Edit ModuleShow Tags

All That Jazz

Three locals team up in world premiere


Published:

Imagine San Diego circa 1939—an underground jazz club south of Broadway, where drinks flow freely, cigarette smoke swirls through a dimly lit room, and the moody riff of a saxophone serves as the soundtrack for romance, bar brawls, and more. This is the inspiration for The Federal Jazz Project, a new world premiere production opening April 6 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

Fast-forward to the late ’90s, in a speakeasy-type joint near 15th and Market streets, and that’s where playwright/actor Richard Montoya got an idea. The San Diego native was struck by the nightly jam sessions that showcased amateur musicians improvising alongside the regulars—sort of like an open-mic night for jazz lovers.  

“Some of the side men, the players who showed up at all hours carrying their axes, were military cats, some in uniform, and some catching the last cab back to base before reveille,” he says. “Playing jazz was more precious than sleep!”

Montoya set out to honor those stories and the stories of his Navy father, who believed “the coolest sailors went to old jazz haunts like the Green Door on Ash Street and more nefarious places in Tijuana.”

He eventually met celebrated trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, whose weekly jam sessions have developed a cult following (check him out on Wednesdays at Seven Grand in North Park). Castellanos composed all of the music for The Federal Jazz Project, and is currently recording an album of the score, which will be available once the play opens.

“This play is really going to showcase the deep rich history of San Diego’s music scene in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Castellanos says.

The plot follows two sisters named San Diego and Tijuana, who get a shot at stardom in 1939. One sister’s misfortunes lead her to the bowels of Mexicali, while the other rises to the top. The play travels through decades and across the Mexican border, with jazz becoming, as Montoya says, “the vehicle across those borders.”

But don’t expect storytelling in the traditional sense. There will be some spoken dialogue blended with poetry and some singing blended with improvisational jazz tunes.

“It’s a mixture of how one tells a story,” says Sam Woodhouse, artistic director of the San Diego REP, who is also directing the show. “The challenge is how to fuse all of these styles.”

The Federal Jazz Project is funded in part by the San Diego Foundation and the National Endowment from the Arts, which shelled out $40,000 and gave the work recognition on a national level. Woodhouse has committed his theater company to representing “the place we call home,” and over the years his team has produced about 50 original works by Latinos. “There are maybe two other theaters in America that can say that.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego Thanksgiving Guide 2017

Not cooking and need to make last-minute reservations? Check out our round-up of where to dine for the holiday.

10 Films and Events Not to Miss at the San Diego Asian Film Festival

The largest platform of Asian cinema on the West Coast returns to San Diego November 9-18 for its 18th year

San Diego Halloween Guide 2017

Dive into San Diego’s spookiest season with these Halloween-themed bites, sips, events, and more
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. What to Drink at Hundred Proof
    Trust’s sister restaurant keeps the focus on approachable cocktails
  2. First Look: Born & Raised
    Everyone said don't do a steakhouse. So the damn kids at Consortium Holdings did with Born & Raised—to the tune of seven million bucks.
  3. 47 Outdoor Dining Spots to Try in San Diego
    From ocean views, rooftops, and garden patios to simple sidewalk people-watching, we’ve rounded up the city's best outdoor dining spots
  4. The Vegan Fast Food Revolution
    From Evolution to Plant Power, two local vegans look to revolutionize fast food
  5. Adele Stratton Leaves Noble Experiment for Jaynes Gastropub
    Her first menu features light, crisp, approachable cocktails
  6. World Eats 2017
    Join us for the inaugural celebration of San Diego's diversity in cuisine
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle

Buy a Raffle Ticket, Win This Rare Sports Car

Donate to a good cause to seriously upgrade your ride
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags