Valley Jazz swings their way into the holidays


EL CENTRO – Jimmy Cannon’s Valley Jazz Band hosted their 29th annual Holiday Concert at the Jimmy Cannon Theater on Sunday afternoon. Inspired by jazz enthusiasts and jazz lovers of the Imperial Valley, the event brings Holiday joy to many.

Renee Baker directs the Jimmy Cannon’s Valley Jazz band and enjoys this event as it swings around each year. She explained that this concert is a learning opportunity for jazz players.

“Anyone that’s interested in jazz gets to play in a big band format,” said Baker.

The sound of smooth jazz brought many guests in, but the concert was about more than just music. It was also an opportunity to present two scholarships. The Hank Keltz Scholarship went to the Southwest band program and was received by Band Director, Patrick Yanni. Max Padilla received the Jimmy Cannon scholarship to be used to further his musical interests and career.

For the last 10 years the event has also served as a means to give back to the community. While the event is free to the public, they do ask that guests try to bring food to donate to the Imperial Valley Food Bank. According to Baker, each year they collect about three barrels full of donated goods.

The concert came together with help from many community members. Derek Cannon, son of Jimmy Cannon, conducted and performed at the holiday concert. Megan Strahm, local artist and performer, and George Scott, Imperial High School Choir Director, performed a duet together for the concert.

Joshua Martinez, a local saxophone player, performed with the Jimmy Cannon’s Valley Jazz Band at this year’s Holiday concert. He explained that he was recommended to perform at the concert and decided to pursue the opportunity due to his love of jazz music.

Martinez said, “My experience was awesome. I love playing music for the community and I had a lot of fun.”

Each year Baker tries to frame the concert around important historical moments in jazz history. This year she focused on the year 1917 as her inspiration.

“In 1917, so many things happened in jazz history. I tried to focus on that for this concert,” said Baker.

Baker and performers enjoy being a part of this annual concert. Coming together to create and spread holiday cheer makes the hours of practice worth it.

Baker said, “Mr. Cannon always said that this was our Christmas gift to the Valley.”