Versatile Vocalist Anita Baker Will Give San Diego Jazz Fans 'The Best That I Got'

Riding the phenomenal success of her new album "Giving You the Best That I Got," singer Anita Baker comes to the San Diego Sports Arena Nov. 25, sharing a bill wi& B ballad master Luther Vandross.

In barely a month, Baker's new LP has gone to No. 7 on the pop charts, selling 1.7 million copies. Meanwhile her last album, "Rapture," is still hanging on at No. 129 and has sold nearly 5 million to date.

Billboard critic Nelson George came up with the term retronuevo to describe Baker's style, a blend of gospel, jazz and pop. It's not hard to see why her music has such broad appeal. Her brand of silky love ballads make for just the kind of relaxed listening most people are after. While the records are extremely smooth and pleasant, one hopes she will put her versatile contralto in more challenging settings at some future date.

According to her publicist, Baker's current show, recently seen by 30,000 fans during three dates at London's Wembley Stadium, her only European stop, primarily includes the songs from "Rapture." But she'll be adding more material from the new album as the tour progresses and the record gets more radio play.

For this tour, which continues on to Los Angeles, Baker is alternating as opening act with Vandross, the '80s' answer to Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. His sixth solo album, "Any Love," released in September, has already gone platinum, selling more than a million copies. Tickets for the show are $25, available through Ticketmaster outlets or at the Sports Arena box office.

Things are happening at San Diego City College's KSDS FM (88.3), the only true jazz station in town.

Most significantly, station engineers hope to increase power from 831 watts to 3,000 by next summer, which could triple its reach. Right now, KSDS has about 30,000 regular listeners, according to Phyllis Hegeman, promotions director.

Plans for a new transmitter on Mt. Miguel were thwarted nearly three years ago when a new Mexican station and others came in with frequencies too close to KSDS's. Now, engineers hope to microwave the signal from an antenna atop the new Symphony Towers high-rise downtown to a new transmitter to be built at Mesa College. The San Diego Community College District is ready to spend the necessary $100,000 when details are finalized.

During the past year, new shows have been added, most notably the "Big Band Hour" at noon and "Honkin' & Screamin'," rhythm and blues heard Friday nights at 10 and Sunday nights at 6. Jazz Calendar, a summary of local jazz entertainment, is repeated every three hours.

"Jazz Live," the station's monthly jazz concert series broadcast live from the San Diego City College Theater on C Street downtown, could use more support. The 300-seat theater has been less than half full for most performances.

KSDS can be received by Cox Cable's 295,000 subscribers, and on Southwestern and Dimension cable systems. To date, only 2,700 Cox subscribers are paying the $3.95 per month for FM service.

Thirty Dixieland bands, including the Black Eagle Jazz Band from Massachusetts and Hot Antic from France, are scheduled to appear at the ninth annual Dixieland Jazz Festival on Thanksgiving weekend at the Town & Country Hotel.

Show organizer Al Adams, president of the America's Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society, has carefully orchestrated music on 12 different stages so fans will never have to face a moment without music. Badges good for all events are $45. For information, call 297-JASS.

Can't make a living playing jazz in San Diego? Some local musicians say so, but not up-and-coming pianist Mel Goot, who often has more work than he can handle.

Monday through Saturday afternoons (except Tuesdays), he's at the piano in the Nordstrom store in Horton Plaza, seducing shoppers with a blend of Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and other favorites. Tuesday nights, he solos at Elario's in La Jolla.

Occasionally, Goot spells pianist Mike Wofford in the Palace Bar at the Horton Grand Hotel downtown. He pumps out authentic salsa around town with Afro Rumba. And he frequently appears at the Catamaran in Mission Beach, besides playing a variety of San Diego gigs behind local and national acts.

His ragtime-piano-playing grandmother and jazz guitarist father, Lionel, better known as Buck, were early influences. While still in his teens, Goot's dad had him jamming with name acts at the old Crossroads in downtown San Diego. He says the turning point in his career came in seventh grade when he heard George Shearing, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, and the Heath Brothers at the Pacific Coast Jazz Festival in Costa Mesa.

"I just got so gassed by what I saw that I told myself, 'I want to do this thing called jazz, and I want to share the feeling I'm having with an audience of my own.' "

RIFFS: Jazz giants Cedar Walton and Billy Higgins open a two-week run at Elario's in La Jolla on Wednesday. Pianist Walton has played with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Art Blakey, and the Jazz Messengers. Drummer Higgins has kept time with Thelonius Monk, Coltrane, Rollins, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley and Ornette Coleman. . . . Jazz keyboardist Tom Grant will play the Belly Up Tavern with Peter Sprague and Kevyn Lettau on Nov. 27. . . . Tonight and Saturday, it's Chuck Mangione and Mark Manetta at 8 p.m. in the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art's Sherwood Auditorium. . . . Guitarist Robben Ford will be at the Belly Up at 9 p.m. Thursday.

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