The 15th Annual Playboy Jazz in Brookside Park got under way with a talented group of students. The South Pasadena High School Jazz Band played and sounds like seasoned professional. They romped through their set playing arrangements from the Big Band era. The future of jazz rest in good hands.
Thomas Tedesco a leading guitar improviser, played material from his latest CD "Don’t Ever Be Afraid To Be Ascared". Several popular local musicians accompanied him for this gig. Donald Dean on drums, Trevor Ware on bass and Onagee Murray on vibes.
The weather and the stage heated up with the arrival and performance of Greg Weins and Blue Vision. They exploded unto the stage to play an entertaining set of nothing but the blues. The crowd and I were thoroughly entertained as they played the following hues of the blues: some boogie woogie, boogaloo, some swing, rock and blues shuffle.
Tres-Dos Latin Jazz Band did their part to heat up the atmosphere with some Latin jazz and salsa rhythms. People danced on the grass near the stage.
The highlight of the afternoon was the set by the great flutist Hubert Laws. He played a set of original Latin tinge tunes from previous CDs. I was part of the mass exodus of people leaving Brookside Park after Hubert Laws set in order to catch the Lakers game.
The first day of the Old Pasadena SummerFest "Playboy Jazz in Brookside Park" closed with Karina Nuvo.
Sunday-The 18th Annual UCLA Jazz & Reggae was the next best thing-taking place over the beautiful Memorial Day Weekend. This popular student run festival offered the best in jazz (Sunday) and reggae (Monday).
I joined a couple hundred jazz fans for the first day of this festival. The festival opened with a nice set by Jamal Ali. Judging by the reaction of the crowd, this young man is a popular vocalist on the campus of UCLA. His set consisted on original material with the exception of "There Is Superstition" by Stevie Wonder and "Just Friends" by Musiq.
South African guitarist Selaelo Selota played material from his critically acclaimed CD’s "Painted Faces" and " Enchanted Gardens". I could hear some early George Benson in his guitar playing and some Jonathan Butler in his singing voice. I thought that Michele Henderson was a newcomer on the jazz scene, until I found out that she has four CD’s out on the market. I was amazed at her powerful vocal range despite her petite size. She favored material from her latest CD "Soundcheck".
Another pleasant surprise and a crowd favorite were Angaza. This is an all-female group. Each member of the band has an impresses and extensive background in R&B, and smooth jazz field. Angaza mean To Give Light in Swahili. They played material from their debut CD "Light", and featured tunes by their sexy saxtress Pamela Williams on saxophone and flute. The following tunes were performed during their set: "Karibu", "Spring", "Mvua", "Bird Song", "Just As We Are", "Secret Garden", and closed with "We All Need Love". The audience sang a couple of chorus of this last tune. Seeing and hearing this band performed was worth the price of admission. This marvelous band consisted of Noriko-piano/keyboards/vocals, Anindo-percussion/vocals, Ashley Ta’Mar Davis-vocals, Robin Roundtree-bass, Noreen Bellot-guitar, Cora Coleman-drums.
Madlib demonstrated his superb skills on the turntable. The jazz festival closed with a rousing and crowd pleasing set by Everette Harp and Poncho Sanchez.
Monday- The festivities continued with the popular reggae festival. A crowd of 30,000 people danced and cheered to the infectious reggae, dancehall, soca, and calypso tunes performed throughout the day. Entertaining the crowd were Milestone, Michele Henderson, Nasio Fontaine, Machel Montano, Warrior King, Caribbean Xchange, Mr. Vegas, and closing out the festival were Beenie Man.