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In the News - Friday, APRIL 7, 2006


High Sierra Jazz Band

welcomes a ‘Gemme’

of a trumpeter

   The High Sierra Jazz Band, like the mountain range that has inspired their playing, is as rock solid as granite. Like a Three Rivers version of the Energizer Bunny, these boys in the band just keep going and going and going some more at an unbelievable pace that has lasted for more than three decades.
   Last week, it was cruising the Amazon in South America with Jazzdagen Tours. This week, it’s hosting Jazzaffair and introducing their new trumpet player Corey Gemme to arguably the best small-venue jazz festival on the planet.
   To hear Corey Gemme (pronounced Jem, as in a real gem), a Los Angeles native, tell the story, it’s like he has been rehearsing all his musical life for the opportunity to find a band like High Sierra. That chance came late last year when Bryan Shaw, High Sierra’s former trumpet player, stepped aside after six years to save his hearing and also to spend more time playing dad to demanding teens.
   Shaw, in addition to his performing, also plies his musical trade mixing CDs in his Costa Mesa studio. He will continue to record his High Sierra brethren on upcoming CDs.
   His work on Stampede, HSJB’s 2005 and most recent release that some say is the purest sounding of all of the group’s 22 recordings is ample testimony to his auditory genius.
   But blowing all that righteous horn is bound to take its toll and Shaw, who the New York Times recently called one of the best trumpets of his generation, for the time being will take a hiatus from playing. Also, conspicuously absent from the 33rd annual jazz bash in Kaweah Country is another renowned trumpet player — the venerable Al Smith.
   Smith, as former leader and a founding member of High Sierra (1976-1998), is legendary among West Coast jazzmen. His decision to step aside was as painful personally as to his legion of fans inspired by Al’s stage presence and his distinctive playing.
   In recent years, his return to the Jazzaffair stage on Thursday nights and his addition to the horn extravaganza of Sunday’s finale at Lions Arena will certainly go down among the annals of all-time festival highlights.
   Enter Corey Gemme, who like the proverbial kid in Reimer’s Candy Store, relishes becoming part of the High Sierra tradition.

  “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be playing my very first Jazzaffair,” Corey said from his home in the Hollywood Hills. “I am really looking forward to seeing all my new friends in Three Rivers and playing with those great musicians.”
   Though High Sierra’s 42-year-old trumpeter is still an adolescent by traditional jazz standards, he already sports an impressive resume. He studied music at Pasadena City College and Cal State Los Angeles where in this modern era the musician can find still find a jazz groove.
   While finding his, Corey came under the influence of jazz icons like Louis Armstrong, Red Nichols, Harry James, Bunny Berigan, and Bix Beiderbecke. He has played with many jazz outfits, among them the Hot Frogs, Conrad Janus, Jim Cullum’s Happy Jazz Band, and the Black Swan Jazz Band.
   Gemme still gigs with the Reynolds Brothers and Le Jazz Hot at Disneyland and Universal Studios. Unlike most players at Jazzaffair, playing jazz is his day job too. He is the consummate professional and he’s so busy, he says, that’s part of the reason he’s still single.

  “I guess I just haven’t met the right gal,” Corey says.
   As for his playing, Earl McKee of Three Rivers, his bandmate and also a founding member of High Sierra, said Gemme’s style is very similar to Bryan Shaw’s.

  “All three of High Sierra’s trumpet players have been very good,” says Earl. “Al had more of the leader personality, played louder, and really controlled the audience.”
   Bryan Shaw and Corey Gemme, Earl said, play sweeter and with a very definite style and feeling. Gemme, since he joined the band in November, has already impressed his mates with his stamina. At a recent festival in Medford, Ore., Gemme played daily double sessions with two different bands.

  “We’re very fortunate to get such a strong player who can step right up and play with High Sierra,” Earl says.
   The biggest challenge for Gemme, he said, is learning all the old High Sierra songs that their “rowdy fans” always want to hear. There are no charts for that music so Gemme has been listening to the band’s early recordings to learn his parts.
   So what’s it like playing with living jazz legends?

  “It awesome playing with that rhythm section between those two horns,” Corey said. “I just melt right in and go along for the ride. I feel like I’m floating out there as part of a well-oiled machine. Wow!”

Jazzaffair has

a new director

   For the past six years, and for so many of the early years nobody can remember back that far, Sue Mills, longtime manager of the High Sierra Jazz Band, also served as the director of Jazzaffair. Mills finally got her wish to retire again, so this year Mary Scharn assumed the responsibilities.
   Jazz fans and club members know all about Mary’s affair with jazz. For years, she has hosted musicians at her Three Rivers residence and, of course, her popular kick-off parties on the Thursday before.
   During Jazzaffair and club concert dates, Mary has often led a second line or two and on occasion performed an Irish tabletop jig. But many do not know that Mary’s knowledge of jazz festivals goes back to the granddaddy of them all – The Newport Jazz Festival on the East Coast.

  “I worked with all the great bands and musicians in the 1950s,” Mary recalled. “It’s so important to attend the other festivals and bring in new talent.”
   Mary, who refers to her position as “Coordinator,” has scheduled what may be one of the best lineups ever assembled in Three Rivers.

  “I couldn’t do it without my jazz supporters who make this all possible,” Mary says. “I let them know what it will take to book a group and they make it happen.”
   Mary is heading up a throng of more than a hundred volunteers who work the entire weekend to ensure that Jazzaffair is the very best it can be.

  “I’m a delegater,” Mary said, “and it’s no secret that the volunteers and the Three Rivers school kids are what makes this such a great festival.”

Jazzaffair weather:

Picture perfect

   After several stormy years, it appears that the 2006 Jazzaffair has dodged a perennial bullet. Incredible as it may seem, there is only a 20 percent chance of rain and that’s on Sunday.
   Old Man Winter has been relentless this spring and scored a direct hit earlier this week. In the Three Rivers environs there were a few slides and trees down, but the damage pales in comparison to what so many other regions of the country have experienced recently.
   In Kaweah Country, the above average precipitation has translated to some of the best air quality in a decade and prospects for another impressive spring-summer runoff season. Currently, that runoff is set up quite nicely in a monster snowpack that ranges from depths of 100 inches at 8,000 feet to more than double that above 10,000 feet in elevation.
   The snowpack in the Kaweah drainage as of April 1, the benchmark for the annual rainfall season that ends June 30, is more than 130 percent of normal. The early April storms have added even more to these already impressive stats.
   As of April 6, there is a snowpack of 99 inches at Lodgepole located in Sequoia National Park at 6,700 feet. The warm rains earlier in the week had water pooling on top of the pack before freezing solid on Tuesday night (April 4).
   That icier layer that now exists at several places in the stratigraphy guarantees that this snowpack will be reluctant to melt. That means an extended season for downstream recreation and its ultimate users –farmers and ranchers.
   A little closer to Three Rivers, Bob Meadows reports that the recent storms from April 2 to 5 dumped 5.10 inches of rainfall at his home just above the Hammond Fire Station at an elevation of 1,450 feet. That brings his season total to a whopping 34.76 inches.
   At the 1,000 ft. elevation in Three Rivers, the season total is at or slightly above 25 inches; the same total recorded for all of last season. But local totals are a drop in bucket when compared to Mammoth Mountain on the Sierra’s east side.
   At Mammoth, above 8,000 feet, there is currently a pack approaching 20 feet in some areas. The snowfall total for the season is 610 inches, an all-time record amount.

Investigation into

suspicious death concluded

   The National Park Service has closed the case on the death of Santos Teixeira, 56, of Porterville, finding insufficient evidence of criminal activity.
   On Nov. 20, 2005, Teixeira fell to his death from Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park.
   For the original news article about the incident, go to :

Scenic highway highlights

Town Meeting agenda

   This week, Tom Sparks, spokesperson for the Three Rivers Village Foundation, released the agenda for the upcoming Town Hall Meeting and it has something of interest for everyone. Highlighting the program at the Three Rivers Memorial Building will be an update on the Foundation’s efforts to officially designate 16 miles of Highway 198 as the Kaweah Scenic Highway.

  “If there are questions or concerns on how the scenic highway program will work, now is the time to speak up and be heard,” Sparks said.
   Sparks said that county staff and Caltrans have completed a preliminary review of the Foundation’s assessment and they concur with the document’s findings. After brief remarks by representatives of both agencies, there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion from the audience.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida, who is also on the agenda, will introduce Tulare County’s new fire chief, Steve Sunderland. Chief Sunderland will address plans for coverage of Three Rivers during the upcoming fire season.
   Supervisor Ishida, who recently returned from a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., will have updates on several fronts, including details as to how the Community Services District will function as the local lead on the new Three Rivers playground to be developed at the library. Funding for that project is expected by summer with construction scheduled for the fall.
   The meeting will conclude with a presentation by Craig Axtell, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks superintendent. Axtell will report on the latest NPS developments and park plans for the summer season.
   Sparks said he hopes to conclude by 8:30 p.m. so there will be time for refreshments and some one-on-one conversations. Any inquiries about Foundation business or the upcoming meeting should be addressed to Tom Sparks, 561-0406.

‘Spring Feast’ is a

concoction of chefs and artists

   Fine art, grand scenery, great food — this year’s “Spring Feast in the Sierra” (April 28 and 29) has it all. Sponsored by the Sequoia Fund to raise funds for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the annual event will feature some Sierra-Nevada-related art from California artists, including Zee Zee Mott, Ray Strong (age 100), and Tom Killion, and special talks by several of these artists, silent and live auctions, a raffle, and a gourmet banquet.
   And all of this takes place at the beautiful Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park.

  “The focus on art is what’s new this year,” said Bette Bardeen of Three Rivers, Sequoia Fund board chair. “We’re really excited by the quality and depth of what we have to offer.”
   Art events associated with this year’s Spring Feast include an artists’ reception Friday, April 28, from 5 to 7 p.m., and artists’ presentations Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Concurrently, art from more than 20 painters, sculptors, and photographers, including several Three Rivers artists will be for sale, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the Sequoia Fund for the benefit of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   Culminating the two-day event is the Saturday night banquet. Using the best of Central California’s natural bounty, this year’s banquet will once again be prepared and presented by a team of chefs brought in by Wuksachi Lodge operator Delaware North Companies from their California properties, which include the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park and Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula.

  “We expect the banquet to sell out,” said Bette. “People who would like to support the parks but are unable to attend the dinner should consider attending the artists’ reception or the art sale or buy raffle tickets.”
   Raffle prizes include a package of two weekends — one at Asilomar and one at Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite — and two beautiful pieces of art. Raffle tickets are currently for sale in Three Rivers at Whitewater Contemporary Arts and Crafts.
   Major event sponsors are Delaware North Companies and Beverly Braun; contributing sponsors include Century 21 Three Rivers, Bank of the Sierra, and Visalia Community Bank; and associate sponsors are Marilyn and Byron Riegel and Carol and Tom Chess.
   For more information, visit the Kaweah Kalendar page on this site, contact the Sequoia Fund at (559) 561-3546, or visit

Bud Stuart, Kaweah Country native,

Jazzaffair volunteer, past president of jazz club
1919 ~ 2006
   William “Bud” Stuart, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, April 2, 2006. He was 86.
   Bud was born in Lemon Cove and was raised in Three Rivers and Ash Mountain. He graduated from Exeter Union High School and during the 1930s, worked seasonally in Sequoia and General Grant (now Kings Canyon) national parks.
   In 1940, he took an engineering job in Silicon Valley. He retired as a manager after 43 years.
   During the 1940s, he also served a two-year tour of duty in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed in the Asiatic Pacific during World War II as a technician on an electronic-repair ship.
   On June 3, 1944, Bud married the former Dorothy Self in Exeter. Dorothy was raised in Lemon Cove.
   The couple resided in Millbrae in northern California and raised their family there. Upon Bud’s retirement in 1982, the couple returned to Three Rivers.
   Bud was a past president of the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club and longtime Jazzaffair volunteer. For two decades, Bud and Dorothy were avid fans of the High Sierra Jazz Band and enjoyed traveling with the band.
   Bud was also a former president of the Three Rivers Memorial District board, a senior officer of the local VFW Post 3939, and former membership chair and zone chairman of the Three Rivers Lions Club.
   In July 2004, Bud was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Dorothy. Shortly thereafter, he relocated to San Mateo to be near family.
   He is survived by two sons, Larry Stuart and wife Cynthia of Millbrae and Darrell Stuart and wife Karrie of Utah; 10 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, and extended family members.
   A service was held Thursday, April 6, at Evans-Miller Exeter Chapel.

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