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Interview with Cheryl A. Lockett, CaliJazz founder and daughter of Merced Blue Notes

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Cheryl A. Lockett, originally born Cheryl Craig, speaks to Sacramento Press about working in northen California and the jazz scene in Sacramento.

When did you begin CaliJazz?
CaliJazz started in 2005 although I had been doing similar work since then. The name is actually an acronym for my name with the “I” for Independent Jazz.

Your parents were involved in music? Tell us.
I’m a proud product of a line of recording musicians called The Merced Blue Notes.
The Blue Notes are music of the 50s and 60s, not many 1st generation members are still alive. The band ceased in late 60s, early 70s. Their music was re-released in 2004 by Ace Records from the UK. The music is alive and well.

What has your experience been working with musicians in Sacramento?
There are a handful of great musicians in Sacramento. Yet some are afraid to do what I need cause they haven’t done it before. I need musicians to play all the genres I do including modern jazz, vintage blues, and classic rock. Its very important to have resources cause you cant always take your favorite with you.

What is your impression of the scene in Sacramento?
It has not been preserved well in Sacramento. There used to be more venues such as On Broadway near Tower Records. About 15 years ago, it started to go away. A younger society has different musical differences but that should not be a barrier. In Sacramento, its pretty dead. Its declined in other cities but quality jazz has been least supported in Sacramento….

Do you think jazz has been co-opted by the universities?
Studying music in school is just a premise to apprenticing someone or getting out there in the real world. A lot of people coming out of universities lack that experience. This idea is avoided by music scholars cause they don’t know how to teach emotion. When playing jazz, it is important that you connect with the emotional side and not avoid it.

What does the word jazz mean to you?
The word jazz is from the western world. We say it (jazz) is ours…America’s. The word is from America. It means nonsense, jive. The whole movement and its African history is considered uncivilized. It was too expressive and rhythmic compared to the other forms of music.

Jazz is about communication. In my family, we speak Tut, a secret code language created and shared by slaves and natives in this country. It is no longer secret but like jazz it was created by cross-pollination of customs and sounds.

How would you define jazz today?
There is a misconception about what jazz is—so many styles and such variance. It is in a state of mockery because of all the different types—acid jazz, cool jazz, all fusion. When technology comes in you get popular music. The thing to remember is that it is a cross-pollination of roots music.

For more information on Cheryl’s shows, lessons, and workshops visit www.calijazz.com or e-mail cheryl@calijazz.com. Check out the Examiner article on Cheryl’s work here.

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