Jazz Reviews : A Smorgasbord of Sounds, Styles at Long Beach

If you were hungry for music, then the Long Beach Music Festival, a smorgasbord of sounds held Sunday at the port city's Hyatt Regency Hotel, was the right place to be. With a variety of jazz, swing, Dixie and classical groups playing in four different venues from noon until 11 p.m., the nonprofit event was an aural feast that would have sated even the most insatiable ears.

And while a lot of the bands, like the Fullertowne Strutters, Midnight Flyers and Bill Sherman's Jazz West, weren't that well-known, there were others with the "name" appeal to attract approximately 1,500 enthusiasts to the bash.

The main action began in the third floor Regency Ballroom, where, in the early afternoon, Jack Sheldon cracked a few jokes, sang "Satin Doll" and played some of his trademark brilliant-as-fireworks trumpet notes, all to a packed room. He was followed by altoist Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage, making an infrequent appearance. The normally all-female big band, outfitted with five male subs for this occasion, played its seven-tune set with verve.

Nan Schwartz's arrangement of "All Blues" built quickly to a sumptuous wall of brassy sound and found pianist Janet Jones juggling loping chords as if they were hot potatoes. Fluegelhornist Ann King had solid moments here and on Roger Neumann's "The Sandblaster," where trumpeters Louise Baranger and Carl Saunders also knocked out ringing lines at a blistering tempo. Patterson and fellow reedmen Greg Degler and Lee Callet also had good solos during the set.

Heading downstairs, passing one of the classical trios that performed in the hotel's lobby, one heard Jerry Burns' Sons of the Beach play such tunes as "Kansas City" and Louis Armstrong's "Heebie Jeebies" with a raucous Dixie flair. And though bassist Luther Hughes' Cahoots, which followed, offered a contemporary approach to jazz, many of the Dixie fans stuck around to hear the newer music.

A propulsive rhythmic base powered such Cahoots' renditions as Gene Harris' "Baking Bread," where guitarist Mike Higgins played lines that careened like a bumper car out of control, and "Hit Me," which found frontmen Jackie Keslo, tenor, and Andy Martin, trombone, both making a lot of music with simple, cohesive ideas.

Later, in the Regency Ballroom, vibist Scott Wells led the big band that is usually fronted by his also-vibes-playing father, Tracy. And while the elder Wells offers danceable Swing Era sounds, as he did in his own subsequent set, the younger vibist's accent was on modern jazz. On Tadd Dameron's lovely "On a Misty Night" and a surging "The Lamp Is Low," Wells soloed with elan, uncovering the best notes of the underlying harmonies like a master detective gathering clues.

The smaller nightclub-like Beacon Lounge served as a showcase for combos and singers, Stephanie Haynes and Ondine among them. Here pianist Michael Jordan's trio, with bassist Hughes and drummer Paul Kreibach, stomped through a rousing "Since I Fell for You," with the leader's rolling, bluesy lines shored by Kreibach's slap-happy back-beat. Then came "Body and Soul," played as delicately as one handles china.

Singer Dewey Erney, a vocalist whose numbers bear a strong jazz stamp, followed Jordan. His tasteful set included "My Favorite Things," where his second melody chorus, though not scat sung, had a horn-like quality; and the wistful ballad, "Some Other Time," which was warmly read.

The proceeds of the event, to be administered by the sponsoring Long Beach Musicians' Union Local No. 353, will provide musical scholarships, mostly at Cal State Long Beach, and funds for public radio station KLON-FM in Long Beach.

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