Jazz : Talents Stretch Genre at Long Beach Fest

Tone Loc's got nothing to worry about. At least not from trombonist Wayne Henderson.

In his show-closing set Saturday at the Long Beach Jazz Festival--held next to the Rainbow Lagoon near the Long Beach Convention Center--Henderson, the former Crusader and leader here of a slightly over-hyped group of musicians dubbed "Master Collection," rapped his way through a new tune entitled "Just Because It's Jazz Don't Mean You Can't Dance." Though the husky-voiced Henderson's delivery was less than prime, a good part of the crowd, generously estimated by festival personnel at 9,000, took the lyric to heart, moving into the aisles and in front of the stage to shimmy and shake.

The tune made an appropriate theme song for the 3-day event that opened Friday night with keyboardist Bobby Lyle, message-conscious vocalist Gil Scott-Heron and pop singer Phyllis Hyman, and continued Sunday in a more traditional vein with a scheduled program that included cornetist Nat Adderley, pianist McCoy Tyner and Latin-jazz-band leader Poncho Sanchez. But, on Saturday, just because you heard it at the jazz festival didn't necessarily make it jazz.

Perspective on the label-stretching fest came early-on from singer Dakota Staton, who delivered a vivacious set of standards and blues backed by the competent trio of pianist Bross Townsend, bassist Isla Eckinger and drummer Jack Ranelli. The singer--who made the pop charts a number of times in the late '50s--showed strength and conviction while utilizing a minimum of stylistic gimmicks in her renditions of such familiar numbers as "Misty," "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Love for Sale," on which she injected vocal octave jumps in a way that recalled the late Billy Holiday.

Sandwiched between Staton and Henderson was a mixed-bag of pop, funk and fusion. Vibist Roy Ayers, who now plays a compact, electronic version of the instrument, gave an uneven, backbeat-laden performance (with bass supplied by a keyboard) that contained too much of Ayers' vocal antics and too little of his mallet work. The Rippingtons, featuring guitarist Russ Freeman, enlivened their mostly bland compositions with Steve Reid's percussion embellishments and Mark Portman's synthesizer wash.

A satisfying set from pianist Ramsey Lewis was marred by a loss of sound during a dramatic guitar solo from quintet member Henry Johnson and by the explosions of the nightly fireworks launched from the nearby Queen Mary. Lewis' funky block-chord style remains intact, and the keyboardist worked some ambitious Art Tatum-style flourishes as well into Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." And, yes, the keyboardist did "Wade in the Water."

Despite Henderson's attempt at rap, the Master Collection's short R&B-infused; closing set was solid in a way that recalled its leader's days in the old Jazz Crusaders. Central to this success was Alphonse Mouzon's crisp, inventive drumming, Kirk Whalum's blowzy tenor sax work and Henderson's own burnished trombone tones.

Also appearing Saturday were saxophonist Hank Crawford and the Yellowjackets (reviewed last Monday.

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