Music News & Reviews

Hot sax on the beach: Morro Bay welcomes a jazzy Saxophone Summit

Ron McCarley will perform Feb. 12 at The Siren in Morro Bay as part of the San Luis Obispo County Jazz Federation’s Saxophone Summit.
Ron McCarley will perform Feb. 12 at The Siren in Morro Bay as part of the San Luis Obispo County Jazz Federation’s Saxophone Summit.

Get ready for some mind-blowing sax.

Eight saxophone players will celebrate the versatile woodwind at the latest Saxophone Summit on Feb. 12 at The Siren bar and live music venue in Morro Bay. Presented by the San Luis Obispo County Jazz Federation, the 21-and-older concert will feature sax-heavy jazz, blues and funk music, plus a few surprises.

“We’re going to take you on a musical saxophone roller coaster,” concert organizer Dave Becker said. “Don’t be scared. It will change your life.”

Becker speaks from experience.

At age 10, after hearing his best friend play Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi” on the saxophone, Becker begged his parents to buy him the same instrument. That saxophone, purchased for $75 at a pawnshop, served him from elementary school to his time in the University of Florida marching band.

Becker, who earned a master’s degree in music education from the University of Florida in 2014, now shares his passion for saxophone with students at Cal Poly, Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo and Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. He also plays straight-ahead, or traditional, jazz with his quintet, the Central Coast All Stars, playing April 28 at D’Anbino Vineyards & Cellars in Paso Robles.

Asked why he loves the saxophone, the Morro Bay man said, “It is the closest thing to the human voice as far as expressiveness. … It’s very soulful.”

On Feb. 12, Becker will join Ron McCarley, Cuesta College’s director of jazz studies, and McCarley’s Royal Garden Swing Orchestra bandmate, Scott Liddi, on stage at The Siren, which officially opened in January at the former site of Happy Jacks bar.

Also performing are saxophonists Andrew Conrad, Anthony Donatelli, Sam Franklin, Jake Hammer and Michael Mull, all of them Cuesta alumni. They’ll get rhythm support from two Cuesta faculty members — bassist Ken Hustad and drummer Darrell Voss — plus keyboard player Marshall Otwell.

“I’m going to be a proud papa with all my students up there sounding so incredible,” Becker said, adding that he’s thrilled “we get to show the Central Coast where they began their musical journey.”

Although Becker said the Saxophone Summit will feature as many as eight sax players performing at a time, he remained mum on the set list. “Let’s just say it will be powerful and exciting,” he said. “It will be all levels of volume and intensity.”

According to Jazz Federation president Craig Updegrove, summit-style concerts focusing on a single instrument roll around every few years.

Upcoming Jazz Federation concerts include two annual showcases: the Young Jazz concert, April 9, at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo, and the 34th annual Jazz Piano Showcase, April 22, at Unity Concert Hall in San Luis Obispo.

Saxophone Summit

4:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 12

The Siren, 900 Main St., Morro Bay

$20, $15 jazz federation members, $10 students

805-546-3733 or