Sonoma Music - Mike Hyland

Small start, big plans for new Sonoma Music Festival

The now defunct Sonoma Jazz Plus concert series, that was never really about jazz in the first place, left a bit of a hole in the local music scene after only seven years of shows. Excluded from the mix during those years were many local musicians and local vendors, and instead the promoters presented such stellar jazz performers as Sheryl Crow, John Fogerty, Earth, Wind & Fire and of course, Crosby, Stills & Nash.  After losing a boatload of money and asking the city to help bail them out, the last show never took place and the folks from Aspen headed home.

Enter two musicians who call Sonoma home and who have reputations for playing, touring and hanging out with some of the top musicians in the world.  Roy Blumenfeld and Kurt Krauthamer have decided to create a new kind of music festival for Sonoma and they are building it, literally, from the ground up.

The ultimate goal: an all day event on the Field of Dreams next summer. But first things first.

“The last thing we wanted to do was create a huge splash, book a bunch of bands and not be able to handle the growth of the event,” says Kurt Krauthamer, leader of the Rett Hamer Blues Band and Sonoma resident.  “We want to grow this thing organically, starting out small and taking the necessary steps to increase the talent and the number of performers over time.  And rather than do a one weekend a year event, our plan is to do several events throughout the year.”

The Sonoma Music Festival Vol. 1 takes place Wednesday, August 29 at 6 p.m. and will feature Roy Blumenthal’s new band Talk That Talk, Krauthamer’s the Rett Hamer Blues Band, and guitarists Sean Carscadden & Marty O’Reilly.  Petaluma-based Lagunitas Brewing Company is the sponsor for the evening, and there will be food truck vendors at the venue along with beer and wine at the Andrews Hall concession area.  Tickets are only $20 per person and can be purchased through the Sonoma Community Center box office and on-line

For those of you who have been entertained at the Center’s Andrews Hall, you know how limiting the seating will be. Get your tickets early. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The headline act, Talk That Talk, features Roy Blumenfeld on drums.  The event co-producer, Blumenfeld was an original member of the legendary New York-based band Blues Project.  He was also a co-founder of Seatrain, toured extensively with John Lee Hooker, and continues to be in-demand as a session musician.  Talk That Talk features David Aguilar (Norton Buffalo/Tudo Bem) on guitar, Austin Delone (Elvis Costello/Howard Tate) on keyboards, Stefanie Keys (Big Brother and the Holding Company) on lead vocals, and Rick Kirch on guitar and Ron Perry on bass, both of whom also toured with John Lee Hooker.

“For many years, the local professional musicians in and around Sonoma have been talking about events that feature local talent,” says Roy Blumenfeld, who has been a Sonoma resident since 1985. “We’ve got a wealth of it here.  We would like to fill the empty shoes of the Jazz fest with a sustainable annual event made up of Sonoma and northern California talent.”

Adds Krauthamer, “we are starting small, with a three band show.  As we gather momentum, we will move it on to the Veteran’s Hall this fall with a Saturday event that will include more acts and activities. If we keep going, we’re looking at an all day event on the Field of Dreams next summer.  We may not be as big and fancy as the Jazz Fest, but we will be home grown and a lot of fun!”

“We want to give back as much as we can to the community,” says Blumenthal, “and down the road we want to use as many local musicians as we can.  The local vendors are important to us as well.  The proceeds from this first show will benefit Pets Lifeline, which is a great organization and can always use assistance.  Future events will benefit other local organizations.”

Nancy King, executive director of Pets Lifeline stated, “We’ve done some big events here in town, bringing in wonderful talent.  Now it’s time to support our local musicians with a festival that embraces and celebrates the essence of our community.  We are happy to be involved with the nascent Sonoma Music Festival.”

Since the Sonoma Jazz Plus took a nosedive, there has been a lot of discussion around town about its replacement.  While many are still talking about what to do, Roy Blumenthal and Kurt Krauthamer have stepped up to the plate to take a swing at bringing something new to town.  Here’s hoping that these guys hit a home run.

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