Good vibes are in store for jazz fans as Charlie Shoemake brings his popular concert series back to Cambria, where it started 23 years ago this month.
The Famous Jazz Artist Series’ new home is the Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre (CCAT). Since the series’ original venue, The Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens, closed in January 2012, concerts have been held in Paso Robles.
“I think the (new) location is ideal,” Shoemake said.
Mundell Lowe, a member of the Jazz Hall of Fame, will kick off the show at the new location. The 92-year-old guitarist, composer and conducter has performed or recorded with such greats as Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Charles Mingus. Southern California bassist Luther Hughes and local drummer Darrel Voss will join Lowe onstage.
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“We’re going to start with a bang,” said Shoemake, who will join in on vibraphone for a few numbers. His wife, vocalist Sandi Shoemake, may sing a few tunes.
When Nancy Green, CCAT executive/artistic director, offered the use of the theater to Shoemake last month, he jumped at the chance to bring the series back home.
“We were really impressed with Nancy and her enthusiasm” and everyone at the Allied Arts Association, which runs the arts center, Shoemake said.
“I’m really, really hyped about this,” Green said, noting that excitement has been building since CCAT announced the news last month. A self-described “absolute devotee” of jazz, Green used to go to the Hamlet shows.
Because CCAT does not permit food or beverages, Shoemake has scheduled 1½-hour breaks between Sunday’s two shows so patrons can have a meal or a drink.
Nearly three years ago, Shoemake moved the Famous Jazz Artist Series to D’Anbino Vineyards and Cellars in Paso Robles.
“The people over there are just great,” he said of the winery’s owners and staff, “but it’s Paso; it’s not Cambria.”
Attendance dropped drastically, Shoemake said, as many of the series’ regulars are older and didn’t want to drive Highway 46. He and his wife are in their mid-70s.
Bob Sfarzo attended the Paso Robles concerts, but he looks forward to Shoemake’s return to Cambria. “He needs to be here where people appreciate him,” Sfarzo said.
He likes the acoustics at the CCAT and can easily imagine the musicians playing in the theater.
“It’ll sound good there,” Sfarzo said, “and the brass will shine.”
While delighted to bring the series back to Cambria, Shoemake said he feels the majority of fans wish the concerts could return to their previous home at The Hamlet.
When contacted by email, the building’s new owners, Centrally Grown, replied they appreciate the inquiries and hope to open when renovations are complete by the end of the year.
“I hope the music is going to be the thing,” not the venue, Shoemake said.
He and his wife recently played a George Shearing tribute in New England, where they performed in auditoriums, not clubs.
“Every place we played was like a theater-type (venue),” Sandi Shoemake said, and they’d pack the house.
Charlie Shoemake, who moved to Cambria with his wife in 1990 after retiring from the music school he ran in Los Angeles, said the “artistic little village” is perfect for a jazz venue. Over the years, he has brought in more than 100 top-notch musicians who love the novelty of playing here, compared to the big cities.
“Twenty years, 600 concerts, so it worked out,” Shoemake said. “Cambria’s just the place. It’s always been the place.”
Famous Jazz Artist Series
When: 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre, 1350 Main St., Cambria
Tickets: $20 to $25, $30 for both concerts
Information: 927-0567 or firstname.lastname@example.org