All About Jazz

The Sally Cats Are "On The Prowl" With Winning Covers On New EP

Published: 2013-08-06

The Santa Barbara-based Sally Cats consist of regional vets, professional musicians who have no doubt paid their dues. Although the group is mainly rooted in jazz, folk and blues influences break through the surface, perhaps no more than on their new EP On the Prowl. Here vocalist Sally Barr again casts a mesmerizing presence; her singing brims with real emotion but she is also able to strike different tones and juggle various styles with equal efficiency; she’s a winner.

Covering various rock and jazz classics, the Cats don’t always stay faithful to their original interpretations, which makes their renditions breathtakingly fresh. For example, “These Boots Are Made for Walking” is slowed down; the result is a version that is actually sexier than Nancy Sinatra’s hit. “That Old Black Magic” finds Barr at her most playful, while “I Told Ya I Loved Ya, Now Get Out” is driven by a thumping beat. Those tracks find the Cats mining their jazzy side, but they aren’t afraid to venture into roots-rock territory as well. “Blues Power” sounds exactly as the title suggests, with Barr really giving it a blues kick while Brad Rabuchin rips on the guitar
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No Depression

Album Review: The Sally Cats: On the Prowl

Santa Barbara’s the Sally Cats tighten up on their new EP, On the Prowl, a stripped-down covers CD that offers a succinct presentation of the group’s bracing energy and spellbinding versatility. The swinging jazz of “Lullaby of the Leaves” accelerates because each member kicks it into gear, from the soaring saxophone of Tom Buckner to the pulsating bass of James Connolly to the jamming guitar of Brad Rabuchin, all lead by the honeyed vocals of Sally Barr. But it wouldn’t be a Sally Cats record if the group stayed within any stylistic boundaries; no, these Cats love to roam.

On “Sugar Mama,” Barr really displays her range, her voice occupying the space between the fragile melancholy of folk and the deep passion of the blues. The production is clean and lean, perfectly capturing the layers of emotion in her vocals. It is tremendous stuff, the kind of performance that would bring the house down, which I’m sure is what the Cats do regularly when they gig. Rabuchin’s electrifying playing and the velvety sultriness of Barr’s singing fuel “Blues Power.” When these Cats hit the floor, there’s no stopping them.

Music Industry News Network

Sally Cats Release a "Consistently Engaging" Mix of West Coast Jazz & Big Band Music

(Santa Barbara, CA) Sally Barr has turned multitasking into an art form. Not only is Barr the editor and publisher of the monthly regional publication MUSIC! The Sounds of Santa Barbara, but she is also a professional classical violinist and the lead singer of the Sally Cats. The Sally Cats have just released Wonderful Day, a consistently engaging record that unites the laidback grooves of West Coast jazz with the exuberant bounce of Big Band music. Barr took a moment from her hectic schedule to discuss her work, both in print and on the stage.

Every musician has an origin story. What would yours look like?

Music was always a natural draw for me. But two things convinced me that this would be my life’s path as I was turning 14: one was my junior high school vocal debut with “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” just because I had so much fun, and the second was my obsession David Oistrakh’s recording of the Khachaturian Violin Concerto. I listened to that recording hundreds of times that summer entranced by the sounds.  It made me really hungry to play this kind of vibrant music. Coincidentally, I just played that concerto from the corps of the Santa Barbara Symphony last weekend. It definitely made me feel like I had come full circle.

People’s viewpoints can change over the years, especially in how they view music. Has yours?

In the beginning, I just liked to perform for the pure fun of it, which is still my main motivation today. But now, I see more the real power and beautiful strength of music to bring people together, to make us understand each other in a way like no other. It defines us – our cultures, our lives. It can be a very emotionally engaging and even healing experience for both the listener and the performer.

Your first time recording a song – what were you feeling?

Nervous! Self-conscious! But you can learn to relax, focus and perform well under that kind of pressure.  Now I enjoy recording very much – it’s a real challenge, but there’s something about creating works that last. Live performance is wonderful, it sustains me, but to record is very special.

What are your goals as an artist? 

The immediate future holds more performances with all the wonderful orchestras and bands that I work with, and I’m planning to go back into the studio to record an EP with the Sally Cats this summer.  I’d like to work up my chops on the piano and mandolin - in different genres - and perhaps try my hand at composition.  Music, like life, is full of opportunities, and I plan to take advantage of as many as I can get.

Do you feel that music is also a business?

This is the thing: music is a business. It’s a business whose product has an emotional impact on people. It’s a business that can stand on its own, but also can be mutually supportive with linked industries as well. Music brings people out, to be social, to share an experience.  Even in difficult economic times. The more venues (clubs, cafes, restaurants, churches, libraries, museums) that can bring in even smaller performances a couple times per week, the better for everyone involved.

I would also like to see an even stronger support of music, musicians and especially music education. I would like to see music (and I mean all music) become a bigger piece of the American culture. All professional musicians work really hard.  They have to be really flexible on many levels, artistically and personally.  Most, including myself, after training for most of our youth, work several jobs to make things work financially. So many musical organizations – the classical ones especially: Detroit Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Pasadena Symphony - are in dire straits. To remedy this, we need stronger public, government, as well as media support to keep music alive in our American culture.

That is why I started the monthly magazine MUSIC! The Sounds of Santa Barbara – to showcase all the fantastic musical events that happen in Santa Barbara year round. I’m seeing many other cities and regions promote their music communities specifically as well, and I really think that this kind of communal promotion is the ticket to turning these hard times in the music world around.

How would you compare the Sally Cats to other bands that you've been involved in?

Well, it’s interesting: The Sally Cats’ sound and vibe are completely different from any other of the groups that I work with, but I play violin (not sing) with three of the guys from the Sally Cats regularly with those other bands! But they are an entirely different genre: with Jim Connolly I play in the “Americana Circus Music” band, The Gove County String Quartet, with Tom Buckner I play in the eclectic fusion band, Headless Household, and I play with Jon Nathan in Opera Santa Barbara.  And Brad Rabuchin works on different projects with the other guys, too. I think it helps that we’ve all worked with each other in this way. We really know what each other is capable of musically, and that builds a trust that is essential to a great band.

How has the Sally Cats' sound evolved over the years?

I’m really happy with the way the band has grown in the past six years. Like many things, it gets better with time. I know that I am much more comfortable performing as a singer, with more improv-ease in my repertoire.  The guys are all such pros; it’s been a pleasure and an honor to play with them and watch them grow as musicians, too. It’s been a dream!

Jazz Corner

Santa Barbara jazz act the Sally Cats strut their brilliance on new CD

(Santa Barbara, CA) Written by Robert Sutton.

It begins with an acoustic guitar, its strings warm and harmonious to the ear. Then a female voice appears, sweet and soft. Horns kick in, eventually making way for a scorching violin. On their latest album, Wonderful Day, the Sally Cats have a beautiful way of introducing themselves. This isn’t just another jazz act covering familiar standards with the same unimaginative, cookie-cutter approach. On Wonderful Day, the Sally Cats sing of life and love with the blue-sky optimism of a California summer. This is West Coast jazz with the arena-filling sound of a Big Band.

The Sally Cats is fronted by vocalist Sally Barr whose connection to the Santa Barbara jazz scene runs deeper than the group. Barr is also the editor/publisher of MUSIC! The Sounds of Santa Barbara, a monthly magazine that chronicles the city’s diverse population of artists even beyond the world of jazz. After Barr relocated to Santa Barbara in 1992, she quickly became involved in regional live performances, joining the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and the Santa Barbara Symphony as well as eventually bands of her own including the Sally Cats. “I am delighted to have been among the music makers here in Santa Barbara for nearly the past two decades,” Barr said. “I am so proud to watch it flourish as the years go by.”

Barr’s bluesy croon is certainly among the Sally Cats’ strengths. When Barr sings, “Saving my love for you,” on “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” it is with an aching sincerity that is profoundly moving. On “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” Barr plumbs the depth of despair with unguarded fragility. Remarkably, a voice as powerful as Barr’s could overshadow the contributions of her band but that’s not the case at all. Surrounded by top-drawer veteran players, the rest of the Cats continually strut their brilliance. James Connolly’s pulsating bass and Jon Nathan’s crackling drums help give “What Is This Thing Called Love” its boisterous energy; Tom Buckner’s lush, crestfallen saxophone on “You Don’t Know What Love Is” heighten its sense of loss; Nate Birkey’s giddy trumpet elevates the sunny charms of “Caravan”; and Brad Rabuchin’s guitar playing is consistently crisp and engaging throughout.

Given the talent involved, it won’t be long before the Sally Cats will purr their way into the heart of America. 

Jazz Times

"Wonderful Day" (CD)

The Sally Cats

1.31.11 by Leslie Connors

There is gold in Santa Barbara, and it is personified by the honeyed voice of jazz vocalist Sally Barr.

As the leader of the wonderfully named Sally Cats, Barr has a bittersweet croon that is equal parts blues, folk, and jazz. She is no one-dimensional singer, no disciple of a single genre; there is versatility in her range of emotions and how she expresses them. On their new album “Wonderful Day,” her Cats follow her lead, a tightly-knotted collective that is nevertheless spontaneous enough to flow with her free-spirited groove.

On “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Barr’s singing is sultry and smooth; there is a dreamy quality to the way that she lets the words roll out, and the Cats back her up with fireplace warm acoustic guitars and relaxing horns. The Sally Cats leap from the playful intimacy of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” to the Big Band splash of “What Is This Thing Called Love” without losing their grip. Jim Connolly’s throbbing bass propels the rhythm forward as Barr unleashes the blues in her soul. It’s a dazzler.

Throughout the album Barr continues to impress, revealing different sides to her personality. On “Tenderly,” Barr is completely swept away by romance, and the breathless passion in her voice is stunningly beautiful. The listener, too, becomes caught in the moment, engulfed in a whirlwind of feelings. It epitomizes the true power of a song, when it can pull the listener in, and the listener refuses to let go, lost in the throes of love.

In “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” Barr breaks the heart, her icy delivery expressing deep-seated wounds. It is the record’s show-stopping moment, the peak of the mountain. Before it switches to “The Shadow of Your Smile,” there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

The Sally Cats take overly familiar jazz standards and make them feel new again. In fact, after hearing Barr sing them with such soulful depth, one might not want to hear a different version anymore.

Montecito Journal

Lucky Lady

Violinist Sally Barr enmeshed herself in the local classical music scene when she relocated to Santa Barbara after college nearly twenty years ago, and now she’s a regular with the largest and most established ensembles in town, playing with the Santa Barbara Symphony, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and Opera Santa Barbara Orchestra.

She also slings some fiddle in a couple of areas off beat musical outfits, including Gove County String Quartet and Headless Household (and its offshoot, post-Polka.) But it took her quite a bit longer to try out her singing voice in public, only bringing her passion as a jazz vocalist to the stage a scant five years ago. A warm reception for both her debut CD, Wonderful Day, (released in 2009) and periodic gigs with her jazz band, The Sally Cats, (who got their name via contest held at Soho) has been encouraging, however, and Barr and band mates are slated to do it all again next Wednesday, December 29th.

Joined as always by bassist Jim Connolly (Gove County’s leader and Lit Moon Theatre’s music director and composer in residence), drummer Jon Nathan (UCSB Jazz Ensemble Director and principal timpanist with Opera SB), guitarist Brad Rabuchin (whose credits include dates with Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder), and saxist Tom Buckner (a frequent jazz man), Barr will sing fresh arrangements of such standards as “That Old Black Magic,” “What a Difference a Day Made”, and others at the Piano Store, located in the backroom at Cominichi’s.

The event also features a trivia contest run by Madalena, who conducts similar events on Sundays at the Brewhouse, with prizes including salon certificates, lunch at Café Buenos Aires, and tickets to the SB Symphony. 

Barr talked about the music as well as her 16-month old publishing venture, the monthly magazine, MUSIC! The Sounds of Santa Barbara.

People who see you in most of your other guises don’t realize that you are an accomplished singer. When did you start performing voice? Did you study singing as you did the violin?

Oh no, no. It’s always been just about having fun with it than anything else. I did some choir in high school, and sang with some friends in college. But I didn’t consider pursuing it at all until 2005, and I didn’t get any training at all until after our first gig. After that, I spoke with contralto Victoria Hart, who is the wife of Valery Ryvkin, the conductor of Opera Santa Barbara. She said, “I’ll tell you what your tools are, and show you what you have to work with.” She’s such a good teacher, really able to communicate in such a way that what she tells you is almost instantly usable. So I studied with her for a short time, and have been using it ever since.

How much of the classical violin training do you use in singing?

It mostly comes out in singing longer lines, especially in the ballads. I try to produce a four-bar or eight-bar phrase if I can. In jazz, sometimes a two bar phrase can be the norm, as the pieces as shorter in general. But I also think the singing has helped me with the violin. Doing the combo has allowed me to be a little more lyrical in the way I approach classical music. Now I look for the bigger line rather than focusing on the technical difficulties. See the bigger picture, if that makes any sense.

The musical forest for the trees…

That’s right!

So do you actually play the fiddle at all while you’re with the Sally Cats?

No. I’m not a jazz violinist by any stretch, and frankly I’d rather sing jazz. It’s more freeing and natural for me to sing jazz than to worry about how to play it.

So is there any difficulty traversing between the strict confines of classical music and the much more free form of jazz, where improvisation is encouraged?

No, not at all. I love it. I’m doing a show in February with a classical first half, and second half with the Sally Cats (February 27th at the Song Tree Series in Goleta). We’re doing the Dohnanyi Serenade for String Trio, and Ravel’s String Quartet. Then after intermission, it’s jazz with the Sally Cats. So it’s not a problem…

How do you juggle your time between all the ensembles you perform with?

I think I look at it these days as it’s just part of me and my  musical life. I’m trying not  to separate them, not to think of them differently. Obviously it’s a different vibe between them all, and each takes a different preparation. But if I spent itme thinking about that, I’d go nuts. So instead, I focus on: I do this today and that tomorrow and try not to double book. It does get hairy with the magazine though….

Yes, please talk about what prompted you to start the magazine, especially in a tough economy, and when print is especially challenging?

Almost because of that. I’ve been here since 1992 and I’ve been watching the gigs and the audiences disappear. It seemed kind of a shame to me. I thought the journalists here do incredible work, but that a supplement could help. Bigger cities have these magazines specifically for music, many of them with just the listing type of info. I thought there was so much going on here that it made sense to put it down all in one place. I put feelers out and people jumped on it. I just thought I’d give it a go, and it’s grown like crazy. There’s a lot of music out there!

Where do you see it headed?

My main goal is to raise awareness of what’s here. If we all work together, the music community can really shine. We all need to support each other, realize we all have the same goals. It’s like the new film that just played at the Lobero, Above Santa Barbara, which said, “Look at what we have here: wineries, mountains, ocean activities, and so much more.” To me this is a small town, but it has all that stuff plus all the entertainment and music. My, we’re lucky!

About "Wonderful Day": God, Sally! When the hell did you become a world-class cabaret singer? You sound like one of those mythic untouchable women from the 30s & 40 in the evening gown in front of the swingin'est big bands in the world. What a cool record, and a perfect band for Santa Barbara, I would imagine.

The Independent

The Jazz Singer Sally Barr and the SB Cats @ SOhO June 30

Sally Barr and her new jazz orchestra gave a fine and highly promising performance at SOhO on Monday night. Barr, a violinist who has long been a mainstay in that capacity on the Santa Barbara classical music scene, showed once again that she has a terrific voice and unerring taste in both material and musicians. The set list read like a lesson in crucial jazz standards, the kind everyone should know. "Ain't Misbehavin'" was followed by "April in Paris", "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To", and an up-tempo version of "Blue Skies." The band, a handpicked assemblage of the absolute top players in town, included Jim Connolly (bass), Jon Nathan (drums/arrangements), Brad Rabuchin (guitar), Tom Buckner (sax/flute/clarinet), and Jim Mooy (trumpet). Everyone got plenty of solo time, and the Nathan, Connolly, and Rabuchin rhythm section did an amazing job of keeping things swinging.

Barr's voice cut through the big sound with vibrant color and emotion, her phrasing a model of clarity and sophistication, and every word etched precisely in sound. Just when Mooy or Buckner broke off another hot solo, Barr started in on the chorus again, and just when it seemed that it couldn't get much better, there was a break and the band became an orchestra. For "Tenderly" and "What is This Thing Called Love?" the main group was joined on stage by a quartet string section that included violinist Lisa Weinstein and Claude Lise Lafranque, along with Kirsten Monke and cellist Claudia Kiser.

For some of these numbers, which were all fully orchestrated, Nathan left his drummer's seat and stood to conduct the strings. Monke took a beautiful cello solo on "Tenderly", and Connolly took one of several splendid bass solos. "Caravan" brought the collective back off the break sounding like the great house bebop orchestra this town (and venue) deserves. "Green Dolphin Street" followed, along with too many more classics to count. Ending with a particularly ebullient "You Don't Know What Love Is," Barr and company showed that there is much more fire and passion to come.

The Independent

Sally Barr Presents Songs for Africa, a Benefit Concert for Direct Relief International First on the Spot Thursday, June 14, 2007 By Charles Donelan

On Thursday, June 21, three of our town’s most creative music ensembles will gather at Center Stage Theater for a concert, titled Songs for Africa, benefiting Direct Relief International (DRI), the Santa Barbara-based philanthropic organization that has been recognized as one of the most important and effective nongovernmental relief organizations in the world.

The catalyst for Thursday’s benefit is Sally Barr (pictured above) — singer, violinist extraordinaire, humanitarian, adventurer, and a member of all the groups on the bill, which include Jim Connolly’s Gove County String Quartet, Barr’s own group, MamaJama Jazz, and Joe Woodard’s wild and stylish Headless Household. The music will start at 7:30 p.m., with three sets and two intermissions — a perfect schedule for listening, socializing, and supporting our city’s most impressive global charity. In 2006, DRI brought more than $200 million of direct aid in the form of medical material assistance and targeted cash grants to 23.8 million people in 56 countries.

The benefit concert alone would be a substantial gift to DRI, but Sally Barr is not one to proceed by half measures. In addition to organizing and hosting Songs for Africa, Barr will go to Africa herself in July to do relief work with DRI, and she is thrilled. Mention Sally Barr to any of the progressive musicians in town and you’ll hear all kinds of praise. As Joe Woodard of Headless Household and The Indy’s Fringe Beat column put it, “Sally Barr is one of those rare ‘serious’ musicians who is not only interested in a wide range of sounds and styles — and also attitudes — but she’s game to get involved in styles off to the left of straight classical music.” Woodard went on to express his admiration for this particular project, saying, “Lately, Sally has really been branching out, letting out the entrepreneur within and also exploring her new persona as a singer. I was thrilled when she asked if Headless Household could play the Direct Relief International benefit.” I spoke with Barr last week by phone while she visited her parents.

How did you become involved with DRI?

I have been a contributor to its fundraising efforts for years, and I have always been impressed with the way DRI is so often first on the spot when a crisis breaks out. I was in New Zealand when the earthquake hit Pakistan in 2005, and I remember turning on CNN and seeing two insignias on the scene within the first 24 hours — Red Cross and DRI. When I first got more involved with the organization after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, I saw what they were doing was no-nonsense, and that they had the means and the passion to make a real difference.

What are you going to be doing in Africa?

For me, this is the first time going with the team on a relief mission, and I am honored to be involved. Lori Willis asked me if I would go with them to Africa, and I couldn’t say no. The basic idea is we will meet up in Nairobi and do three clinics in Kenya, then get on an eight-seater bush plane and fly to Uganda, where we will do three more clinics. I recently met the man who coordinates DRI’s work in Uganda, and he was so moving. Here is someone who deals with death every day, and he is the most positive, optimistic person you could ever imagine.

Have you always wanted to do something like this?

Yes, I have. I was even thinking about joining the Peace Corps. I suppose this is like the tourist version. (Laughs.) Seriously, the way I feel about it is like this: Living the life of a musician in Santa Barbara is not easy, but you know, when you look around you and see what’s happening elsewhere in the world, you realize that, hey, it’s not exactly hard, either. That’s part of why I am really excited about this trip — to be more aware of how things are in the world, and of how lucky we are living here.

What was it like getting the bands together for the benefit?

They were all great about it — everyone said yes right away. Jim Connolly was a Peace Corps kid, and Tom Lackner’s family has been involved with DRI for decades. And Joe Woodard is always supportive, so that made things easy. I’ve known these guys for years, and I’m still excited by what we are doing together.

Is there something you want to accomplish on Thursday, beyond just raising money and having fun?

Raising awareness would be nice. You know, I have told some people about what I am doing, and they have heard of DRI, but they didn’t know it was here. They say, “Direct Relief International is based in Santa Barbara?” and I say, “Yes, so get involved.”

The Independent

"Sally Barr swings on the violin and sings like a dream..."

Santa Barbara NewsPress

Sally Barr: Trading Bach for bop Tom Jacobs, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER April 28, 2006 8:24 AM

What's the essential difference between playing classical music and jazz? Sally Barr has a succinct, and eminently practical, answer. "Jazz is a lot more free," she said. "You can land a honker, and it's OK." Barr, 37, is best-known locally as a classical violinist. A 10-year veteran of the Santa Barbara Symphony (which she left last year), she plays with Opera Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. But on Sunday night in the Lobero Theatre, she will showcase her talents as a jazz vocalist. Barr will headline a benefit concert for the Chamber Orchestra, leading a 12-piece ensemble including trumpeter Nate Birkey (who will return from New York to his native Santa Barbara for the performance) and percussionist Jon Nathan (who is writing the arrangements). The band also will include several string players from the orchestra -- musicians who are more experienced playing Elgar than Ellington. They include violist Kirsten Monke and violinists Claude-Lise Lafranque and Elizabeth Hedman. The program will feature many jazz standards, including Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser" and George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland." Barr grew up not too far from the famous New York City jazz club that gave the latter piece its name. She was born and raised in suburban Westchester County. "My grandmother was a pianist," she said. "When she was 22, she was good enough to play a concerto with the Kansas City Symphony. She quit when she married my grandfather. "When I was 5, she heard me poking at the piano and said, 'Try this.' (After recognizing I had talent) she told my parents they needed to get me some lessons." Young Sally took keyboard lessons for three years before discovering the violin. "When I was 8, the string teacher came into my public school third-grade class and said, 'Who wants to play a string instrument?' I said, 'OK.' I didn't have any burning desire. But by the time I was 12 or 13, I knew that was it." What was it about the violin? "It's the closest instrument to the female voice," she replied. "I was singing then, too, in high school and junior high choirs and chamber choirs, but I didn't really pursue it." Barr got her bachelor's degree from the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, then moved to Santa Barbara to earn her master's at UCSB. She studied with Ron Copes, who is now a member of the Juilliard Quartet. After a decade or so working as a professional violinist, she formed a production company last year with bassist Jessica Gilliam-Valls. They performed two concerts last year in Austin, Texas, where Gilliam-Valls resides -- one classical, and one featuring jazz and tango. Why plunge into this new genre now? "I guess I'm not afraid anymore," said Barr, 37. "I always thought it would be great to do, but the timing was never right. I've gotten nothing but a positive response, so clearly this is the time to do it." Asked to name her influences, Barr ticks off a list of familiar names: "Ella (Fitzgerald) for sure. Sarah Vaughan. Nina Simone. Billie Holiday. Joe Williams. Liza Minnelli." Umm . . . Liza Minnelli? "I listened to a lot of theater music growing up. She has some really interesting ideas as to how to pull off a song -- as did her mother." Of course, Minnelli doesn't improvise in front of audiences. Barr does. "I've had to work on (developing my scat-singing skills), but it's easier than playing the violin," she said. "The violin is physically more taxing. "I kind of cheat with my scatting," she added. "I'll throw in classical riffs. I can't help it. I'll do something and think, 'That was a classical-like phrase.' " Of course, in jazz, incorporating music from other genres is perfectly acceptable. That's one thing she loves about it: the freedom.

Independent

Barr Brings It Together April 27, 2006 Jazz Meets Classical in the Chamber Orchestra’s Annual Gala by Stanley Naftaly This year’s version of a Starry, Starry Night, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra’s annual benefit concert, is an exciting invitation to a wider audience from the 26-year-old pillar of our cultural and educational life. A stellar quintet, comprised of the cream of the area’s jazz musicians, and supported by an excellent classical string section, will celebrate mainstream vocal and instrumental jazz at the Lobero Theatre this Sunday evening, April 30. Jazz and classical music have existed side-by-side for 100 years in this country. Just as there have been many great classical musicians who have explored jazz — Lalo Schifrin, Arturo Sandoval, Itzhak Perlman, and Claude Bolin, to name a few — there have been an equal number of jazz masters who have nibbled at the edges of classical music: Miles Davis with Gil Evans, Duke Ellington, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dave Brubeck, and Lee Konitz immediately come to mind. This is an opportunity to see and hear world-class practitioners of both genres working together to produce an evening of music whose ability to excite, enchant, and uplift exceeds that of either of these genres alone. Sunday’s jazz players include drummer Jon Nathan, director of the UCSB Jazz Ensembles; trumpeter Nate Birkey, who attended the Berklee School of Music; classically trained pianist Bruce Bigenho who also studied with the celebrated jazz pianist Joe Bushkin; bassist and ethnomusicologist Ralph Lori; and saxophonist Tom Buchner, who has played with Luis Muñoz and jazz legends Flora Purim and Airto Moreira. The string section is made up of violinists Claude Lise Lafranque, Valerie Malvinni, and Lisa Weinstein, violists Kirsten Monke and Modesto Marcano, and cellist Jeness Johnson. Fittingly, the event’s symbolic and practical focal point is classical violinist-cum-jazz vocalist Sally Barr, who also happens to be producing the event. She started studying piano at the age of five and the violin at eight. After attending the Oberlin Music Conservatory, she enrolled at UCSB in 1992 and played in the university’s orchestra until 1995, when she graduated with a masters degree in performance. She was a member of the Santa Barbara Symphony from 1993 through 2005, and has played with Santa Barbara Opera since ’95 and with the Chamber Orchestra since ’96. Although she became interested in jazz while in college, she has been strictly a classical musician until recently — her debut as a jazz vocalist was last September. Noting the common claim that what separates classical from jazz is the former’s lack of improvisation; Barr contended that this has not always been the case. She explained that when composers such as Paganini, Brahms, and Mozart wrote concerti, they expected that a performer would improvise his or her own cadenza. She speculated that the practice might have disappeared because more recent composers have wanted to exert closer control over the content of their works. To illustrate another point of basic similarity between jazz and classical music, she pointed out that the most basic jazz/blues chord progression, 1-4-5-1, is also the first progression a student of classical music learns. Barr’s shift to performing jazz was influenced by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald; Sarah Vaughn; Joe Williams; Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross; Nina Simone; and Louis Armstrong, legends whom she plans to salute in this weekend’s performance. But the real salute will be to the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, who since 1978 has presented the highest quality music and conducted extensive in-school education. All profits from the concert will benefit this education program.