Jul 28, 2021

“Chet Plays Chet” Is A Concert Featuring All That Jazz

August 2 gig is a tribute to music icon Baker

By Ed Goldman

Among the instruments musician and private teacher Chet Chwalik plays are the trumpet and piano. He sometimes plays them simultaneously. 

I hope that intrigues you enough to read on—and, more to the point, if your schedule, geography and budget will allow you, that it inspires you to attend “Chet Plays Chet,” a two-hour concert and tribute to the late jazz great Chet Baker, on Monday, August 2, at the Dante Events Center. 

Edgy Cartoon

Chet Chwalik. Photo by Phil Kampel Photography

The venue is the newest iteration of a space that was known as the Dante Club since its establishment about 95 years ago. It’s at 2330 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Sacramento. There’s an optional pre-performance dinner, starting at 6 p.m. (Full details)

Chwalik’s eponymous quartet for the show includes Joe Gilman on piano, Robb Fisher on bass, Mat Marucci on drums, and Chet himself on trumpet and Flugelhorn, which Chet Baker famously played. Baker also sang in a reedy, near-soprano voice; Chwalik, who has a  pleasant speaking voice, tells me he’s been taking singing lessons and may brave the mic for a number or two, as will guest vocalist Carol Manson. The concert is a production of the Sacramento Jazz Coop production, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

I’ve known and admired Chwalik, who’s 56, for years—though not just for his musical chops. A native of a small Ohio town, Fostoria (population: 13,441 or so), he’s a single father of five kids, ranging in age from 20-31 years old, whose sense of personal responsibility is matched by his professional tenacity.

When I wrote about him a few years ago, he had a couple dozen private students; today he has more than 70. Talk about making your own living.

He gives lessons mainly from his El Dorado hills home, which houses five pianos. I ask him if he lost some students, to apathy or access difficulty, during the pandemic. “Actually, I suffered zero casualties,” he says with the kind of upbeat attitude for which someone invented the adjective “chipper.” During the worst days of the shutdown, he gave occasional instruction by Zoom, Google Meet and FaceTime.  

He says he started playing piano when he was four years old. Trumpet came later, as did his adoration for the work of Chet Baker, an artist as tormented as he was talented, who died in 1988 after falling from a second-story window in a hotel in Amsterdam. Homicide was ruled out; heavy drug use that may have disoriented him was the likely suspect. He was 58.

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“The album of Baker’s that most impressed me was recorded in Holland and included no drums,” Chwalik says. “It was pure Baker. And I decided then and there—I was just out of high school—that I wanted to play like him someday.”

I mentioned one of Chwalik’s magic tricks at the beginning of this column: playing trumpet and piano at the same time. What I’ve actually seen him do is play for a vocalist on his electric piano, then punch a button and pull out his trumpet as the piano riff continued: he had pre-recorded some of the accompaniment, allowing him to be his own combo. Just another example of Chet doing Chet. 

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank

photo by Phoebe Verkouw

Screen time vs. face-to-face interactions—does it really matter?

I was born at a time before technology was so heavily intertwined in daily life. My young years involved laughing with friends in person, buying candy with cash, and finishing homework using a typewriter. I touched and read printed newspapers and magazines, danced to music on vinyl, and spent hours daydreaming without distractions. In my experience, boredom ignited creativity.

Over the past several months, the pandemic forced an increased use of screen time—we blew up our use of zoom. And did it really hurt us?

From a banker’s perspective, digitalized services increased to a new and unforeseen high. Screens took over tellers. It’s been reported that there were approximately 4,400 branch closures between 2017 – 2020 and 3,300 closures during 2020 at the height of the pandemic (source: S&P Global Market intelligence).

What did we lose or gain from this increase in screen time?

  • Psychiatrists warn about a new pandemic of screen addiction. Our young folks are alarmingly depressed.
  • Loss of privacy and heightened monitoring of our daily activities.
  • Questionable lack of social skills and inability to decipher body language.

On the positive side, we have gained tremendous access to overwhelming amounts of information, the world is more globally connected and the sheer convenience factor is overwhelming.

Still, from my perspective as a 60+ year old woman, there is something invigorating about being in a room full of people who are excited to talk about topics of similar interests. I like to see what folks wear, who huddles with whom, and interpret body language beyond the content.

Most of all, I like the whispers and off-the-record chats, smiles and physical touches. I miss it all. In-person interactions may or may not be good for business, but it’s much more human—and much more fun.

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