowing the Marriott’s General Manager to be a mainstream jazz fan, he asked John, who was working as a Convention Sales Director of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, if he would become a full partner in the company – West Coast Jazz Party llc. As founder and co-producer, Joe handles all of the music and hotel reservations and negotiations and John books the artists and coordinates the staging logistics. The WCJP had a great 15 year run with its closing party held in 2009.

Image of ad for newport jazz party

While the WCJP gradually saw an increase in attendance each year, Joe and John felt there could also be similar success with creating a second jazz party over Presidents’ Weekend in Newport Beach, thus starting the Newport Beach Jazz Party in 2001. With our relatively warm climate in February, many of our Mid-West and East Coast jazz lovers showed us their acceptance by attending two parties a year!

L.A. Jazz Scene What were some of the obstacles you had to face?

Joe Rothman and John McClure Since the funding mechanism of holding a 4 day event in a hotel requires a majority of the attendees renting a guest room (the rental of guest rooms being the primary economic engine of a hotel) recruiting mainstream jazz lovers from around the country to come to Irvine was the primary challenge. Thanks to the support and patience of the Irvine and Newport Beach hotel’s management and so many of our artists who were willing to “invest” their time & support in performing at our parties, we have been able to enjoy strong attendance for these events over the past 22 years!

L.A. Jazz Scene How much time did it take to create the first show?

Joe Rothman and John McClure About 8 months, securing the facilities and contracting the artists.

L.A. Jazz Scene Who were the first artists that you booked?

Joe Rothman and John McClure The first artist we booked to help us “launch” the West Coast Jazz Party was Butch Miles, the well-known drummer of the Count Basie Band who Joe and I enjoyed getting to know when Butch played the San Diego Jazz Party. The list of artists we hired for our first WCJP also included Conte Candoli, Pete Christlieb, Buddy DeFranco, Ron Eschete, Terry Gibbs, Urbie Green, Jake Hanna, Holly Hofmann, Red Holloway, Luther Hughes, Roger Kellaway, John Leitham, Tom Ranier, Emil Richards, Stacy Rowles, Jack Sheldon, Andy Simpkins, Paul Smith, Grady Tate, George Van Eps, Bill Watrous and Rickey Woodard.

L.A. Jazz Scene Was that first party successful? Did you cover expenses and make a profit?

Photo of Sax

Joe Rothman and John McClure The first party lost thirty thousand dollars (although a creative success, in our opinion) with the Marriott paying all expenses the first year. We assumed all costs in year 2, cutting losses in half due to what we learned in year 1 and broke even in year 3 with all subsequent parties turning a profit- starting in 1998.

L.A. Jazz Scene After that first party, were you convinced that you could do it again?

Joe Rothman and John McClure With the amazing support of the artists, our suppliers, volunteers and most importantly the patrons, we were excited and motivated to continue bringing jazz to Orange County for a number of years but not expecting a 22 year run of producing 15 West Coast Jazz Parties and 17 Newport Beach Jazz Parties!

L.A. Jazz Scene Why are you making the 2018 Newport Beach Jazz Party your last?

Joe Rothman and John McClure Joe’s best answer; “John and I are not getting any younger”. Truthfully, we wanted to go out on a high note (presenting 5 big bands and over 130 artists for our last party) while now allowing our full attention to producing the Sunset Jazz series!

L.A. Jazz Scene What are your plans for the future?

Joe Rothman and John McClure Not wanting to disappear into the sunset of jazz impresarios, Joe and I are continuing to produce our successful Sunset Jazz at Newport summer series, with next summer being our 9th year. The event consists of 11 Wednesdays nights of mainstream jazz held in the delightful Rose Garden of the Newport Beach Marriott. Patrons enjoy appetizer and dinner selections for purchase with table service, while listening to a number of the popular artists who have appeared at both jazz parties over the years. The 2018 series will begin on July 11 and conclude on September 19.

by Myrna Daniels