Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, thanks for the music!


By Jim Nadel, Artistic Director and Founder, Stanford Jazz Workshop

Downbeat has its 5 stars, Rotten Tomatoes has its percentages, but my favorite rating system is the SF Chronicle’s Little Man who can be seen in any one of five stages of attention and engagement: from jumping out of his seat while applauding, to the empty chair – presumably because the Little Man has walked out.

Over the decades at Stanford Jazz Festival, I’ve seen it all. Because of the nature of our interactive community where resident artists might hang out for a week and perform in fresh and inspiring combinations, we get more than our fair share of peak performances with the accompanying audience jaw dropping, exhilarated or even ecstatic states. Only once however, do I recall seeing people literally jumping out of their seats in amazement.

Over the course of twenty years at SJW, Ndugu Chancler’s virtuosity was ever present but only ever displayed when in service of the music. When he played with Ruth Davies at SJW’s annual Blues Night, he always gave exactly what the groove needed to feel great, move forward, and inspire the other musicians and the audience. When he performed with Victor Wooten and Geoff Keezer, or Patrice Rushen and Alphonso Johnson, the music grew more open and interactive, and Ndugu played brilliantly in the context of those ever-changing musical conversations.

At the same time, in SJW classrooms or when hanging out at the Coffee House, he was a beloved and inspiring teacher and over the years had a hugely positive influence on hundreds of SJW drummers and thousands of young musicians. Ndugu was from the tough-love school of teaching, and it worked so well for him because it was clear that the underlying love was always there. His honesty and direct, straightforward, no-nonsense nature resonated with young drummers. Combined with his deep musical knowledge, rhythmic wisdom, and excellent communication skills, he was able during his life to give a tremendous amount to a great many people.

Ndugu first came to SJW in the summer of 1997, a year in which we also featured Joe Williams and Louis Bellson, the Ray Brown Trio, Lou Levy, and many other artists. I remember that Charles Brown was the Blues Night guest that year.

A couple of moments from that early time that say it all.

Ndugu was playing drums in a faculty concert for students and community members. While trading fours, he first gave the audience a glimpse of his creative energy and advanced musical consciousness. When he opened up a little, even for just four bars, the music immediately felt elevated.

Later, during a solo drum feature, Ndugu started out simply and wove an engaging musical story that quickly drew people in and then kept them on the edge of their seats. The rhythm grew progressively more thrilling until everyone in the room was lost in the delight of the moment. And at that already joyful moment, it was as if a psychic booster fired and something truly miraculous happened as Ndugu took the entire room to a higher level of ecstacy. It may have been an added layer of polyrhythm coupled with virtuosic control of dynamics, tension, and release, but regardless, the room erupted in amazement with a physical response. Everyone felt it and several people around me involuntarily jumped out of their chairs!

The next day there was a lot of talk about this wonderful performance, and word got out that Ndugu had been invited to sit in at the Latin jazz concert scheduled for that evening on hand percussion, not on drum kit. There was a lot of interest in hearing this master of the drum set play hand percussion, and most of the student body showed up that night to check it out.

As the first song began, eyes were on Ndugu even though this night he’d have a more peripheral role. He picked up a cowbell, and I know a lot of people were thinking, “Get ready, because we’re about to hear some incredible cowbell playing like nobody’s ever heard!” As the song got going, Ndugu stood there listening, bell and drum stick ready in hand. He continued listening as the bars went by and the arrangement revealed itself a bit. Finally after about 32 bars, he played one single eighth-note on an upbeat, and that was it. Eight bars later he played it again, another single note. He was adding something to the rhythmic mix, but no more than what he felt would help.

Every note Ndugu ever played was in service of the music. He astonished us regularly with his musicianship, though he never let ego or technique for technique’s sake get in the way. This was who he was, in terms of music education. Observing his musicianship always provided a great lesson for everyone, whether in the classroom or in concert, regardless of whether he was taking the lead or adding subtle support.

Ndugu was an extraordinary man with a great spirit, and he made an immeasurable contribution to SJW. We and the world of music miss him.

Ndugu, thanks for the music!


Esperanza Spalding to perform at Stanford Jazz Festival

Lifetime Achievement award presented to Remo Belli at Stanford Jazz Festival

The Stanford Jazz Festival and Stanford Jazz Workshop were honored to be part of a special presentation by SJW Festival artist, faculty member, and percussionist Tupac Mantilla. Tupac is beloved by Festival patrons and SJW students alike, with his boundless energy, creativity, and virtuosity. Just prior to the August 1 performance of percussionist John Santos at the Stanford Jazz Festival, Remo Belli, Founder and CEO of Remo, Inc., a world-renowned manufacturer of percussion instruments and products, received Percuaction’s annual Lifetime Achievement Industry Award, presented by Tupac Mantilla, who is himself Artistic Director and CEO of the organization. Having the ceremony at the John Santos performance was not coincidental, as Santos has been a Remo artist for many years.

Please download the attached press release for full details and photos. SJW_Remo_award_2015_final

Stanford Jazz Festival tickets now on sale

Tickets to the 2014 Stanford Jazz Festival go on sale today! You can purchase tickets on the phone by calling 650-725-2787, or online atstanfordjazzfestival.org.

The lineup for the 2014 Stanford Jazz Festival is fantastic, including living jazz legends such as Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Jack Dejohnette, Kenny Burrell, Peter Erskine, Fred Hersch, John Pizzarelli, and Arturo Sandoval. Here’s the lineup, and you can find out the details of all 35 great shows at www.stanfordjazzfestival.org.

Bing Concert Hall
: all-acoustic performances!

  • 06/21 Kenny Barron Trio with Dayna Stephens
08/09 Chick Corea: Solo Piano

Dinkelspiel Auditorium

  • 06/22 Rising Stars: Stanford Jazz Workshop Alumni
06/27 Meklit
  • 06/28 John Pizzarelli
06/29 Denise Perrier & the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra
 play the Ellington Songbook
07/05 Pacific Mambo Orchestra
07/12 Arturo Sandoval
  • 07/13 Remembering Stan Getz with Kristen Strom
07/18 Sachal Vasadani
  • 07/19 Yellowjackets
  • 07/20 Ndugu Trio
07/23 Ruth Davies Blues Night with Joe Louis Walker
07/24 Victor Lin: Jazz Meets Classical
  • 07/26 Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz
07/27 Jack DeJohnette Trio with Ravi Coltrane & Matthew Garrison
  • 07/30 Bennett Paster & Taylor Eigsti
  • 07/31 Dena DeRose sings Shirley Horn
  • 08/02 Heath Brothers with Jeremy Pelt
  • 08/03 Fred Hersch Trio
08/04 Kenny Burrell Quartet
08/05 Taylor Eigsti & Julian Lage
08/06 George Cables Trio + Fly
  • 08/08 SJW All-Star Jam

Campbell Recital Hall

07/06 Jazz Inside Out with Jim Nadel & Friends
  • 07/11 Dexterity: Larry Vuckovich plays the Music of Dexter Gordon
07/21 Ben Flocks
07/22 Patrick Wolff Sextet with Ben Goldberg & Diana Gameros
  • 07/28 Jeb Patton Trio
  • 07/29 Richard Sears Sextet featuring Tootie Heath

EARLY BIRD JAZZ FOR KIDS: Dinkelspiel Auditorium

06/28 Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble
  • 07/12 Jim Nadel & the Zookeepers


07/25 SJW Jazz Camp Showcase 1
08/01 SJW Jazz Camp Showcase 2
08/07 SJW Jazz Institute Showcase

Catalog download, schedule, audio, video & tickets:
  or call 650.725.2787

SJW Members get the best seats first!

Stanford Jazz Workshop members enjoy real benefits and support America’s indigenous art form.

Join SJW to cultivate the next generation of jazz musicians and music lovers while celebrating the best artists of today! Your support of Stanford Jazz Workshop educational programs and the Stanford Jazz Festival helps build and maintain a vital jazz community.


  • Best seats first — weeks before tickets go on sale to the general public.
  • No fees — ticket service fees waived, worth up to $6.00 per ticket.*
  • Members-only events — attend a Listening Party with Kenny Barron, June 20.  More 2014 members-only events to be announced.
Higher levels of membership gain valuable advantages:
  • Student (age 25 & under):  $25
Recognition in concert programs
  • Jazz Lover:  $75-$199
25% off SJW merchandise (excluding CDs & books)
  • Jazz Advocate:  $200-$499 
One pair of tickets to a select Festival concert
  • Jazz Master:  $500-$999
Two pairs of tickets to select Festival concerts
Become a member of SJW today at stanfordjazz.org or by calling 650.736.0324.
* Note: Stanford Ticket Office service fees are $4 per ticket plus $2 for the print-at-home option.

Take your support up a notch — in the Inner Circle.

When you become a member of SJW at either the Director’s or Producer’s level, you provide inspiring and often life-changing arts education experiences for thousands of SJW students and SJF listeners — helping to guarantee the future of jazz. You also gain access to the most exclusive Inner Circle events, maximizing your connection with the SJW community. Inner Circle members enjoy all the benefits listed above, plus:

  • Director’s Circle: $1,000-$2,499
Concierge ticket service & seat selection with special attention from SJF staff 
Invitations to special Workshop events 
Invitations to Festival backstage receptions
  • Producer’s Circle:   $2,500-$4,999
All Director’s Circle benefits
Invitations to intimate house concerts
Invitations to exclusive listening parties with special guest artists
For further information about how you can play a part in the SJW Inner Circle, please contact Nathan Davis, Development Director, atndavis@stanfordjazz.org or 650.736.0324 extension 307.

Early Bird Jazz for Kids, On Sale Now

Bring the whole family and enjoy two mornings of jazz for kids!

• Meet all the instruments
• Dance to the rhythms
• Sing along with some swingin’ songs
• Instrument petting zoo on July 13!


June 29: Early Bird Jazz for Kids with Doug Goodkin and the Pentatonics

July 13: Early Bird Jazz for Kids: Jim Nadel and Friends

Adult tickets are $5 in advance, $10 at the door. Tickets for kids under 18 are free!   Get tickets for adults and kids online at stanfordjazz.org or call 650-725-2787. Both shows are in Dinkelspiel Auditorium, across the plaza from Tresidder Student Union, on the Stanford University campus. Get tickets soon, as these shows are likely to sell out! More info here: stanfordjazz.org/pdfs/SJW_Early_Bird_Jazz_2013.pdf

2013 SJW app ready for download

Now available for iOS, Android, and other mobile devices, the Stanford Jazz app gives you instant access to Jazz Festival tickets, Jazz Camp updates, SJW videos, and more! With the app you can:

  • purchase tickets to the Stanford Jazz Festival
  • get updates and alerts about Jazz Camp and Jazz Residency activities
  • get directions to Stanford Jazz venues
  • get special ticket offers
  • alerts of ticket availablity for sold-out shows

To get the app, just point your gizmo’s browser to stanfordjazz.org, and you’ll be prompted to download the appropriate app for your phone or mobile device. Find out more by clicking on the links below.

Get the Stanford Jazz Workshop app for iOS.

Get the Stanford Jazz Workshop app for Android.

Go to the Stanford Jazz Workshop mobile site.

2013 Stanford Jazz Festival tickets on sale now

Call the Stanford Ticket Office at 650-725-2787 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 12 noon – 4 p.m. on Saturday to purchase tickets to the 2013 Stanford Jazz Festival.

With 32 performances by some of the world’s greatest jazz artists, the Stanford Jazz Festival offers you a summer of excitement. For details on all of the performers, including links to videos of performances, click here.

Herbie Hancock show is SOLD OUT

Demand for the Ken Oshman Memorial Concert on Saturday, June 22 featuring a special solo performance by Herbie Hancock has been incredibly high, and the show has sold out.

If you’d like be informed of any returns or exchanges that might make tickets available, please call the Stanford Ticket Office at 650-725-2787 and check with their knowledgable ticket staff.

It is possible that there will be a small number of tickets available at the door on the night of the show. If you’d like to be alerted in this case, please download the Stanford Jazz Workshop app at the Apple App store or at the Google Play store. You can also access our app directly with an iPad or other tablet device at this web address: stanfordjazz.instantencore.com/m/home.aspx.

Herbie Hancock, Chucho Valdés in Bing Concert Hall: on sale now

The Stanford Jazz Festival’s 42nd season opens in the amazing new Bing Concert Hall with a solo performance by the legendary pianist Herbie Hancock, a true icon of modern music. Chucho Valdés, the Promethean master of 21st Century Afro-Cuban jazz piano, closes our 2013 season in Bing Concert Hall.

We expect both shows to sell out rapidly, so don’t delay! You can purchase tickets online, or by calling the Stanford Ticket Office at 650-725-2787 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 12 noon – 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Click here to purchase tickets for Herbie Hancock on Saturday, June 22.

Click here to purchase tickets for the Chucho Valdés Quintet on Saturday, August 10.