Newport Beach Jazz Festival
May 2000The Newport Beach festival is held on a golf course at the Hyatt Newport hotel, and this year it seemed to be having a few growing pains. We were initially put-off by a long line of people, spiraling all the way up the hill to the entrance gate – people who had been waiting in that line for hours until the gates finally opened. Many people missed the opening act entirely due to the slow admittance through the entrance gate. This was aggravated by how long it took to check each person’s coolers, bags, etc. There was considerable confusion, that we feel should have been avoidable, about which sort of things would be allowed on the grounds and which would not. (Many festival goers brought picnics only to discover that they could not take them inside, and the food vendors seemed ill-prepared to handle the crowds of hungry people that resulted.)
But once we got in and settled our blankets (one advantage of holding a festival in a golf course is that attendees can choose whether to sit on grass or sand!) the music was superb! Warren Hill nailed the opening set with his usual passion, and the organizers were able to keep the acts moving through pretty much on schedule, with the help of a second, smaller stage at the top of the hill where an as-yet undiscovered hot local Tom Savino dished out one imaginative set of music after another.
Brian Culbertson and Steve Cole also provided a delightful set; Brian's music and demeanor is definitely maturing and improving as it goes! A rare treat late afternoon was a super-cool live performance by Lee Ritenour. Rit, like almost all the other performers, also took time to sign CDs and greet fans after his set.
The last act of the day was supposed to be Dave Koz, which leads to an interesting story of its own. It seems that Dave was playing the Miss Universe pageant (lucky man...) on the island of Cyprus the day before, and was flying into Los Angeles on the day of the festival. Airlines being what they are, Dave’s plane was late – leaving him and his band no time to make it through traffic to the concert. Everette Harp and Jonathan Butler had already been summoned to fill in and had started their set at the appointed time. But the organizers found a fan who was also a private pilot, who flew Dave from LAX to the local airport where he was shuttled to the concert ... late for his set, obviously dog-tired, but a professional and a trouper none the less. Koz walked right up there on stage, without his band (the pilot’s plane wasn’t big enough to carry all those passengers and gear), and played several songs entirely improvised. The crowd knew what was happening, appreciated his determination, and responded enthusiastically to his music. A wonderful spontaneous closing act with the combination of Dave, Everette and Jonathan all on-stage jamming together made for a great conclusion!