Date of Obituary
1995 March 30
Concord Jazz Festival founder is dead at 74
Carl Jefferson, founder of the Concord Jazz Festival in 1969, president-producer of Concord Jazz Records and driving force behind construction of the Concord Pavilion in 1975, died of cancer early Wednesday at St. Helena Hospital. He was 74.
The indefatigable Mr. Jefferson had been battling emphysema for years as he maintained his usual crazy-quilt schedule of travel (some business, some pleasure); recording sessions; record and jazz festival business; promotion of jazz; and time spent with his wife, their collective of six children and a worldwide circle of friends.
Mr. Jefferson, born a San Franciscan, lost his parents in a boating accident when he was 11. He grew up with relatives in north Berkeley, went to Cal and served in the Army in World War II and Korea.
His love of jazz came from hearing "live" remote radio broadcast from hotels and ballrooms, and collecting swing-era records. He was stationed at Fort Ord in 1942 where many nights such other Army personnel as saxophonist Lester Young would play informal jazz sets for anyone around. In June 1944, Mr. Jefferson hit the Normandy beachhead; throughout his life, he remained friends with the French farmers who protected him.
Mr. Jefferson arrived in Concord in 1958 and took over a nearly defunct auto dealership. He soon persuaded the Ford Motor Co. to subsidize his refurbishing of the agency, and by the early '60s his Jefferson Motors was winning all kinds of industry awards. Concord in the 1960s was on the verge of a population explosion, and Mr. Jefferson was a major figure in civic activities. He headed businessmen's luncheon lecture-series, sponsored school music activities and converted the "Concord Pow-Wow" summer fair into a jazz festival to be held at the barren Concord Boulevard Park.
Before anyone in Concord was clued in, Mr. Jefferson had put together a jazz program of major proportions. Among the featured performers in 1969's festival were Erroll Garner, Vince Guaraldi, Lalo Schifrin, Stan Kenton, Bola Sete, Cal Tjader, Jean Luc Ponty, Carmen McRae, Don Ellis, Shelly Manne, Mel Torme and the Buddy Rich Band. Mr. Jefferson and Concord were on a roll. By 1972 Concord Jazz Records were on the market And in 1975, the Concord Pavilion opened ("the house that jazz and Carl Jefferson built"). By the late 70s, Mr. Jefferson was into jazz all the way.
Although he eventually curtailed his Concord Jazz Festival activities, he increased the pace of his record releases emphasizing his "Live At Maybeck Hall" series. The Concord Jazz catalog now numbers more than 400 releases. Mr. Jefferson recently sold the company but there are no plans to change its policies and activities.
Mr. Jefferson's enthusiasms were many gourmet cooking (he was a wonderful host); hunting and fishing (deep sea or fly); foreign travel; hard work ("I don't think I ever spent more than four days out of work," he said). - And he always felt that San Franciscans never acknowledged the role of Concord, or Carl Jefferson, in their jazz community.
I think he was right.
Torme, one of Mr. Jefferson's first festival performers and recording artiste, said, "Jeff always wanted me to do more records he knew the music he liked, wanted to record it and was a tough but honest businessman."
Rosemary Clooney played her first jazz festival at Concord in the late 70s. Phoning as she boarded a plane on Wednesday, she said, "Oh, my, he's gone. We'll miss Jeff he helped my career just when I needed it most."
Mr. Jefferson is survived by his wife of 30 years, Nancy; Richard, Michael, Anne and Donald Jefferson; Stacy Shewrey, and Talbert Newhart Arrangements for a small, private funeral are pending.
San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco, California