Part 2 begins with another segment of High Sierra’s Grand Finale. Pieter Meijers, the band’s leader since 1998, was choked up with the emotion of the weekend. He tells the audience: “If you don’t want to show your true emotion you just insult the audience. But it’s all in fun and you’ve all been great… we’ll just let the music speak for itself.”
Then Howard Miyata performs his incomparable Yama Man, like only Howard can do. The trombone, the vocal intonation and facial contortions have become part of High Sierra’s signature. In a one-on-one interview, Howard tells what it was like to step up and fill the front line position of Vic Kimsey 30 years ago.
Then Howard, who was with Earl McKee at his bedside when he passed, recalls thanking Earl for being the band’s mentor and teaching him how to tour the world and be an ambassador for the band, and this classic music they all were so privileged to be playing.
Dave Ruffner, a founding member of Fresno’s Blue Street Jazz Band, and who has arguably played more Jazzaffairs than anyone not a member of High Sierra, tells how special the music is and how High Sierra was the backbone of the trad jazz movement. Like so many other West Coast jazz musicians, Ruffner came to realize that if you wanted to be successful you emulated High Sierra as a band but most of all as musicians and people.
Be sure to check out part 1: Jazzaffair 2019: High Sierra Jazz Band, Earl McKee, and the end of an era in retrospect