A Jazzy School Board President

A couple of nights each month, David Sagal trades his gavel for his saxophone and replaces an agenda loaded with budgets and curriculum for a set list that’s heavy on Chet Baker and Sonny Rollins standards.
Even on school nights, the David Sagal Jazz Trio — led by La Cañada Unified School District’s Governing Board president — is a draw when they gig at the Flintridge Proper.
They play to friends and neighbors who included, on a recent evening, comedian Bonnie Hunt, state Assembly candidate Ardy Kassakhian and former La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Steve Del Guercio.
“A lot of the town’s royalty turns out,” said Brady Caverly, owner of the Proper, where weekly Thursday night jazz has become such a popular attraction the restaurant is unveiling a special late-night pub menu to cater to the music fans who stay late listening.
Sagal’s group, which also features Tony Dumas on bass and Andy Langham on keyboard, plays the Proper one Thursday per month. The trio also plays at the Music in the Park summer series, as well as a monthly show in Hollywood, and the occasional party or fundraiser.
Sagal rushes to these gigs, as he does to school board meetings, from his day job, where he is Warner Bros.’ senior vice president and general counsel of business and legal affairs.
“I don’t know how he does it,” said fellow Governing Board member Brent Kuszyk, an accomplished percussionist who once played a Palm Crest Elementary School fundraiser with Sagal. “Executive by day, and then he picks up the sax by night. It’s remarkable. He wears a lot of different hats — he’s a really good improviser.”
Sagal played saxophone all through high school, in rock bands and jazz bands, and he was serious about it, attending Oberlin College, a world-renowned music conservatory.
Music has remained a major part of his life; recently, he’s championed the LCUSD band and orchestra programs, which have expanded their scope and welcomed new, qualified teachers to encourage the district’s students to experience all that music has to offer, creatively, educationally, socially.
“He’s been a real advocate for music,” Kuszyk said.
Sagal’s enthusiasm was plain during his Proper set: Only time the dude stopped smiling was when he was making his saxophone sing.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m the luckiest guy,” Sagal said during a break. “I love this.”
The trio began playing together close to a decade ago, when Sagal gathered them up for a set at Music in the Park. They’ve been at it since.
Dumas is an accomplished bassist who’s played with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Nat Adderley, Chick Corea and others. Langham has toured with acts ranging from Poncho Sanchez to Natalie Cole.
“We have great chemistry,” Sagal said. “And every time we play it gets better and better; it really gels.”
Said Dumas: “He’s been getting better and better as the time goes on. He just loves the music, and that’s the main thing.”
Langham said he appreciates their evenings at the Proper, where the musicians were tucked in a corner of the bar, with the National Football League season silently kicking off on TV over their shoulders.
“To me, it’s real comfortable, it’s a neighborhood kind of vibe,” the keyboardist said. “Not that we feel pressure performing at art centers and stuff, but this is just totally laid back. We have a drink and have fun.”
The only promotion the trio usually gets is courtesy of Sagal’s wife, actress McNally Sagal, who posts an update for her Facebook friends. But if you miss that: The David Sagal Trio’s next gig at the Proper is Oct. 13.
Plenty of folks in town will tell you, it’s worth checking out. “It’s definitely a cool, local thing,” Del Guercio said.

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