Newport's Jazz Party is 'straight ahead'

Twelfth annual event features international musicians and opens Feb. 16 with two big bands.

February 09, 2012|By Heather Youmans
  • Houston Person plays tenor sax.
Houston Person plays tenor sax. (Courtesy Art Pazornik )

The 12th annual Newport Beach Jazz Party will swing into town Feb. 16 for four nights and three days of "straight-ahead" jazz through the Presidents' Day weekend.

Mainstream jazz lovers will once again congregate at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, 900 Newport Center Drive, for nightly concerts, poolside sessions and two jazz champagne brunches.

This year's lineup will feature two international players appearing for the first time at the Jazz Party — Marian Petrescu, of Finland, and the Australian performer James Morrison — as well as returning artists from years past.

The Newport Beach Jazz Party stemmed from the West Coast Jazz Party, which started in 1995. Five years later, the program's co-producers Joe Rothman and John McClure broke away and a new jazz party was born.

"We obviously thought it would be a good time to have another jazz party," Rothman said in a phone interview. "We had built up a good following in five years with a lot of people around the country, as well as locally. We have a large international and national contingent that comes, other than California."


Twelve years later, the Jazz Party is still on the rise in Newport Beach. And now, fresh entertainment is on the horizon for this year's festival, organizers said.

"We've never opened with two big bands on the first night, because that's obviously an expensive undertaking and also logistics are not that easy," Rothman said.

The Grand Opening Night on Feb. 16 will launch the weekend with a tribute to Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich.

Ken Peplowski — who played with Goodman — will conduct the Basie, Benny & Buddy Big Band, which will feature Butch Miles on drums and the Cuban virtuoso trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. A surprise guest artist will close out the evening by conducting an All-Star Orchestra.

"To see two bands like that in one night for the price of one ticket, it doesn't happen very often," Rothman said.

The Feb. 17 program will commence with a group led by trumpeter James Morrison and feature prominent jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton. The second set will be a tribute to Oscar Peterson, featuring pianist Petrescu followed by the Eric Reed Trio. Finally, a tribute to Woody Herman featuring Harry Allen's "Four Others" will bring the evening to a close.

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