Eric Wesling, a confident, 15-year-old guitarist – as a fifth of the Julian Esparza Quintet -- graced the stage of San Diego’s perennial jazz venue, Croce’s. It was a recent Wednesday night, which Croce’s reserves for its Young Lions program, an opportunity for worthy, musical yutes to show off their stuff. Thus it was with Eric. For a young man still facing two more years of high school, Eric’s performance on the jazz stage defies his youth and experience.

Despite Croce’s Wednesday night designation -- and as an indication of the universality of jazz – Eric was part of a group motley in age and nationality. While Eric Wesling held forth in his Paul McCartney-like, lefty stance on lead guitar, the other stars in his orbit were:

  • Leader Julian Esparza -- Bass
  • Jarien Jamanila -- Alto Sax
  • Pete Bogle -- Drums
  • Alan Zundelevich -- Piano

Gilbert Castellanos was a sit-in on the trumpet. Additionally, Castellanos is the shepherd of Croce’s well-conceived, Young Lions series.

Alan Zundelevich, the agile-fingered pianist, was the only group-member this writer was able to interview. Despite his tongue-twisting, Slavic patronymic, Alan hails from Mexico. It was revealed that he and this writer are acquainted with another brilliant, Mexican pianist, Irving Flores, also pursuing his jazz interests in San Diego. Alan was amazed to learn that – although separated by several decades --- both Flores and this writer had been colleagues with Mexico’s world-renowned composer/performer, the formidible Armando Manzanero.

Although this was Eric Wesling’s big-time debut, it was not his first time on a San Diego stage. He and other cohorts of his age have taken every opportunity to hone their skills by jamming with the big boys in other of San Diego’s jazz and blues clubs. That Wednesday night at Croce’s was another step upward on that long and competitive trail, leading to wherever one’s talent, dreams and determination might take him. Eric’s performance is indicative of the fact that he is aware of those challenges, and that he devotes his time to meeting them.

Witnessing a young man’s announced emergence within a prestigious cathedral of jazz was a mélange of Eric Wesling’s proud family, friends and educators – as well as admirers of the other members of that magnificent jazz ensemble. This writer mentioned to Eric’s accomplished grandfather that, in channeling that embryonic age of jazz -- of both our memories -- his energetic grandson seemed to traverse the path enshrined in that very Lincolnian phrase,  “…the mystic chords of memory.”

The enterprising widow of the incomparable Jim Croce, early-on, adeptly established her husband’s name as a staple of San Diego’s fledgling Gaslamp District. Currently, Croce’s is located in Bankers Hill, between downtown and Hillcrest. The quality of its musical and cuisine offerings remains gold standard. That says a lot for Croce’s, the Young Lions, the Julian Esparza Quintet and now-initiated Eric Wesling.

To review a videotape of the above-described performance, merely click on the indicated link.

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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