Thankful for so much in Sonoma Valley

We can’t say that we’ve ever had to write a column that covers three days of music, where on two of them, there is essentially not a public music event happening. We’re pretty sure there will be singing and dancing in Sonoma Valley tonight, Dec. 24, and Saturday, Dec. 25. There will be music and singing in all the local religious venues that celebrate Christmas, but we’re betting many houses will have their own special musical celebrations, all with their own itinerary. In Sonoma Valley, we’re all blessed with many things, heck, I’m blessed every day I wake up breathing, but with such a variety of music to enjoy on this island some call Sonoma Valley, it’s time we reflect on some of the musical talent we have here to enjoy almost every weekend. Even with the lack of a proper nightclub in town, this little hamlet brings name brands to town on a regular basis, and the local musicians are something to be reckoned with as well. Each week on Friday nights, the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society brings name jazz acts from San Francisco and many points in-between to the Plaza Bistro, all for no cover. Sebastiani Winery and Vineyards has been the closest thing to a regular local gig over the past year, with each Friday night, opening the doors late to showcase a local band, a local caterer and even throw down a great deal on a glass of wine. Steiners Tavern started the year off strong with live music, and continues to bring in regional acts from around the area. Little Switzerland in El Verano is committed to have live music, and as one of the oldest venues in all of Sonoma County, we’re happy to see that. New-comers Sonoma Springs Brewery, HopMonk Tavern, Olde Sonoma Pub and even the Swiss Hotel have had live music this last year. Mondo American Beer Garden has also kept the local music vibe going, as well as the newly-remodeled El Verano Inn. Murphy’s Irish Pub has always been a mainstay for locals and tourists alike to be able to count on regular music happening, and this year, changes are afoot. Local guitarist Sean Carscadden has taken over the booking duties from long-time booking agent Larry Carlin, who departs from the pub on excellent terms and an over 10 year legacy of music bookings at the popular venue. “The Mix” at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art also has been booking local acts, as have many of the numerous non-profit events in the Valley. The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, one of the largest platforms for local non-profit fundraising, has also provided a great line-up of local and regional acts over the past year. We have the Sonoma Valley Classical Music Society, Vox Populi, the Sonoma Valley Chorale, SonomaSong, the VOM Chamber Ensemble and many more that I’ve forgotten, to provide us with a variety of musical genres to enjoy. Primarily a movie theater, the historic Sebastiani Theatre and Roger Rhoten provide their venue whenever possible for local music, including Broadway Bound Kids and ACT. Let us not forget the amazing work that Barbara McElroy does with the Sonoma Valley High School Jazz Choir, the Jazzberries and the Madrigals, all award winning groups, in addition to her participation with the Sonoma Valley Chorale. That’s not even talking about the big shows. Sonoma Jazz + consistently brings stadium quality acts to a tent set up at the Field of Dreams, where even if you don’t have a ticket, a new tradition has happened outside the tent, where locals can hang out and dance. This year, the group brought in Crosby, Stills & Nash, Earth, Wind & Fire and Elvis Costello, with previous years bringing in names like Steve Winwood and Tony Bennett. Of course, lets not forget that the organization donates money back to the town for school music programs, so the price of a ticket is well spent. We’re not sure if any of the Doobie Brothers have ever lived in the Valley; we know John McVee from the Clover days in Marin County, but let me just proclaim this right now. This band is an honorary member of the Sonoma Valley Music Scene. The amount of money this band has helped raise over the years by their participation in the B. R. Cohn Fall Music Festival has been a windfall for Sonoma Valley non-profits. In addition, with winemaker Bruce Cohn opening his home for 24 years now for the annual concert, we have seen acts like Gregg Allman, Joe Satriani, Todd Rundgren, Taj Mahal, Journey, Kris Kristofferson and just this year, Cheap Trick, War, Grand Funk Railroad, Loverboy and many more, literally a mile or two away from many of us. We had another memorial celebration for one of Sonomas favorite sons, something that will be an annual event. We paid tribute to the legendary Norton Buffalo, who was a presence in the Valley in not just music, but so much more. The show benefits the new Norton Buffalo Musical scholarship fund. Buffalo played with Steve Miller for 25 years. If you can’t find any of Norton’s solo recordings, check out just about any Steve Miller album. You will hear the spirit of the buffalo. We also had a celebration this year; a celebration for an important part of the Sonoma Valley Music Scene, the departure of percussionist Johnn Murphy of EZ Kewl to New Orleans. The impact Murphy has had on local music, from what he does now with EZ Kewl to the old days of playing in “Murphy’s Garage” cannot be expressed with words. We wish him the best in the Big Easy.

There are some actual music shows this weekend, well, one anyway. Sean Carscasdden will be at Murphy’s Irish Pub with Andrew Emer on bass and J. B. Duff on drums at Murphy’s Irish Pub on Sunday, Dec. 26, at 6 p.m.

In closing, I’m sure we forgot someone or something, and for that we apologize, but know that I am personally honored to be able to represent the local musicians and the music happenings in this town I love called Sonoma. I honestly feel that the local music community in this town is just as important as the local wine, cheese, restaurants and all the other characters that live here in Sonoma Valley. I want to personally wish you and yours the best in this holiday season, and know that I am thankful for all of you that read the words I pen here. Have an excellent holiday, and a prosperous 2011.

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