Beating the Bell Curve since the ’70s, local Lori Bell is a winner.
“I had a new CD coming out of 20th-century classical music, but I added an original piece dedicated to my flute mentor,” musician Lori Bell tells the Reader in an interview conducted in her second-floor North Park music studio overlooking University Avenue. “I decided to submit the piece to the Global Music Awards, and I won. Yay!”
Each year, the GMA selects gold prizes for original music chosen from entrants around the world. This year’s winners included applicants from Guatemala, England, Malaysia, and Italy, but Bell was most jazzed about being associated with fellow medalist Gustavo Dudamel, who conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic. “It was great to be seen with Dudamel. I got more excited about it, do you know what I mean? He’s, like, the most famous conductor in the world right now.”
Bell, who has worked in the San Diego and Los Angeles music scenes since the late ’70s, is a veteran who knows what it takes to survive. “Being a musician here, I have to wear five different hats to earn a living: there’s jazz flute, classical flute, I play solo piano gigs in town, I teach privately here in my studio and at San Diego State, and then I write and arrange and produce albums. But I think all musicians need to be thinking about doing more than one thing or they’re never going to make it.
“So, here, you basically have to create every opportunity,” says Bell. “But I’ve stayed working the whole time — although in the ’80s and ’90s I worked in L.A. every week with [pianist] Dave Mackay, so I was pretty busy up there for many years.
“It’s a very supportive community here,” Bell says. “Jazz musicians...we’re like a family. That’s the vibe I get here...but there’s not enough venues! I mean, we’re all going to play 98 Bottles, we’re all going to play Dizzy’s — there’s, like, three or four rooms in San Diego. Up there [in L.A.], you’ve got bigger, more national rooms, with great pianos and sound systems. Here, we’ve got the Athenaeum and TSRI [Scripps Research Institute] — up there they have the Hollywood Bowl, Catalina’s, and Vitello’s.... But even L.A. now isn’t nearly as good as it used to be. It was smokin’ 20 years ago.”
Potentially greater opportunities notwithstanding, Bell isn’t going anywhere. “I can make it here. I’m...content here. It’s a really great place to live.”