Contemporary Jazz Festival Returns to Valley College

<i> Wyma is a regular contributor to Valley Calendar. </i>

An excellent chance to sample the broadness of contemporary jazz--and do so at the right price--presents itself Sunday when a Playboy Jazz Festival satellite concert returns to Valley College in Van Nuys.

The free outdoor event drew 5,000 people last year, and this year’s strong lineup of performers promises to prove equally as popular.

On the triple bill are Richard Elliot, who plays saxophone and Lyricon; the group of seasoned session men known as Koinonia; and Michael Paulo, a saxophonist who has toured for seven years with Al Jarreau.

The concert starts at 2 p.m. in Monarch Quad and will last about three hours.


Although Playboy is giving the acts equal billing, Elliot is arguably the main attraction. He has released four records and toured for the past year playing songs from the most recent album, “Take to the Skies,” on the Intima label. Elliot will be accompanied by his regular four-piece group Sunday and plans to perform extensively on the Lyricon, an electronic instrument that resembles a clarinet and creates synthesizer sounds that can be shaped like those from a horn.

“I don’t think of myself as just a jazz player,” Elliot said. “There are definitely elements of jazz in what we do, but there are also elements of R & B and elements of Latin. I’d call it contemporary instrumental music as opposed to jazz.”

Elliot, 30, recently moved to Florida after 27 years in Los Angeles, the last six in the San Fernando Valley.

“The Playboy concert will be like a homecoming because I grew up playing in Le Cafe, the Baked Potato, Donte’s and places like that,” he said. “I was in Tower of Power for five years and we played the Palomino many times.”

Paulo, Jarreau’s sideman, also is a veteran of the local club scene. The Van Nuys resident has one record out (“One Passion” on MCA) and another due in September on GRP.

“We’ll have seven people in the group, including myself,” the tenor and alto saxophonist said. “We’ll do pop, jazz, funk and some Latin jazz.”

Sunday’s appearance by Koinonia (the word is Greek for community) is part of a rejuvenation for the group, which is made up of six career session men. The 10-year-old act boasts three records for Sparrow/MCA, but before recent personnel changes had been relatively quiet for the past two years.

The band formerly played mostly Latin fusion, but the coming of singer and keyboardist Lou Pardini broadened Koinonia’s scope, introduced vocals to the repertoire and triggered a renewed interest in performing. The group has played at At My Place in Santa Monica in recent weeks.

Joining Pardini are Abraham Laboriel on bass, Justo Almario on sax, Bill Maxwell on drums, Harlan Rogers on keyboards and Mike Miller on guitar.

Sunday’s concert is one of 11 free community events leading up to the Playboy Jazz Festival June 16-17 at the Hollywood Bowl. Refreshments will be sold at the college. Audience members are asked not to bring glass containers or alcoholic beverages.

Playboy Jazz Concert will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday on the Monarch Quad at Los Angeles Valley College, 5800 Fulton Ave., Van Nuys. Admission is free. For information call (213) 450-8859.