After fifteen years the Old Pasadena Summer Fest moves to Brookside Park, Brookside is much larger, roomier and more accessible. The summer fest is one of the largest free jazz events in Southern California, attracting visitors in the thousands. The Playboy Jazz Fest
offered plenty of live music-with various styles of jazz from traditional / contemporary smooth to Latin and Afro-Cuban-R&B and traditional blues as well. Percussionist Poncho Sanchez, blues guitarist Zac Harmon, smooth jazz guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., flutist Hubert Laws and many more artists were scheduled to appear. Live performances began promptly at 11:00 a.m. for all three days of Memorial Day weekend from May 29 thru May 31, 2004.
The fun filled weekend provided over 20 hour of complimentary jazz, R&B and blues for everyone in attendance. Headliner for Saturday, day one was none other than flutist Hubert Laws, who wowed the audiences with his smooth style of play. Laws is versed in many facets of music from jazz, R&B too pop. Performing as well will be Cuban American Karina Nuvo in addition to her Cuban roots Nuvo has a very strong and soulful voice, self-described as Nuvo Soul. Tres-Dos a sextet Latin jazz Ensemble, highlighted with traditional Latin Vocals. Thomas Tedesco, Blue Vision featuring Greg Weins and the South Pasadena High School Jazz Band performed on Saturday, keeping the jazz fans wanting more.
Nothing short of electrifying is one way of summing up Sunday’s live performances of the spectacular diverse music styles. The notable jazz guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. delivered some of the most thrilling and exciting jazz and R&B of the day. Jackson kept the audience literally on their toes, dancing in the aisles standing on their seats and desperately trying to see all the action on stage. With all of the energy that Jackson and his band displayed he gracefully agreed to an encore to appease his adoring fans. Sunday’s line-up also featured the Henry Mora Orchestra. Mora’s big band sound articulated blends of salsa and R&B that mesmerized the throng of music lovers to rise and accentuate their bodies to the rhythm of the beat. There was plenty of vocal power to go around with vocalist Juliana Munoz, Noelia Hernandez, Bruni Mercado and Martin Xatruch they sung beautifully and harmonized well together to compliment Mora’s big band sound. Acoustically speaking, Malt is a jazz quartet composed of saxophone, bass, piano and drums with a wonderful blend for acoustic jazz with a taste of blues. The Sounds of New Orleans kept the flow of the moment in motion with their creative straightforward approach from jazz to R&B and Cajun.
Surely, with all the great performances and entertainment that has taken place over this warm holiday weekend, Monday’s range of artists provided summer fest with the ultimate climax. When speaking of Poncho Sanchez be careful, you do not leave out the word mastery. True to form as always Poncho delivered with astonishing creativity and artistic command from Latin/salsa to R&B and soul with support from his talented band. One would think that as the evening grew later and later the crowd would dwindle, but not so. One would also think that the Los Angeles, Laker’s play off game against the Minnesota Timberwolves would be a great reason for the crowd to diminish. However, it was not and the crowd grew larger, after all a master is at work giving the people what they wanted and what they wanted was great music at its very best. Furthermore, there was no visible indication that the frenzy would end which Sanchez and his band had started. People were everywhere and dancing on every available blade of grass from the front of the stage to the far corners of the rear. Sanchez came to do a job and he did it well.
Smooth jazz guitarist Paul Brown entertained the audience with his mellow style of contemporary jazz. Now out front and up close and personal with his jazz fans he delivered some great sounds from his debt CD Up Front
. Also joining Brown on stage was smooth jazz artist and great saxophonist Michael Lington who has performed along side brown many times before, fused their style of play well together on stage. Other artists of the day were Dale Fielder Group/Force, jazz vocalist Cathy Segal and Mississippi Blues man Zac Harmon. With his big blues sound from Mississippi Harmon can go toe to toe with some of the best blues men in the business. Please don’t be shy, go ahead and mention Harmon’s name in the same sentence with Bobby "Blue" Bland, Albert King and Bobby Rush-just to name a few.
Old Pasadena Summer Fest had great attractions for every one of all ages and gender. The Family Fun Fest
provided games, dancers, singing and interesting amusements to keep the kids entertained. A Taste of Summer
presented a number of restaurants, luncheonettes and cafes with a variety of tasty foods and drinks-including soda, juice, beer and wine. The Summer Art Fest
displays arts and crafts from more than 100 artists. The exhibition consists of photography, fine art, jewelry, blown glass, pottery, sculptures and much more. The Sports Zone
added two new events this year-also, continuing to offer an array of interactive activities and a chance to meet professional athletes for autographs and photo opportunities.
Old Pasadena Summer Fest was a great three-day weekend with plenty of great musical performances, great entertainment, food and attractions for every one. If you missed this year’s summer fest plan to attend next years Memorial Day weekend-you will not be disappointed. However, there is more jazz at the 26th Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival venue: the Hollywood Bowl Saturday June 19 and Sunday 20, 2004-plan to attend and pre order your tickets, via the Hollywood Bowl’s box-office and all Ticketmaster outlets.