Festival Filled With the Benefit of Experience : Jazz: Traditional and Dixieland bands will fill two halls with music, much of it from long-timers.
On the surface, the sixth annual SoCal Jazzfest today and Sunday at the Grand Hotel is a gathering of some of Southern California’s better known traditional and Dixieland bands. Look a little deeper at the personnel in these outfits, and you’ll find a lot of jazz history as well.
Take Chris Kelly’s Black and White Jazz Band, a Preservation Hall-style group that plays Sunday. Its members include veteran trombonist John (Streamline) Ewing, 78, who played with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford and Earl Hines before moving to Los Angeles in the early ‘50s. In our climes, he has played with Gerald Wilson, Horace Tapscott and Teddy Buckner, and “he’s still cooking,” says Bill Chase, 67, the chairman of the festival, which is put on by the New Orleans Jazz Club of Southern California.
Then there’s the Monrovia Old Style Jazz Band, which plays today. This band, which offers a variety of Dixieland music, including novelty numbers, is led by soprano saxophonist George Probert, 68, who has worked with Kid Ory, Bob Scobey and the Firehouse Five Plus Two.
Others at the festival who have played with the greats include:
* Trombonist Chuck Anderson, who used to work with Tommy Dorsey and who plays Sunday with O.C.'s 20th Century Jazz Band.
* Tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Roger Neumann, who has performed with Anita O’Day and Bill Holman and arranged for Buddy Rich and Ray Charles and who will play Sunday with Ray Templin’s Chicagoans.
* Pianist Frank Thomas, formerly of the Firehouse Five, now with the Monrovia band.
Some of the other players aren’t as well known but are darned good too, says Chase, an avocational clarinetist who led a band in the ‘60s that included Wellman Braud, the former Ellington bassist, and Andy Blakeney, who played trumpet with Les Hite and Kid Ory.
Chase singled out Templin, a regular at Disneyland whose Chicagoans are “a hot, swing-styled band” (“Ray is one of these guys who can play a lot of instruments, but he focuses on piano, where he plays terrific stride,” says Chase) and the Joe Lukasik-Sally Patella quintet, which plays today.
“Sally plays some of the hottest straight-ahead trumpet you ever heard. And Joe is a conservatory-trained clarinetist who has played classically and also is a good jazz clarinetist.”
Other groups on the weekend bill include the Hot Frogs Jumping Jazz Band, the Nightblooming Jazzmen, the BBC Jazz Band and Danny Davis’ Roaring Twenties Jazz Band. Bands will perform two at a time, one in a 280-seat theater and the other in 400-seat ballroom. There will be dancing in both.
The festival is the New Orleans club’s way of honoring its nonprofit charter to “promote and preserve jazz from its beginnings up to be-bop.” In past years, the fest has drawn more than 1,000 fans. Proceeds go mainly for scholarships for high school students.
* The SoCal Jazzfest takes places today from 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. at the Grand Hotel, 7 Freedman Way (near Disneyland) in Anaheim. Tickets: $25 for Saturday; $15 for Sunday. (714) 664-1408.