Thursday night the weather projections is for rain, but don't let that dampen your spirits. For the third year, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival is putting on a mid-winter fundraiser that combines what Healdsburg likes to do best: have a good meal, drink fine wine, listen to jazz and, you guessed it, have a party.
It's not only jazz fans who can appreciate the evening, however: kicking off the "After-Party" at Costeaux French Bakery, at 7:30, is the local Healdsburg High School Jazz Band. This year the nine-member combo is once again under the direction of Lorca Hart, a jazz drummer who has often played locally.
Past appearances by the HHSJB have brought out friends as well as parents of the musicians, helping expand the local audience for jazz.
The Jazz on the Menu event is Thursday, and includes 12 local restaurants including two in faraway Geyserville filling the 6 - 9 dinner hour with live jazz at each restaurant. It's not a "dine-around" per se, or progressive dinner; although different musicians are at each restaurant, you'd be hard-pressed to visit more than a couple: The restaurants are usually pretty crowded, from past experience.
The ten Healdsburg and two Geyserville restaurants are listed on the HJF website, but just walking around the Plaza you'll hear jazz coming from all the usual suspects - Baci, Bistro Ralph, Charcutie, even Agave in the Vine St. Plaza, among others.
The musicians too are a familiar lot, including Christian Foley-Beining (at Spoonbar), Randy Vincent (Campo Fina), the Gary Johnson Quartet (Dry Creek Kitchen), and Susan Sutton and Bill Fouty (Zin), plus many others.
"What I like about it is almost restaurant in town has jazz at one time," said Jessica Felix of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. "I wish every night was like that!"
The other participating Healdsburg restaurants are Barndiva and Healdsburg Bar & Grill. Geyerville's Catelli's and Diavola Pizzeria are also taking part.
From 7:30 on, most of the action centers around Costeaux, for the so-called "After-Party." The bakery and café re-opens its doors at 7 with tables stacked with free deserts as well as wines by the glass (once you pay the $10 admission, available now only at the door), but center stage belongs to the musicians.
As in past years, the Healdsburg High Jazz Band is expected to bring its usual high quality work to the audience made up of more than just parents and friends, with nine performers on stage under the direction of Lorca Hart.
Their set will be followed by the Noel Jewkes Quintet, headed by the Marin-based tenor saxophonist who has faced down heart surgery and returned to performance with a vengeance. The late San Francisco Examiner jazz critic Phil Elwood called him “one of the godfathers of Bay Area jazz,” adding, “I don’t know of a better contemporary modern saxman anywhere.”
The funds raised by the dinners -- a percentage of around 20 % -- and the After-Party are earmarked for the Healdsburg Jazz' education fund, which has helped make Healdsburg one of the most jazz-literate towns of its size in California.
"Healdsburg comes out to support our education programs, the restaurants are supporting us," said Feli. "It's always a very popular night."
Which means you'd get your reservations lined up now.