so, i went to our now annual mecca to the newport beach jazz party, and it was really great again.  i went with my best friends and fellow musicians (singer, drummer) and we had a great time.  i have to say again, we are the youngest people in the audience by a longshot.  we're all under 30 and the next youngest people there are probably 50.  but that's the crowd for this kind of music.  it's straight-ahead jazz mostly.
it's a 4-day event, but i only went to sunday because that's when most of the headlining acts play.  so, here's my summary for anyone who cares:
johnny o'neal played in his trio.  it was really good, very tasty.  i hadn't heard of the drummer chuck redd, but he was very good.  warren vache also played with the trio, and it's the first time i've seen him, and he is excellent.  i've heard a lot about him and he lives up to his reputation as being one of the greats out there.
after johnny, niki haris sang with her group plus a couple of horns (trombone, trumpet).  this was a special moment for me because i've been wanting to see her for years, and if anyone knows me, i am completely obsessed with her dad gene harris who i believe is the greatest jazz pianist that ever lived.  just like her dad, she has that ability to bring a jazz crowd on their feet with the sheer soul of the music.  she was unbelievable.  she's a natural on stage and her voice is powerful and magnificent.  she has a great stage presence and she's beautiful.  and her band is great also, being luther hughes and paul kreibich (part of the gene harris quartet).  you will not find a better jazz-soul singer anywhere.

the afternoon started out with sextet including my teacher, tamir hendelmen on piano, lewis nash on drums, john clayton on bass, george bohanon on trombone who is really good and played with niki also earlier, and a trumpet player and alto sax.  tamir was the highlight here, he was really excellent.  my band and i agree that you can make a legitimate argument that tamir is the best piano player alive right now for this kind of jazz that we like.
the next set was also a highlight for me, the international power trio.  it's an organ trio featuring atsuko hashimoto on organ, jeff hamilton on drums, and our band's good friend houston person on tenor sax.  they put on an amazing show.  jeff is obviously the best jazz drummer around right now, and houston is simply the man...but atsuko is always great to see.  this little lady plays the greasiest stuff around, and has the soul of the jimmy's.  awesome show.  i saw them earlier a few months ago also.  their cd is finally out this week.  it's really, really good, get a copy.  if you don't like this music, you don't have a soul.
after the organ trio, there was some weird latin jazz thing that i'm not into.  i don't think it's really suited for a straight-ahead crowd, but they include one every year.  it had bill cunliffe on piano who is consistently good usually.

the first evening set was houston person, lewis nash, warren vache, john clayton and his son gerald on piano.  great lineup, all of them are arguably the top players of their instruments.  the set was excellent.  gerald played the most straight-ahead i have ever heard him play, and he's really good at it.  if only he played that more, but you have to be impressed by his talent and age.
next was probably the most disappointing set of the day.  jackie ryan with the jeff hamilton trio.  don't get me wrong, the jeff hamilton trio is the best, but jackie ryan is not so good.  she's a hammy singer not really suited for jazz, and her stage presence is very much contrived.  the best parts of her set was when she stopped playing and it became the jeff hamilton trio.  tamir again was the highlight.  jeff is always awesome, you almost take it for granted by now.  and christoph luty is very good as well.
next was th big headliner, the hamilton-clayton jazz orchestra.  this was amazing!!  it was my first time seeing them, and they are just mind-blowingly good.  tamir, again, played piano masterfully, combing brilliant count basie style with some more contemporary characteristics appropriately.  there's is hardly a pianist out there that could play all the different styles that tamir played this day and pull them off as well as he did.  jeff hamilton had some brilliant solos.  the best part was an eerily well-played mood indigo with jeff clayton doing a spectacular johnny hodges solo.  my friend told me that this is probably as close as we will ever get to hearing the ellington band live.  they got a standing ovation, the only other standing ovations were for niki haris and atsuko.

after the big show, there was a "dance" show in another ballroom.  this was a smaller room, very intimate, with a small dance floor.  houston person, jeff hamilton, and bill cunliffe.  it was awesome seeing these jazz giants play just dance ballads, nothing fancy, just old-school traditional jazz.  you can tell houston was waiting for this, this is what he really likes to play, and he played effortlessly.  jeff accompanied him and really brought a special energy to the set.  bill played great, swinging music.  it was like an old high-school prom, except nobody is fortunate enough to have these guys play at an actual prom.

so the night ended for me there.  this is probably the best jazz venue on the west coast and i'm going to attend it every year until i die.  last year, i got to hang out with johnny o'neal for a couple of hours, he's a very nice man.  we always see jeff hamilton around, so we were able to talk to him a little again, but he's an interesting guy in that he might come off as not being too friendly, but whatever.  we think my friend (the drummer) maybe has weirded him out over the years because he just thinks jeff is ultimate in jazz drums and maybe it comes off as strange to jeff.  but it's out of complete respect to his skills, he really has been the best drummer in the world for 20 years now.  i was able to talk to tamir a couple of times, but will talk to him more during my lessons.  houston is always very friendly, and last year he played on our album in the studio, and i think my drummer is going to try to talk with him more later this week about helping us out with the album again.  i spoke a couple of minutes with niki haris, but nothing really substantial because i was basically gushing...her dad's music means so much to me, it's just hard for me to be that close to her and be normal.  atsuko signed my cd, but i wasn't able to really say anything to her besides thanking her for the wonderful show.

anyway guys, please join us next year, it's the best show period!
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sounds excellent, thanks for the blog!
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can you tell me more about the "dance set"? so there was no bass player, just piano, drums and sax? and the audience was actually all up and dancing to all the tunes? what tunes did they play?
where in newport beach is it held?
oy...i just typed this big long response and i closed my browser like an idiot.

it's held at the newport beach marriott, right across fashion island shopping center.  it's a very nice place and they use the big ballroom for the morning and evening headlining sets, and they use the outdoor pool area for the afternoon showcases.  then, before and after, there are less formal sets either in smaller ballrooms or in the bar, lounge-piano-singer style.

the dance set was in the smaller ballroom at about midnight.  most people had left by that time, but maybe 50 people were there.  the room was set up to imitate a romantic restaurant.  dim lights, the quartet (sorry! forgot about lynn seaton playing bass, who is really good!  poor bass players, always forgotton, i should be ashamed.  lynn used to be in the jeff hamilton trio.)  anyway, the quartet was position in the center of the room and on each side of them was a 20'x20' wood dance floor brought in for this event.  i would say 4-5 couples were dancing on average per tune, and there were maybe 50 people there.  but again, not everyone was couples (i was single) and most of them are pretty old.  still, some of the older couples were really moving!
the songs they played were almost exclusively great american songbook tunes.  if i'm not mistaken, this whole thing was requested by houston who often mentions how jazz should always be danceable.  he is always saying how most of today's jazz is "just something you sit down and listen to".  houston was very much at home during the set and it was like watching someone do something that he was born to do, just effortless.  ok, they played 2-3 ellington songs, one of them was don't get around much anymore, i think they also played in a sentimental mood.  they played a couple of other slow ballads also.  some faster, mid-tempo shuffle swing numbers.  they  played a pure blues number which was really good.  they were all played with the common arrangement of head/sax solo/piano solo/sax closing, nothing fancy at all, but perfection nonetheless.  i wish i remembered more tunes, but i can't right now.  like i said, all american songbook tunes played very traditionally by musicians who are aruguably the best at their respective instruments.  it was a real treat.
superboy- when you experience something like the newport jazz fest, how does it make you feel?  those situations almost always get my hyped up to sit down at my piano and start working things out.
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that's a good question scot.  i don't want to sound overly dramatic, but last year and this year after the party, both my drummer and i went through sort of a life-shaking experience.  there were a couple of times on sunday where i probably would have cried if i wasn't in public, especially when i heard niki sing and when jeff clayton was playing mood indigo.
it was last year where after we saw these guys all play, we were inspired to put something together.  we recorded in the studio the following week and houston played with us on a couple of tracks.  that was one of the greatest experiences i've ever had.
then we tried doing an organ trio.  we recorded one track.  then we said forget that.  soon after, we heard the ray brown trio "live at the loa" with gene harris, and that just shook us up big time.  so, since then, our goal has been to be that kind of trio however long it takes.
since then, my drummer started taking lessons from paul kreibich, gene's old drummer, and i recently began taking lessons with tamir, who i'm realizing is one of the best jazz pianists alive right now.

but to answer your question, yes, it's quite an emotional experience.  it makes you not want to do anything but make music your life.  then you struggle with reality and responsibility and how to integrate music in your life enough so that you're satisfied, but you're not being irresponsible with other things.  we also feel this kind of historical sadness about how so many young people are not into this amazing form of art, and it's not like picasso where it's totally inaccessible and pseudo-intellectual.  everyone loves this music, they just don't know about it.  it makes us feel like ambassadors, which is another source of frustration because sometimes we feel we're not good enough to express the music ourselves in an effective manner.  but we're trying hard.

i mean, you sit and talk to a legend like houston, and he really goes off about how jazz used to be the ultimate dance music and how most of it now is just uninteresting nonsense.  and we feel like we're carrying the torch for guys like him because we feel the same way.  and you should see how some of these older legends light up when they find out that our 26 year old singer knows all of those american songbook songs.

i'm telling you, before i die, i will play some of the songs for the live at the loa album with my drummer, and it will sound good, and the joy will probably be overwhelming for us.

see, i didn't want to get all emotional, but great music played by great musicians just does this to us, right?  again, seeing somebody like jeff hamilton sit down and play an hour's worth of dance music, is a rare and valuable experience.
i completely relate to what you're saying.
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here are a couple of vidoes with jeff hamilton on drums, john clayton on bass, with monty alexander on piano. i find these inspiring:

yeah, those videos are amazing.  they're from the montreux live cd that, if i'm not mistaken, means to scot what the ray brown trio "live at loa" means to my drummer and me.

monty's another guy i really want to see live, and i want him to play that bluesy swinging stuff (not some of that neo jamaican funk/hiphop stuff i've heard on a couple of his albums).  he has a great, great interview somewhere on where he talks about music and styles.  he has this awesome album also called triple scoop where he plays with herb ellis and ray brown.

my favorite currently alive pianists right now are monty, larry fuller, tamir hendelmen, ray kennedy...i'm probably forgetting someone.  those are the young bucks right now i guess.
here i am thinking i have been to the newport jazz festival in rhode island which i live only about 80 miles from where i am in massachusetts... so i am thinking how could i have not heard of this newport beach party... just about impossable...  i am not that out of the loop.  who knew there could be a newport beach on the west coast.  ...
do you have boston clam chowdaw there too?
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