Jazz Time at Soho By Melissa Hatef Strolling down Santa Barbara’s beautiful tree-lined State Street, I felt as though I was in a Mediterranean town, the quaint shops with their enticing treasures tempting my pocketbook. As I wandered through a small courtyard I caught the strains of lively jazz music. Following the sounds, I found myself walking into a small club and restaurant, known as Soho Restaurant and Music Club. The club is known for offering great meals and nightly performances by local musicians in genres ranging from jazz to light classic rock. On the night I stopped by, contemporary jazz was rolling across the room from the stage set up in the main dining room. The Monica Ashton Jazz Band was in full swing and I arrived not a moment too soon. The lovely Monica was in her element, fingers dancing across the keys, making that old piano sing as she caressed it one moment and flew her fingers in a blur across it in the next. The band was playing a combination of contemporary jazz with some classical thrown in for extra flavor. Monica Ashton is a renowned pianist and jazz musician and has been playing the piano since the age of 3. She has a special relationship with the piano and it offers its music to her like nothing I’ve ever heard. Monica composes her own contemporary jazz pieces and through her music tells stories of tragedies, such as “Thanksgiving ’01,” the memory of September 11, 2001, a stirring tribute to all the lives lost. “Edmund’s Lament” brought up memories of a former lover and “Melancholia,” simply stirred one’s heart with beautiful soft keyboard, accompanied by a soulful flute and saxophone played by the gifted Randall Willis. In the background Patrick Fleming (one of the original members of her band) kept time with the music, his hands flying across his bongo drums, with the very talented Reggie Carson accompanying on his bass. The night I was there, Monica introduced a special guest drummer, Sinclair Lott, who has played with such names as Frank Zappa and Freddy Hubbard. Sitting entranced by the music, I glanced briefly around the crowded room. Not a soul stirred, all eyes were on Monica and her music. She started the evening off playing “Thanksgiving ‘01”. The room was mesmerized and as the last strains faded, she jumped quickly into “Forty and Sporty,” a lively piece on turning 40 years old and her band jumped quickly into action. Monica has a unique style of entertaining. She has a knack of interacting with her audience so they feel as though they were kicking back and visiting with her in her living room at home. She has a comfortable presence on stage and one gets the feeling she is a very friendly, laid back individual. She has a great passion for her music yet; at the same time has a lot of fun at what she does. Monica is the driving force in her band, but makes sure the other musicians in her group are included and at one point in the evening, they were all invited to play solo pieces, thus showing off their talents and different styles to the audience. One could get a sense of great camaraderie among them. That night was a memorable one spent with Monica and her band. A former attorney from New York, she has been performing for the last five years and hopefully, the world will be hearing more from her in the years to come.” - Melissa Hatef, former Glendale Press Food Critic
Monica Ashton's jazz show at SOHO was fabulous! > I arrived a bit late, but Vivian, Mike, Greg, and Michael > were there, > enjoying it all. > > Monica's music was positively brilliant. The pieces > were her original > compositions except for Gershwin's Summertime which was > a fascinating and > exquisite arrangement. She was joined by a terrifically > talented group of > instrumentalists. > Congratulations and we wish you every success, Monica! > >” - Andriana Kolendrianos, Professor of Music and Choir Director, Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
It's funny! My aunt Aida [B. Thomas] listens to the CD almost everyday. She loves Ending Credits, Summertime, Caribeean Festival, and especially Thanksgiving 01. My Aunt was at one time the oldest known marathon runner IN THE WORLD!!! She's been in Time Magazine, People Magazine, Jet Magazine, and numerous newspapers around the world, and in many San Francisco Bay Area media distributions from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Oakland Tribune. -- Quote from Patrick Fleming, Aida B. Thomas' Nephew” - Aida B. Thomas

— Patrick Fleming

a minha querida irma :),so sorry for the reply-delay! ...my computer was "in the shop" for about six days and i am only now reconnecting with the outside world!please DO put me down for six CDs! this is all VERY exciting!!! ...maybe your VERY old sistah should attempt a DANCE to one of the pieces, for the next Dance Festival :). i'll see if i can get my courage up....xoxooxxoxo for now -- biggest irma :)” - Lucy Van Atta

— My Oldest Sister