Marshall Hawkins jazz ensemble rocks downtown

To celebrate Black History Month, the Diamond Valley Arts Council wows patrons with the world-renowned Seahawk Mojo band

Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez/The Valley Chronicle
Marshall Hawkins led his seven-piece jazz ensemble Sunday night at the Diamond Valley Arts Center.

■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

The rafters rocked, the walls trembled, and a packed house toe-tapped to the best jazz this town has ever listened to. To celebrate Black History Month, the Diamond Valley Arts Council brought world renowned bass player, Marshall Hawkins and his Seahawk Mojo seven-piece jazz ensemble to the Diamond Valley Arts Center on Harvard Street in downtown Hemet Sunday night, Feb. 18.
It may have been billed to celebrate Black History Month, but believe me, it was as pure Americana as Basin Street, Beale Street, Kansas City and Chicago as any music your ears will ever be treated to.
Marshall opened the set with a heartfelt dissertation on love and caring for one another, but his musical message said so much more. He gave us Duke Ellington, big swing band contributions along with an honest tribute to Thelonious Monk featuring Mark Beebe, one of his Isomata (Idyllwild School of Music and The Arts) students on tenor sax.

Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez/The Valley Chronicle
Vocalist Sherry Williams brought guests to their feet with her rendition of “Take the A Train” Sunday night at the Diamond Valley Arts Center.

Bob Boss, referred to by Marshall as “my parole officer,” sizzled the atmosphere on a guitar that will stand against anyone in the business. Nigerian born Nigeta handled the Conga drums like the beat of the jungles from which they emanated. Roy Gonzales, Charles Owens and Clayton Powell completed the group that by evening’s close lifted the roof off the building.
Hawk’s mostly solo rendition of “I Should Care” was a courtesy call to the late Eugenia Baird who warbled the ballad with the Glen Gray big band of the 1940’s. One might have been remembering Ella Fitzgerald when vocalist Sherry Williams brought the house to it’s collective feet as she took us up to Harlem on “Take The A-Train.” She added “Like Someone In Love,” a fast-tempoed Jobim number, closing the evening with Billy Strayhorn’s “After Midnight.”
If you are a music aficionado, or simply like listening, I suggest you keep your eyes on upcoming attractions at D.V.A.C. They always present class music and other presentations. It still annoys me when someone says “there’s nothing to do in Hemet.” They must be deaf, dumb and blind. We have theater, karaoke, all kinds of music from country to bluegrass. And it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Sometimes it’s free. For instance, The Derby Bar and Grill, 2860 E. Florida Ave , is featuring nationally acclaimed banjo virtuoso Mark Noel Miller performing free on Saturday evening February 24. (For details call 951-347-9968). Also upcoming, the Harvard Street Music Exchange, 134 S. Harvard St. is holding its first anniversary bash on Saturday March 18 from noon on, and it’s free. Call Julio for details 951-925-6200.

Nothing to do in Hemet? Give me a break.

Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez/The Valley Chronicle
Nigerian born Nigeta played the congos with power and precision Sunday night at the jazz performance of the Marshall Hawkins ensemble.

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