Tom Scott at Squashed Grapes, Ventura Ca.
“The coolest place in town!” proclaims Tom Scott. He’s referring of course to Squashed Grapes – aka “Your Neighborhood Winery and Jazz House.” – aka “The Birthplace of the Jazz Renaissance in Ventura.”
Saturday October 24th was Tom’s second performance date at the Grape. His first time in went so well that owners Adam Randall and Josh McNutt had to establish two seatings, two shows, this time to accommodate the fans. This seating arrangement is yet another first for the Grape. Typically they ask artists to play 3 sets with open seating.
They’ve been through many growing pains these past few years. As they harvest their own grapes and make their own wine, they have to plan far ahead for their yield. “With the growing entertainment side of the business, we now have to worry about having enough wine for the up-coming jazz season.” Josh McNutt explains. Not a bad indication at all of what’s to come in the Ventura jazz scene.
Good fortune seems to come their way. In 2014 they received a donation of a baby-grand piano. This gift situated them firmly as a bonafide “jazz club,” now missing only the smoke filled room.
Tom Scott, three time Grammy Award Winner and with fourteen Grammy nominations came into the Grape with an outstanding band.
Quinn Johnson – Piano
David Hughes – Bass
Kevin Winward – Drums
Their repertoire spanned a wide range of jazz styles and eras. From the 60s to the present. Scott explains how he’s been influenced by John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Stanley Turrentine and others. Also, as anticipated, his experiences in film, TV and studio were represented. He also included some of his original tunes.
The band came prepared. Pianist Quinn Johnson brought an electric piano that covered the Fender Rhodes sound and the very funky wah, envelope-following sound of the 70’s. Quinn has an incredible ability to play the hell out of any style.
Bassist David Hughes, along with the double-bass, brought a 6-string electric that he used for some of the funky sounds.
Their first set included Victor Feldman’s “The Chant” – ala Cannonball Adderley, Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar, and an original by Tom “Got To Get Closer To You.” Tom explains that this song, the way he plays it is influenced by the sound of Grover Washington.
Also played were Michel Legrand’s “His Eyes, Her Eyes” from the movie Tom worked on “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and Carmell Jones’ “Business Meetin’.”
One Song that really surprised the audience was Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.” A very funky version that featured all the musicians.
His second set included the beautiful ballad “Stars Fell on Alabama,” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” Tom explained that he first heard this tune played by John Coltrane.
Tom Scott stepped off the stage to feature pianist Quinn Johnson. Quinn played “Alone Together” with progressively intense choruses. Very Bill Evans-like. The audience response was overwhelming.
Tom ended the set with Dave Grusin’s tune “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow” the theme song from the ‘70s TV series Baretta starring Robert Blake.
Tom’s rapport with audience was quite light hearted and amusing. A fine evening of jazz in Ventura.
Adam Randall, Josh McNutt
2153 East Main St
Ventura, CA 94003
Photo: Paul Weitz