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In the News - Friday, April 11, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


This weekend:


An anthology of jazz

in the Sierra foothills

   Through thick and thin, a throng of tireless jazz club volunteers have parlayed the astonishing success of the High Sierra Jazz Band into an unforgettable weekend in Three Rivers called Jazzaffair. Among the small-venue music festivals, Jazzaffair simply has no peer.
   That’s quite a claim to fame for a jazz festival that as recently as 2000 was teetering on the brink of extinction. But through the dedication and support of the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club and the perseverance of its beloved band, it has survived and even thrived.
   It’s an epic story of the town of Three Rivers, its people, and a musical odyssey that was born in New Orleans, took an Irish twist, but found an enduring legacy in of all places Three Rivers.

  “If my cousin, Terri, would never have taken that trip to Ireland in 1967, there never would have been jazz in Three Rivers or a Jazzaffair,” said Gaynor McKee, wife of Earl McKee, a founding member of the High Sierra Jazz Band.
Gaynor and Earl have been involved in the local music culture their entire lives and have been an integral part of the jazz odyssey from the very beginning. For Three Rivers, its jazz tradition began when Terri Sullivan met Lueder Ohlwein, who was plying his musical trade in a Dublin pub.
   Driven by his constant search for a traditional New Orleans sound, the German-born Lueder, who played banjo, kazoo, and vocalized, frequented all the jazz haunts of Europe, landing at Dublin in 1962. He was instrumental in the formation of the Dublin Jazz Society and when he and new wife Terri arrived in Three Rivers in 1969, his jazz repertoire included an extensive song list, experience as a band leader, and the realization that a jazz club is instrumental in the proliferation of the music.
   Informal gigs around Three Rivers by Lueder Ohlwein’s Jazzberry Jam Band, billed “as intoxicating as Prohibition itself,” evolved into the first local music festival in 1974. It wasn’t officially called Jazzaffair until a few years later, but by 1977, when the Jam had reorganized as High Sierra Jazz Band, a music festival was already an annual Three Rivers springtime ritual under the aegis of the Sierra Traditional Jazz Club.

  “The High Sierra Jazz Band was formed because Lueder wanted to return to Europe and play his music over there,” Gaynor recalled. “The local guys in the band had jobs here and they just couldn’t drop everything and go.”
   The members of Jazzberry Jam that played on the group’s one and only 1975 album, “Assorted Flavors,” are Don Franscioni, trumpet; Vic Kimsey, trombone; Ed “Doc” Ropes, sax; Bruce Huddleston, piano; Earl McKee, string bass, tuba, guitar; Charlie Castro, drums; and of course Lueder as the band’s leader.
In the High Sierra Jazz Band, formed in 1976, an energetic trumpet player named Al Smith that the Jam had heard at the Sacramento festival, replaced Franscioni, and Bruce’s brother, Stan, a banjo player, also joined as an original member.
   The newly reconstituted High Sierra, minus Lueder and Doc Ropes, released its debut album “Over the Top” in 1977, becoming the nexus of the local jazz club and a growing legion of fans.
   George Brand, editor of the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, was among the first recognize the High Sierra phenomenon. In 1977 he wrote:

  “Three Rivers, a hamlet in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is not a likely spot in which to find a Dixieland jazz group whose two-beat rhythm is as free-wheeling as a roller coaster on greased rails yet as precise as a mathematician’s mind.   But that’s where you’ll find the High Sierra Jazz Band in a fashion which compares favorably with jazz hall sounds in San Francisco, Chicago, or New Orleans.”
   For the next decade, High Sierra recorded dozens of traditional jazz tunes, many of which were New Orleans jazz standards remade in a unique West Coast style. The group’s 12th release “Diggin’ a New Bone” in 1990 made the transition from vinyl and cassette tapes to compact disc.
   By this time, Howard Miyata, the current trombone player, had replaced Vic Kimsey, who passed away in 1989. High Sierra’s distinctly West Coast sound continued to evolve as the group traveled around the world as jazz ambassadors.
   Al Smith, who retired from the band in 1998, was replaced by Pieter Meijers (leader and reeds) and Bryan Shaw (trumpet). Cory Gemme filled in for Bryan the past two years, but Shaw now returns for Jazzaffair in 2008.

  “It’s inevitable when a band is together for 32 years that there will be lineup changes,” said Pieter Meijers. “We always think the music can improve, but the audience may not be able to hear some of the more subtle changes. We all want to continue doing this High Sierra music as long as we can.”
   According to High Sierra’s manager, Rusty Crain, whose father, Chet Crain, founded the jazz club in 1974, as long as the band “sounds good and puts on a good show” there will be a High Sierra Jazz Band. New for this year is a 13-CD set of all the band’s early music, which is available at Jazzaffair 2008.

  “We think all fans of High Sierra and traditional jazz will really love this stack of CDs,” said Rusty. “It starts with the Jazzberry Jam album of 1975 and includes the first 12 High Sierra releases. The digital recordings sound even better than the original vinyl.”
   The High Sierra catalogue of recorded music contains 22 albums, including the one released in 1975 by Lueder Ohlwein’s Jazzberry Jam Band. The compendium includes a playlist of more than 200 songs from “Ace in the Hole” to “You Don’t Know Me.”
   Thanks to the diligence of High Sierra’s devoted fans and manager Rusty, all 22 albums are now available on CD.

3R is going green

And we’re not just talking about the hills

   Whether you’re scared witless about global warming or think climate change is just so much globaloney, it makes sense to go green. In fact, going green is making a lot of dollars and cents right now and might just be the jumpstart needed to leave these current economic doldrums behind for good.
   Putting economic incentives aside, consider the plight of the planet. Never before have so many consumed so much. So what’s a planet to do?
   The answer is actually less complex than one might imagine. The solutions lie right here in our own community and revolve around everyday choices to go green, use clean, and build for a sustainable future.
   Individuals can be overwhelmed by even thinking about what it would take to significantly reduce a carbon footprint. But, in actuality, a carbon footprint can be simply calculated and is equal to the amount of energy we use in a year or on a particular excursion.
   A good time to think about some of the implications of energy use is the 39th annual Earth Day, which is just around the corner on Tuesday, April 22. The community, any local community, is the right place to start.
   The individual alone is too small and powerless, while the federal government and the Fortune 500 corporations are too clueless and really not listening anyway. But the community is small enough to organize yet large enough to have an affect far beyond the so-called urban boundaries of Three Rivers.
   And though many locals are to be commended for switching out lightbulbs and buying hybrids, there is a great deal more that each individual might do. It involves upgrading nearly every aspect of our lives — of how we build and remodel our homes, how we travel from point A to point B, greening our schools and public buildings, and of course going green in our businesses too.
   On this Earth Day, let’s focus our efforts on what we can do. Let’s talk about things like public transportation, like for instance how we can better use that park shuttle that’ll be firing up again on May 21 and whizzing up and down the Kaweah canyon with all those empty seats 10 times daily.
   But let’s start by taking a look at our own living spaces and taking inventory of what’s there and what could be there if we truly wanted to reduce our carbon footprint. Then let’s look at our local businesses and think how can we go green, conserve more energy, and increase the bottom line at the same time.
   Have you visited Ramon’s Recycling that is now open Saturdays in the parking area behind Village Market? Ramon, who hails from Tulare, has always admired the beauty of Three Rivers and seeks your support to encourage all to recycle locally.
   Even the U.S. Postal Service is getting into the act. There are sealable plastic envelopes now available at the Three Rivers Post Office for patrons to recycle cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, digital cameras, ink-jet cartridges, etc., all of which will be mailed for free.
   Village Market now recycles plastic bags so there’s no excuse to ever see one lying along the highway (or in your own trash can) again.
   Want to get off the grid and generate your own electricity? Call One Earth Solar or ISG Electric and add instant equity to your property and your future.
   There are many other examples of how Three Rivers is going green, and we want to include them in the special Earth Day issue coming Friday, April 18.    Tell us if you or anyone you know are selling, buying, building, or somehow otherwise making strides to go green in Kaweah Country and we’ll plug the person, product, or place and tell the rest of the planet too.
   All this while we celebrate Earth Day 2008 and make global warming a little less baloney and way more cool.

Motorcycle down,

passenger injured

   One sure sign of the busy visitor season is lots of motorcycles traveling up and down the canyon. With more vehicular traffic there are bound to be more accidents so the CHP is asking all motorists to slow down and proceed with caution.
   Last Sunday afternoon’s (April 6) accident on Sierra Drive could have been much worse and demonstrated the excellent response and caring of local firefighters and ambulance personnel. The mishap occurred, when a local eastbound motorist in a Honda Pilot was attempting a left turn into the parking area of the River View Restaurant.
   That’s when Jose Lechuga, 42, of Selma, driving a 2008 Harley Davidson motorcycle westbound, evidently locked up his brakes in a successful attempt to miss the Honda Pilot that, according to the driver of that vehicle, never actually completed the turn. Lechuga’s Harley swerved, went down, and caused his passenger, an unidentified female, to be thrown from the rear of the motorcycle.
   Officer Wilson of the Visalia district office of the California Highway Patrol investigated the accident at the scene, but as of Wednesday, April 9, had not released her report.
   The female victim, who appeared to suffer some undetermined injuries, was treated at the scene and then transported to Kaweah Delta Medical Center (formerly Hospital) via the Three Rivers Ambulance.

Fire-safety inspections

set to begin

   Cal Fire inspectors will be embarking on their spring ritual of checking properties in the foothills and mountain areas of Tulare County.
   That means in anticipation of a meeting with an inspector, all homeowners, lessees, and caretakers need to adhere to the state law that was enacted in 2005 and maintain a clearance of 100 feet (about the third of the length of a football field) around all homes and other structures.
   Besides weedeating the dried grass, dead trees, either standing or down, should be removed. Roofs and rain gutters should be cleared of leaves and limbs.
   The lower limbs of trees should be removed up to at least six feet from the ground. Properties with greater fire hazards, such as being located on a steep slope, will require pruning heights up to 15 feet and additional all-around defensible-space clearance.
   A 10-foot clearance of flammable materials must be maintained around chimneys. The outlet must be covered with a half-inch (or less) screen.
The further ensure the entire community’s safety during fire season, make sure street numbers are visible to emergency-response vehicles, all small-engine equipment have spark arrestors, and onsite water sources are fitted with standard fire department connections.

...And other property cleanup opportunities

   It’s the law to clear 100 feet of defensible space. To clean up an accumulation of the other junk that’s been building on the property can be just plain liberating.
The County of Tulare has announced cleanup weeks that will be held throughout 2008 so that county residents may utilize the landfills or transfer stations and pay half the normal disposal fees.
   On April 21 to 26 and October 20 to 25, the valley landfills will offer the half-price deal: Teapot Dome, Woodville, and Visalia.
   On May 19 to 25 and August 25 to 31, the mountain transfer stations will be half-price: Badger, Balance Rock, Camp Nelson, and Pine Flat.
   By law, all loads must be covered (uncovered loads are charged at a higher rate). Separate recyclables (metal, tin, white goods, wood, and green waste) and plan accordingly as they will be dropped off first.
   Information: 733-6291.

Volunteers needed

in high places

   The Buck Rock Foundation manages the volunteer fire lookout program for Buck Rock and Delilah lookout towers on Sequoia National Forest land and Park Ridge Lookout in Kings Canyon National Park. The goal is to staff the historic lookout towers for as many days as possible during fire season, which typically runs from May to November.
   Volunteers are currently being rounded up for the current season. First-year volunteers are required to attend an orientation day (in Dunlap) and a hands-on training meeting (in Clovis), then several days with an experienced lookout at one of the towers.
   The perks of the job include solitude and endless vistas.
   For information, call Wendy Garton, volunteer coordinator, 336-2590, email wendygarton3@msn.com, or visit the Buck Rock Foundation’s website at www.buckrock.org.

Stay far, far away

from the Kaweah River

   This weekend’s forecast temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s are a recipe for disaster and, traditionally, DROWNING. The warm days will be causing all that snow in the high country to cascade down the mountains, causing icy-cold, turbulent rivers.
   Do not be tempted to swim in the rivers, walk on the slippery rocks along the shoreline, or let children anywhere near the water.

3R high fashion

   The biggest designer names and some of the hottest models on the planet were seen on the runway at the Three Rivers Memorial Building on Wednesday, April 2, and that’s no fooling. Sparking several trends for the Summer 2008 season, the stylish fashions were provided by The Thingerie, the local thrift store run by Three Rivers Woman’s Club, that offers year-round collections for both men and women.
   Club members strutted on the runway as well, but drawing the big crowds were the stick-thin supermodels in their provocative attire.



THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2008 The Kaweah Commonwealth