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Concert Review: Mark Masters in Palm Desert, California

What’s better than 80º in February and Antonio Carlos Jobim?

Ed Czach, Mark Masters, Stephanie O'Keefe, Putter Smith, Joe Stone, Gary Foster, Kendall Kay, Brian Williams, Brad Dutz, Allen Savedoff at the Living Desert, Palm Desert, California

Back in the day, Palm Springs, Calif., was known for the Racquet Club, where, legend has it, Marilyn Monroe was discovered, and for the Biltmore Hotel, where the Rat Pack hung out. Nowadays, it is known for the world’s densest concentration of golf courses (124 at last count) and for geriatric affluence. Suntanned geezers slowly drive their Aston Martin cabriolets up and down Highway 111, which links Palm Springs to even more upscale communities of the Coachella Valley like Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells.

One thing the Palm Springs area is not known for is jazz. But a surprising amount of real jazz is available in the Valley, primarily because of the American Jazz Institute. Since 1997, AJI has sponsored clinics, mentoring programs and an Internet radio site (AmJazzIn). It maintains an extensive jazz archive at its office in Palm Desert, and presents three concert series each year. One venue is a restaurant in Indian Wells, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, where singers like Jackie Ryan and Mary Stallings appear. The other two venues are unusual but workable. Concerts are held in Pete Carlson’s Golf & Tennis store in Palm Desert. People on the level of Peter Erskine, Gary Smulyan and Tim Hagans have played Pete’s, wailing amid displays of irons, woods and racquets. The other venue is a large room adjacent to an aviary (currently presenting “Birds of the Australian Outback”) on the grounds of the Living Desert, a beautiful zoo and botanical garden in Palm Desert. On Sunday, February 9, the Mark Masters Ensemble performed the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was the fourth of six events in this year’s “Jazzoo” concert series.

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