Wednesday night was a memorable night for me and a couple of hundred friends in Santa Cruz. The 11th Gail Rich Awards took place at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center and, I got to say, I’m always surprised at how well it comes off.
I’ve been hosting this event for a full decade now, and in the past, I haven’t dealt well with the stress of the impending event and the horrible experience of speaking before an expectant audience. But now, the volunteers at the Cultural Council Associates have put together the event so well, it just seems so much easier.
The winners this year include Jozseph Schulz (of India Joze fame), poet/film critic Morton Marcus, theatrical costumer Maria Crush, vocal trio Mayim, drummer Jimmy Norris, jazz vibraphonist Don McCaslin, artist Daniella Woolf and Cabrillo Music Festival directors Ellen Primack and Tom Fredericks.
The story of the night was the emotion displayed on stage. Tom Fredericks gave a moving testimonial aimed at his lovely young daughter, dressed in her finest gown for the event. And Jozseph Schulz surprised himself with the emotion of the moment, fighting back tears as he gave tribute to his wife Ann Simonton and longtime friend and artist Beth Regardz.
Fire department captain Matt McCaslin gave a moving tribute to his father, the 80-year-old jazz man Don McCaslin. I made an off-hand comment at the end that we should name something after Don, an icon of downtown Santa Cruz throughout the 1970s and ’80s, and several folks approached me afterwards, saying, in essence, “Yes, we should name something after Don McCaslin.”
So, a civic movement was born. What say we take the plaza at Pacific Avenue and Cooper Street, where Don used to preside back in the glory days of the Cooper House, and re-name it “McCaslin Plaza.” Who’s with me?