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Jazz series ends with program on Miles Davis

CARLSBAD — A full house is expected when the doors open at 3:45 p.m. May 19 at the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium for a jazz session by ESP honoring the electric period of Miles Davis. 

The concert is the fourth and final segment of a lecture/performance series titled This Is Jazz! hosted by San Diego jazz historian, author and media personality Dirk Sutro.

Although there is no charge, entrance tickets are required and will be distributed starting at 3 p.m. The program begins at 4 p.m. at the auditorium, which is located at the Carlsbad City Library, 1775 Dove Lane.

Lynn Willard is co-founder of ESP, a jazz fusion group established in the early 1990s that was inspired by the music of Miles Davis.

Performing with Willard will be Robert Campbell (tenor sax, soprano sax), Dave Curtis (bass player, electronic FX), Gary Nieves (drums) and John Reynolds (trumpet).

Selections for the concert include “In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time,” “Black Satin” (“On the Corner” album), “Mr. Pasatorius,” “Nem Um Talve” and “U ‘n I.”

“We’ve had a 20-year love affair with Miles Davis’ music and have tried to carry on in the true spirit of how he would play if he were alive today,” Willard said.

“Miles played electric music because he got tired of music from the bee-bop period. He didn’t consider the genre to be old, but it was getting old for him.

When he started listening to James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, the funk influence became part of his style along with the use of electronics and the wah-wah peddle.”

Campbell, who was an original member of ESP, teaches jazz band at Clairemont High School. Today, he says, jazz is attracting a new generation of followers.

“The main thing is that they can express themselves,” he said. “It’s about improvisation, and each person’s creativity comes into play.”

Campbell added that the new wave of jazz musicians has an appreciation for the big band sound of the 1940s as well as jazz from the 1950s and 1960s.

“I called a student and (John) Coltrane was playing on his ringtone,” he said. “The good stuff is still out there, and young people appreciate it. They respect older musicians who are able to play instruments as well as they can.”

Willard explained that the group name, ESP, was inspired by the title track written by Wayne Shorter for Miles Davis’ 1965 album.

“You have to have ESP to improvise at the highest level,” Willard said. “It allows you to be ‘in the moment.’ You’re watching each other play, looking for signals, rhythms that you hit together, beginnings and endings. You’re concentrating at the highest state of awareness.”

Willard says that jazz is evolving, even today.

“We continue to play music that is ‘in the moment,’” he said. “We play the music of Miles Davis because of his pervasive influence on jazz and society.”

After the performance, Sutro will moderate a discussion involving the band members and audience.

This Is Jazz! is made possible by the Carlsbad Library and Arts Foundation’s Robert H. Gartner Cultural Endowment Fund.

For more information, call (760) 434-2920 or visit