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A summer of jazz

June 15, 2001

Young Chang

In smoky jazz bars and swing havens like the long-gone Rendezvous

Ballroom, jazz use to have a home in Newport Beach. But times changed and

the soulful wailings of a sax dwindled as venues closed down.

Newport Beach isn't the jazz trove it used to be, music lovers say.

Except in the summer.

One of the places left for those who associate summertime with the

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sounds of Gershwin's "Summertime" is the Hyatt Newporter, which will

start its 10th annual Summer Jazz Series tonight with a performance by

Strunz & Farah.

Other performers who will take the stage Fridays through the month of

October will include Peabo Bryson, David Sanborn and Hiroshima.

"It's not like a nightclub or festival. It's a really intimate

amphitheater out on the grass, on a raised terrace section with beautiful

white chairs," said Scott Pedersen, the series' producer. "The term jazz

is constantly evolving."

In the '40s and '50s, names such as Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Lionel

Hampton, Woody Herman and Arty Shaw graced the stages of Newport Beach.

Today, the scene has a different flavor, one that includes the

globe-trotting version of the genre practiced by guitar-duo Strunz &

Farah.

Jorge Strunz of Costa Rica and Ardeshir Farah of Iran became musical

partners 21 years ago. Theirs is a world jazz, with a blend of Middle

Eastern styles and an Afro-Latin rhythmic foundation.

The Grammy-nominated group, whose credits include 10 albums and

awards, including Billboard's World Music Album of the Year, will perform

two Mideast compositions tonight -- one from an earlier album and one

from their new release titled "String Weave."

"World music is a category that includes music from all different

cultures on the planet," Strunz said from his Woodland Hills home. "And I

think jazz, like any art form, has to be a growing art form."He added

that contemporary music should include influences from different

countries.

Strunz grew up in Costa Rica, Columbia, Mexico, England, Spain, Canada

and the United States. His father was a diplomat whose work required

travel. Strunz's musical tastes spanned the globe since his early years.

He got his first guitar at the age of 6 and played flamenco and classical

styles.

About two decades ago, while looking for a guitar-playing partner, he

met Farah. From Iran and England, he shared Strunz's international flair.

"We're very similar," Farah said. "Even though we were from different

parts of the world, we had similar interests and even a similar

approach."

And Southern California has openly welcomed them. Veterans to the

Newporter jazz series, Farah said they have a following specifically in

Orange County -- a good sign for jazz in general, Strunz agreed.

"If it's only Nat King Cole or Duke Ellington, jazz becomes a museum

piece," Strunz said. "There's a lot more diversity in the States now, and

those different strains should be reflected in the music."

FYI

WHAT: Hyatt Newporter Jazz Series

WHEN: Opening concert with Strunz & Farah at 8 p.m. today. Concerts

continue Fridays through Oct. 12.

WHERE: Hyatt Newporter, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach

COST: $30-$75

CALL: (949) 729-6013

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