Newport Beach Jazz Party 2012: Newport Beach, CA, February 16-19, 2012
The second orchestra, led by Cuban-born trumpeter-pianist Arturo Sandoval, had most of the same personnel, this time burning an Afro-Cuban mode. The leader launched the set with an a cappella horn rendition of "God Bless America," a salute to his achieving political asylum in 1990, and U.S. citizenship nine years later. "Jazz is freedom," he declared.
Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Then the trumpet titan erupted into an avalanche of fiery bebop licks spiked by fluid scatting. Two vocals by Rebecca Martin showcased her stunning style on "Quizas Quizas Quizas" and "A Night in Tunisia" with the big band solidly supportive. Sandoval then called Bergeron out of the brass section to elevate the set's excitement with dueling trumpets on Gordon Goodwin’s Little Phat Band "Maynard and Waynard," the pair delivering notes so high the coyotes must have been howling in the hinterlands. The set ended with a mambo, Sandoval adding some dance steps from his heritage.
Closing night featured the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, with bassist John Clayton out front, his brother Jeff Clayton on alto sax, and co-leader Jeff Hamilton at the drums. The band delivered excellent dynamics via strong section work and intense solos, but occasionally sounded a bit rough around the edges, especially during the segment with vocalist Ernie Andrews, who crooned and delivered some righteous blues in his brief spot.
The few other vocalists at this mostly instrumental-jazz weekend were always audience-pleasers. Barbara Morrison, recently recovered from a leg amputation, didn't need the sympathy vote to gain accolades for rich renditions of jewels such as "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," "I Loves You, Porgy" and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." Her command of range and depth of emotion was amazing and moving. Octogenarian vocalist Frank D'Rone cancelled due to a health issue, replaced by Palm Springs entertainer Mike Costley, who ably sang and scatted from the standards book, including the Joe Williams late-career hit, "Here's to Life." Classy Mary Stallings exuded elements of Lena Horne in her lush crooning of "How Deep Is the Ocean," A Foggy Day" and "Lullaby of the Leaves."
Three afternoons of poolside sets included Luther Hughes Julian "Cannonball" Adderley/John Coltrane homage, Harry Allen's Brazilian excursion, the Heavy Juice duo nod to the memorable coalitions of Lester Young-Coleman Hawkins and Zoot Sims-Al Cohn by Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen, and a vocal ensemble, Pacific Standard Time, from California State University at Long Beach.
The two champagne brunches weren't light in either food or musical fare. L.A. trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos led a strong quartet with Scott Hamilton on tenor, Llew Matthews at the piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass and Butch Miles on drums to deliver a high energy set as early as 9:30 a.m. A set co-led by vocalist Andrews and tenor balladeer Houston Person delivered a satisfying nostalgic trip to the golden age of jazz. At 84, Andrews still performed with the zest and timing of his earlier years, in both big band and combo settings.
Throughout the weekend, L.A.'s first-call rhythm players were mixed and matched, among them bassist Berghofer (creator of that opening bass slide on the 1966 Nancy Sinatra hit, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"), guitarists Larry Koonse and Doug MacDonald, and drummers Joe La Barbera and Paul Kreibich.
Three well-attended "round midnight" bonus nightcap sessions included James Morrison alternately playing trumpet and trombone, one in each hand. At Person's annual "Saturday Night Dance Party," the tenor man delivered standard after standard without sounding corny, aided by the always swinging Matthews. Hammond B-3 whiz Tony Monaco employed his agile fingers, bouncing foot and facial contortions to energize his colleagues on "Tangerine" and "Tenderly," then a gritty blues fueled by Scott Hamilton's tenor, Dechter's guitar and Jeff Hamilton's drums.
In addition to the all-events menu of 30 hour-long sets in the hotel, there were 14 optional dinner-hour small-combo and solo sets in two restaurants, the hotel's Sam and Harry's and The Ritz across the boulevard. Those sets included tributes to Paul Desmond (Bruce Babad) and Nat "King" Cole and Chet Baker (John Proulx and Ron Stout). Comic relief was adroitly delivered in two sets of the zany Pete Barbutti, plus Peplowski's unending acerbic wit when he was anywhere near a microphone.