Sunset Jazz lands in Newport

The award-winning trombonist Wycliffe Gordon will headline Wednesday night's Sunset Jazz show in Newport Beach with a concert paying tribute to Louis Armstrong.

The third season of the 11-show summertime jazz series at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa kicked off on July 11 with an opening concert by the Ernie Andrews Quartet with special guest Ricky Woodard.

Gordon will perform his "Hello Pops!… A Tribute to Louis Armstrong" concert indoors at the Seaview Terrace, a larger venue in the hotel that will accommodate more attendees, Sunset Jazz organizers said.

The set is based off of his "Hello Pops!" album, which encompasses everything from Louis Armstrong's Hot Five throughout the All Stars.

Gordon — a six-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Assn.'s Trombonist of the Year award, including in 2011 — will play select favorites, as well as all 15 songs off of his album, which include the following selections: "Hello Pops," "Up a Lazy River," "I Cover the Waterfront," "Basin Street Blues," "Dream a Little Dream" and "Swing That Music," as well as "Black and Blue" by Fats Waller.

"Louis Armstrong's music is just a manifestation of the person that he was," Wycliffe Gordon said in a phone interview. "He always believed that all people are pretty much the same, we have the same needs, wants, and desires. And, he expressed that in his music, whether he was saying something about love, joy, sadness, or pain."

"It was something that everybody [relates to], regardless of your race, religion, or creed — it doesn't even matter. Everyone deals with those issues, those emotions and everybody wants to be able to find happiness through the diversity of it all. And, Louis Armstrong was just the epitome of that."

Popular artists from the Newport Beach Jazz Party and The Jazz Cruise will continue playing the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa every Wednesday evening through Sept. 19.

Each night, two sets will take place outdoors in the Marriott's rose garden, which has an ocean backdrop featuring sunsets and views of Catalina Island.

Producers John McClure and Joe Rothman started the Newport Beach Jazz Party in 2001, and it continues to run every President's Day weekend at the Marriott. Over the years, they have treated Orange County audiences to some of the most respected national and international players in the jazz idiom.

"We wanted to create something that we could do during the summer months, so that became the Sunset Jazz at Newport every Wednesday night," co-producer John McClure said. "Our thought was that we could build a greater audience in the Los Angeles [and] Orange County areas by having these Wednesday nights."

"What's nice about Sunset Jazz at Newport is over the course of 11 weeks we get people who read about it, hear about it, or their diehard jazz friends bring them and they enjoy what they hear," McClure continued. "That tends to encourage them to come to the Newport Beach Jazz Party, a more intense full-weekend event."

Producers started preparing for this year's Sunset Jazz at Newport in March — just days after the Newport Beach Jazz Party ended.

After inspecting feedback from last year's audience comment cards, Rothman and McClure began building this year's line-up and selected artists they knew from past jazz parties. Their goal was to mix visiting band leaders with local professionals in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas.

"A number of the artists we chose are from out of town," McClure said. "Joe [Rothman] comes up with some of the initial names and then I help him put together the sets with the other players. And, we try to have a good number of the Wednesdays feature leaders that are from outside of the local area."

"As an example, Wycliffe Gordon is coming from NYC and the reason for that is we want the local Los Angeles and Orange County people to be able to come to the event and see artists that they can't typically see."

Gordon played at the Newport Beach Jazz Party in 2009. According to McClure, his first appearance at Sunset Jazz at Newport should be an appealing act for many attendees.

"He's rated as the top jazz trombone player, probably in the world," McClure said. "He wins polls in Down Beat and Jazz Times Magazine. Besides being a great instrumentalist, he has an engaging personality. He's just great on stage. He sings, and happens to have a voice reminiscent of Louis Armstrong, who is probably one of his heroes."

For those unable to attend Gordon's performance, trumpeter Byron Stripling and the Bobby Floyd Quartet will also play Louis Armstrong tunes on Aug. 29.

Other popular acts to play the summer series include Jackie Ryan (July 25), the Graham Dechter Quartet (Aug. 8), Ken Peplowski Quartet (Aug. 15), Jeff Hamilton Trio (Aug. 22), and The Four Freshman will play a sold out show Aug.1, McClure confirmed.

If You Go

What: Sunset Jazz at Newport

When: July 11 through Sept. 19. Doors open at 5 p.m. with sets at 6 and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa, 900 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach

Tickets: $16/$22/$32/Season seats start at $164

More Information: (949) 759-5003 or

*Special Sunset Jazz at Newport rate being offered (space available), Sunday through Thursday for each of the performance weeks. Hotel phone: (949) 640-4000.

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