I've always been a fan of Rich Sherman's Omega Events Productions; he has earned a reputation as a promoter who delivers consistently great music weekends whether it is blues, jazz or rock, and Old Pasadena Jazz Fest in mid-July is no exception.
It starts with "Location, location, location! " Old Pasadena Jazz Fest enjoys an ideal setting in a block-long city park within downtown Pasadena, California. It's filled with shade trees and plenty of great places to roll out a blanket, set up a picnic and groove to some really great music all weekend long. Parking is close by, and the City of Pasadena serves up a great selection of restaurants within easy walking distance of the show. The music sounds terrific anywhere you are, but your sight-lines are never blocked by speakers. It's just north of LA, or if you are flying in, go for the Burbank airport; much smaller, easier to get around and about 20 minutes from this event.
This year's lineup featured reliable contemporary jazz favorites like Marc Antoine, Paul Taylor, and Hiroshima, and Craig Chaquico, and David Benoit (all in one weekend!). Vibes-master Roy Ayers added some heat to Saturday afternoon, and the Saturday night headliner was the most creative combination of Guitars and Saxophones yet: Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Jeff Golub and Kim Waters.
Keep an eye out for a chance to catch either of the opening acts locally if you can: Chris Standring is the very hot young guitarist who was trained at the London College of Music and now crosses easily and smoothly between acid-jazz and contemporary-jazz; he has CDs out in both genre already. Orchestra La Palabra is a very stylish Latin ensemble who got things off to a great start Sunday; watch for their first CD out soon!
This festival also included many other artists who tour much less often. Sunday evening, for example, ended with an electrifying triple-whammy: Arturo Sandoval on trumpet, then Ramsey Lewis's crisp piano solos, and finally, Najee.
Whether you prefer to sit up front in the reserved seating sections, or lie back in a cool wooded park and stare up at the sky while the music swirls about you, Old Pasadena is a great show at a great venue, not to be missed!