Val James & Friends to sing jazz favorites at Candlelight Concert

PORT TOWNSEND — Val James and her Friends will perform an array of jazz standards during a Candlelight Concert of Jazz Favorites this coming Thursday to benefit the Jefferson County National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the concert at 7 p.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church — Port Townsend’s oldest Victorian church — at 609 Taylor St., Port Townsend.

Admission to the Nov. 17 concert is by a suggested donation of $10, with children admitted free. Refreshments will be served following the performance.

All proceeds will benefit the Jefferson County National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a nonprofit, grassroots self-help support and advocacy organization for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses, and their family members and friends.

James and company will perform selections from the music of the 1930s and ‘40s by a multitude of composers such as the Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Antônio Carlos Jobim, along with songs made famous by such singers as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.

Although James sang folk music during the ’60s, she didn’t start singing jazz until about 25 years ago. Her mother sang with Bing Crosby on the radio in the late ’30s and early ’40s, and was a “ghost singer” for the movies, James said.

“I just can’t get those beautiful songs out of my head,” James said. “Some of my favorite tunes will include ‘Our Love is Here to Stay,’ ‘Girl From Ipanema,’ ‘Shadow of Your Smile,’ ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and ‘But Not For Me.’ ”

James has performed in Seattle and Port Townsend since the early ’80s. She was a regular for many years at The Upstage and was the producer of Jazz Gals, a jazz trio that showcased local women vocalists. She now is a frequent performer at The Cellar Door.

She and her husband, Mike, have two jazz CDs along with two folk and singer songwriter CDs and are featured on four other Nautical CDs with other performers in Washington state. These CDs will be available for purchase at the Candlelight Concert.

Although she plays guitar herself, when it comes to jazz, James prefers to let the band back her up.

Musical accompaniment for her jazz concert include Mark Schecter on piano, Bruce Cannavaro on bass, Tim Sheffel on drums, and Rex Rice on trombone. Jack Lambton will join the group on guitar, replacing Pete Toyne, who had been James’ guitarist for years until his death.

All of James’ supporting musicians come from musical backgrounds and many made careers with music.

Most notable is Rice, a trombonist who toured with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and played with combos and big bands throughout the Pacific Northwest. He also played with the Everett Symphony for seven years.

He continues to keep busy playing with the Bourbon Street All Stars, the Foggy Bottom Jazz Band, the Dukes of Dabob, the Chimacum Horns, Nostalgia and he is also a staff member of the North West Big Band Camp.

Pianist Mark Schecter has played piano since he was young. He performs everything from classical to rock ‘n’ roll to jazz.

Cannavaro has played bass with dozens of different bands and different genres, but says the most important thing is that he loves to make music with his friends.

James’ new guitarist, Lambton, is new to the Port Townsend musical community but has played jazz and blues guitar in Austin, Texas, and San Francisco.

For more information, call 360-774-1644 or email

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