By John Canalis
10:59 AM PST, January 16, 2013
My wife and I are trying to raise our daughter to appreciate the arts — not in a nose-in-the-air way, but in a manner that recognizes the importance of helping her develop both sides of the brain.
We want her to know a little bit more about culture than what's offered online and on TV. So she takes a weekly drawing-and-painting class outside of school, as there is little public funding for such academic "extras" these days, and we walk her through coffee-table books.
Our little family took a trip last year to the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach to see the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit, which my daughter deemed "amazing." She greatly enjoyed the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she made crafts and viewed a canvas by her favorite artist, Jackson Pollock, whom she adores because he so perfectly executed every child's dream — splashing paint all over the place.
Based on those successes, we thought we'd introduce her to music they don't air on Radio Disney. She learned about Louis Armstrong and jazz at school, and when we took her to New Orleans over winter break, she appreciated the horn-blowing buskers.
This gave us some hope that she would enjoy a jazz concert. My wife and I haven't been out together to see live music since our daughter was born nearly seven years ago, so we gleefully accepted an invitation last weekend to attend media day at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts, where the Monterey Jazz Festival, a touring group of performers who have appeared at the genre's most famous festival, was slated to perform.
It was an exciting afternoon. Hours before showtime, my daughter wanted to put on her "pretty dress" and "sparkly shoes." The anticipation had her so giddy she even hurried out of a Girl Scouts meeting to make sure we made it to the theater on time.
She was overwhelmed with the clean beauty of the lobby at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, where she stopped by the stairwell and curtsied for a photo. We sat dead-center in the orchestra section, and when legendary vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and bassist Christian McBride took the stage, she enjoyed snapping her fingers along with the bass line.
The sultry Bridgewater, who is known to deliver a little PG-13 humor between songs, kept things clean, explaining that her grandchildren were in the audience that night and that she had to behave. She nevertheless flirted with the male players — a shtick the audience adored — but the entire set, double entendres and all, was family-friendly.
The opening number was followed by a slate of standards and originals performed by some of jazz's top players, including trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Benny Green and drummer Lewis Nash. Each had performed at Monterey and joined Bridgewater and McBride on a nationwide tour to promote the festival; Costa Mesa was one of the first stops.
With a lineup like that, you can only imagine the solos, which were countered nicely by Bridgewater's pitch-perfect scatting. At one point, my daughter sat on my lap to get a better view.
But a few numbers into the set, my daughter fell asleep, apparently soothed by Green's majestic piano playing. She woke up periodically to applaud — one of her favorite activities — with the audience and then went back to sleep.
When the tempo increased — they closed the set with a dazzling "All of Me," followed by a funk-driven original by Bridgewater for the encore — she woke up in earnest. She seat-danced along with the rest of the audience and then gleefully joined in the standing ovation, held up by me so she could see over the taller heads in front of her.
On the ride home, we asked her what she thought and she said, "I loved it," and then asked if we could find a pop artist she adores on the radio.
It seems as though children, with their open minds, can appreciate just about anything — from bop to Bieber.
JOHN CANALIS is the editor for the Daily Pilot, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and firstname.lastname@example.org.