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Earlier this year, IFZ introduced the phenomenally gifted, young guitarist Eric Wesling. The occasion was his initiation into the exploding San Diego jazz scene. It took place at Croce's, a long-standing music temple to Jim Croce, established by his widow. At that time, the just-16-year-old Eric appeared as one of the aspiring Young Lions.


Since then, Eric Wesling has been on a fast track, all over town, in other appearances with the Young Lions or other youth groups, which sometimes are a patchwork of mix-and-match-em', astonishingly talented, musical young folk.


This has been a fast-track Year of Eric; however, last Saturday night marked an especially significant milestone in Eric Wesling's accelerated career: the stage of the San Diego Copley Symphony Hall, with a sell-out crowd of avid jazz fans (including two generations of family) cheering him on! It is a first for San Diego, this hallowed hall has served as venue for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra; the San Diego Master Chorale (of which this writer is a founding member); the San Diego Pops Orchestra (once directed by the late, great Marvin Hamlisch); and other entities of the classical music milieu. Eric, this time under the banner of the International Academy of Jazz-San Diego, was part of the opening act for this first-time intrusion of jazz music upon the pristine boards reserved for the pre-blues strains of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms. (What kept you San Diego? George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was performed in New York's Aeolian Hall 90 years ago!)


The other young musicians that were part of the evening's opening act were:

Wesley Etienne - trombone

Sean Lambert - tenor sax

Alvin Paige - tenor sax

Camerahn Alforque - trumpet

Zion Dyson - vocals

Ethan Wang - alto sax

Jarien Jamanila - alto sax

Elizabeth Hull - piano

Edward Gabrielyan - piano

Julian Esparza - bass

Johnny Steele – drums

With of course Eric Wesling on guitar


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A few of the soon-to-be- jazz greats with Gilbert at the After Party



The main feature this night was a group, including jazz greats Charles McPherson - Alto Saxophone, Gilbert Castellanos- Trumpet, Holly Hofmann – Flute, Tom Scott- Tenor Saxophone / Alto Saxophone, Mike Wofford- Piano, Henry "The Skipper" Franklin – Bass, Marshall Hawkins – Bass, Roy McCurdy – Drums, Barbara Morrison – Vocals) from the old school, who had shared the stage with the likes of Sarah Vaughn (whom this writer has reviewed personally) and Ella Fitzgerald, etc.


The event was MC'd by Jazz88's Chris Springer


It was jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos who created the Young Lions, and has been instrumental in seeding Eric Wesling's path toward greater jazz enlightenment. A regular at the Croce jazz temple, Castellanos was the guiding light in arranging the precedent-setting jazz night at Copley Symphony Hall. He himself was quite jazzed over that great accomplishment. His enthusiasm was reflected in the excited audience, who seemed to be sensitively aware that they were present at the inauguration of a new, cultural phenomenon in San Diego. Despite all the surrounding brouhaha, taciturn Eric just shrugged.


Although this was a full year for Eric, oddly, the big night at Copley Symphony Hall was not the artistic culmination of the year for him. Just after Christmas, Eric will begin a 3-week run with a staging of the musical, Rent, at San Diego's downtown Repertory Theater. He will be a member of the onstage band, quite un-jazz--like plucking his guitar to the strains of that strange Broadway musical. (Strange to the likes of this writer's 40s and 50s Broadway ears.)


Even as his last gig of the year blends into the next, among Eric Wesling's next-year's activities he will be looking forward to a visit to the birth place of jazz with The Preservationists a special passion of the Mission Bay High School's Music department head Jean-Paul Bamat (Mr B to his students). He may be sitting in with a hot jazz ensemble on Bourbon Street, smack in the middle of the French Quarter – New Orleans, Louisiana!


As 2015 makes way for 2016, so too will those skillful musicians who populate the world of jazz gradually be sharing and making way for one who certainly will be a treasured and worthy exponent of this truly original American artistic expression.


Good going, Eric Wesling!



Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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