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Anthony and friend: Like Getz, but without the Gilberto.

Front and Center

Wes Anthony gets busy on Front Street

By Peter Koht

Last St. Patrick's Day, while the rest of Santa Cruz was making plans to rendezvous at the Poet, Wes Anthony was sprawled on the side of Mission Boulevard, the victim of an inexperienced driver's unplanned left-hand turn into his motorcycle. "I almost died at the peak of my career," he says, sprawled out on the couch in the office overlooking the building that will soon house his new venue: E3. After being airlifted to San Jose, where he got two pins in his ankle and a brand spanking new titanium shoulder socket, Anthony is once again at the nexus of Santa Cruz's live music scene. "I play 10 instruments in 10 bands and can make a hundred drinks," he says with a devilish grin.

Having spent five years hosting events at the "killer" house that he rents on the West Side, Anthony is converting the former home of Cymbaline Records at the corner of Cathcart and Front into a "social art space" featuring live music, good food and music classes. While Dale Ockerman's recently opened New Music School will focus on individual lessons, Anthony is hoping to offer a kind of musical finishing school with group classes in jazz improvisation, R&B and Latin Jazz.

With a projected opening date of Oct. 1, E3 (E1 is Anthony's house, E2 is the Pearl Alley Box Office) will be in the heart of a revitalized arts district on the south end of Front Street. With the aforementioned New Music School, Thomas Music, Club Caution, Motion Pacific and E3 all within two blocks of each other, Anthony is hoping to create the kind of creative atmosphere that you can find on Beale Street in Memphis or Sixth Street in Austin, Texas.

While interested in civic revitalization, Anthony's real motive just might be finding "another gig space" for Santa Cruz's musical population. Performing has been Anthony's primary way of making the rent since he moved here a dozen years ago. He holds down the sax chair in a plethora of local bands, including Wally's Swing World, Latin Lingo and Sol Caribe. Yet instead of paring back on the nocturnal excursions in anticipation of the opening of E3, he has actually started another project: the Wes Anthony Playtet. This new group will trot out some classic Latin jazz at the Kuumbwa on Sept. 8.

"I am kind of like Stan Getz," Anthony says. "He didn't write a whole lot of music. I'm more of channel for the composer's work, so I'm more into interpretation." Rather than busting out bossas and chestnuts like "Song for My Father," Anthony's group is digging into some seriously heavy charts by progressive stalwarts like Eddie Palmieri, Jaco Pastorius and Victor Feldman.

These tunes are complicated beasts that require both prodigious musicianship and a certain amount of flair to successfully pull off—qualities that Anthony has in abundance. His taste in repertoire is reflective of his desire to open up E3. It's going to be a challenge, but if it all comes together, the new club will be, as Anthony puts it, "another rose in the rose bed" that Front Street is quickly becoming.

Wes Anthony Playtet, Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7pm at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets $10$13. More info is available at www.kuumbwajazz.org.

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From the September 7-14, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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