Smooth jazz guitarist Norman Brown opened the act billed as Summer Storm at the 32nd annual The Harrah’s Rincon Smooth Jazz 98.1 Gaslamp Festival in San Diego, The one day festival held on May 26, featured numerous musicians and singers performing on two stages located in the city’s downtown core from mid afternoon until late evening. Brown was joined periodically on stage by keyboardist Jeff Lorber, soprano saxophonist Marion Meadows and singer Peabo Bryson. Backed by a solid quintet consisting of a drummer, percussionist, rhythm guitar and bass player, Brown’s chords sizzled and his scatting was flawless and effortless. Often it was difficult to tell where his scatting which often transcended into more of a vocalese, ended and his guitar began.
After a couple of songs, Brown introduced Lorber to the audience. Seated behind an electric keyboard Lorber to the delight of the thousands who crowded the streets, pushing towards the front of the stage, moved into the title track from his current CD He Had A Hat.
Marion Meadows soon joined the other musicians on stage and as always provided an over the top performance.
Next it was Bryson’s turn to take center stage with his number one hit song form 1989 "Show And Tell," from his Capitol Records album All My Love. From the opening notes the audience immediately joined in singing, all the while being encouraged by the talented R&B vocalist. Bryson followed up "Show And Tell" with a late seventies tune "Feel The Fire". Later in the concert, Bryson pumped up an already stoked audience, many of whom were dancing, as he performed the George Benson / Leon Russell tune "Lost In A Masquerade".
Bryson briefly departed the stage so Brown could once again jump into the spotlight with "Out Of Nowhere," a tune he co-wrote with Brian Culbertson.
The ninety minute concert closed with Brown, Bryson, Meadows and Lorber on the stage at the same time jamming and paying homage to the crowd singing a thank you to them for coming back this year.
Other acts at this year’s festival included the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ryan Shaw, Euge Groove and Jazz Attack comprised of Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, Peter White and Richard Elliott.
This year’s hostess for the event, jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair participated in a question and answer period at the Pacific Theater in which she responded to queries about her own career. She addressed the need for young artists to remain diligent and steadfast early in their careers if progress appeared to be slow. She suggested that her songs "Bloom" and "The Joint" are two of her favorite songs to perform live because the audiences seem to "really rock to these songs." She also dropped broad hints about a new CD that is in the works with Peter White.
The people who attended the concerts appeared to be courteous and even though good vantage points were hard to come by people seemed to be in good humor as they danced and swayed to the vibes.