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!