Pleasanton native presenting 'A New Orleans Christmas' at Firehouse | News | PleasantonWeekly.com |

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Pleasanton native presenting 'A New Orleans Christmas' at Firehouse

Trumpeter Jeff Bordes brings new kind of tradition to hometown

A previous appearance of Jeff Bordes & Friends at the Firehouse. From left: Noam Eisen, piano; Emily Day, vocals; Endika, bass; Darius Minaee, drums; Jeff Bordes, trumpet; Danny Sandoval, tenor sax; Ken Cefalo, guitar; Mike Rinta, trombone. (Photo courtesy Jeff Bordes)

Residents seeking to join in on a holiday tradition that goes slightly off the beaten path can look no further than the Firehouse Arts Center, where Pleasanton native Jeff Bordes and some of his most talented musical friends present "A Jazzy New Orleans Christmas" this weekend.

Bordes -- a graduate of Amador Valley High School, class of 1992 -- is a passionate jazz composer and skilled trumpeter who has been hosting jazz-themed holiday shows at the Firehouse dating back to the theater's founding. This year's rendition is scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 14).

The popularity of the show has proven to be a pleasant occurrence to Bordes, especially considering he isn't really the biggest fan of holiday-themed music.

"It's funny because I've never been the biggest holiday music fan," Bordes told the Weekly. "But the Firehouse, ever since they opened, they really have been awesome. I usually play once or twice a year there, and they always let me get creative and change it up every year."

He even said the one year he didn't put on the show he received complaints from fans who had come to see the show as a treasured holiday tradition.

It's this ability to switch up the music and performance that keeps the experience fresh for both Bordes and the attendees.

"Once I started doing shows ... holiday music takes on a new life, when you mix it up with jazz and funk and that's what we're trying to do for these shows," he said, adding that the first holiday show he performed at the Firehouse centered around blues.

This year's show will feature arrangements by Bordes that will possess a big band element as a tribute to his father, a major big band enthusiast who recently passed away.

To help perform his arrangements, Bordes will be joined by The CoolTones Big Band, a local group of musicians from Pleasanton whom Bordes helps dress and coach for performances. According to their website, The CoolTones is composed of five saxes, four trombones, four trumpets and a rhythm section -- piano, bass, guitar, drums, auxiliary percussion -- accompanied by vocalists.

The holiday show is also set to feature local music legend Don Lewis, a highly regarded vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and electronic engineer whom Bordes calls his "musical godfather."

"When I was in the eighth grade, he did an assembly called 'Say Yes to Music.' And I remember seeing him, and seeing him perform -- you know, he wears these flashy red shoes -- and he's just such an entertainer," Bordes said. "It was that school assembly that really cemented (my) wanting to play music ... He really taught me the performance aspect of music"

Other musicians set to appear in "A Jazzy New Orleans Christmas" include Ken Cefalo on guitar, Todd Morgan on vocals and guitar, Mike Rinta on the trombone, Danny Sandoval on the tenor sax, Zack Sapunor on bass and Wally Schnale on the drums.

Bordes himself started playing in the fifth grade and was an active participant in the Amador marching and jazz bands.

Possessing an early passion for the trumpet, he said he was first inspired to play when he saw legendary jazz trumpeter John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie perform on an episode of "Sesame Street," an experience he would one day get to share with the famed musician.

"Years later I ended up playing with Dizzy, and I told him that story and he says 'Yeah I hear that all the time,'" Bordes laughed. "(Also) my parents were always very supportive and pointed me toward music."

As for his own holiday traditions? Bordes joked that in his house, the holiday season doesn't really start until the day after his annual holiday show.

"You know for many months leading up to the show is really focused on getting musicians together and getting ready," he said. "The Christmas tree and the lights on the house won't go up until the next day after the show. But after the show's done, in my house music and food play a huge role."

Tickets to "A Jazzy New Orleans Christmas" featuring Jeff Bordes and Friends at the Firehouse are expected to sell out soon -- if they haven't already -- but residents can learn more online at www.firehousearts.org.

Lovers of jazz and casual fans alike can also catch Bordes perform a "Tribute to the Ladies of Jazz" on Feb. 8, at the Brand Theatre Center for the Arts in Tracy -- where he now resides. Learn more about that show at www.jeffbordes.com/upcoming-shows.

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