The Hyatt Newporter jazz series, like jazz itself, is swinging like a pendulum. In its early years under co-sponsor KLON-FM, the series presented such straight-ahead giants as fluegelhornist Art Farmer and pianist Jay McShann. Last year, with Ritz Entertainment doing the booking, the series presented pop and contemporary acts, including bassist-producer Marcus Miller and Earth, Wind & Fire vocalist Philip Bailey.
Now in its sixth year, the series, which kicked off earlier this month with a concert featuring jazz-fusion bands Shadowfax and Avenue Blue, has reached a place of equilibrium.
Again booked by Ritz Entertainment, the 10-concert event, dubbed the Hyatt Newporter Summer Jazz & Pop series, splits between contemporary and mainstream jazz, with performers ranging from former Tower of Power sax man Richard Elliot to veteran acoustic bassist Charlie Haden's Quartet West.
"When we moved to a contemporary lineup last year, we had good attendance, but we lost those straight-ahead people who had made the series a Friday night summer ritual in the past," says Ritz President Eric Jensen. "So this year we wanted to combine the two; bring back the old crowd as well as introduce the contemporary fans to people like Charlie Haden and [bassist] Christian McBride."
Friday's appearance from guitarist Norman Brown has the potential to please both camps. Brown's style reflects that of the late Wes Montgomery as well as that of crossover guitarist George Benson. His pair of albums for Motown's Mojazz label contain the kind of dynamic guitar work that Montgomery's fans will admire as well as strong beats and vocals in unison with guitar lines, a trademark of the Benson sound. Saxophonist Jeff Gonzales opens the show.
Another mixed bag arrives Aug. 4, when soulful pianist Les McCann, the gospel-influenced keyboardist known for his booty-shaking favorite "Compared to What?," shares the bill with contemporary saxophonist Art Porter.
Straight-ahead fans will look forward to the Aug. 18 double bill featuring the combos of Christian McBride and pianist Eric Reed. McBride, one of the most celebrated of the current pride of young lions, was recently featured in the Cos of Good Music, Bill Cosby's ensemble, at the Playboy Jazz Festival. His debut release, "Gettin' to It," has been on the Billboard top jazz albums chart since its release in January. Reed, best known as Wynton Marsalis' keyboardist, has received critical acclaim for his Mojazz recording "It's All Right to Swing."
Haden's Quartet West follows on Aug. 25. The bassist, who was a key part of Ornette Coleman's earth-shaking groups of the late '50s, has appeared with everyone from the late trumpeter Chet Baker to pianist Geri Allen. His band, which concentrates on the romance of bygone Hollywood, is equally talented: saxophonist Ernie Watts, drummer Larance Marable and pianist Alan Broadbent.
On the contemporary side of the ledger are Boney James--who also appeared at this year's Playboy festival--and vocalist Kevin Toney, who play July 14. Sin-Drome recording artist Peter White is scheduled for July 28. Yet to be announced are a pair of concerts scheduled for Sept. 8 and 15.
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JAZZ & POP SUMMER SERIES
* Friday: Norman Brown and the Jeff Gonzales Band
* July 14: Boney James and Kevin Toney
* July 28: Peter White and guests
* Aug. 4: Les McCann and Art Porter
* Aug. 11: Richard Elliot (8 p.m. show)
* Aug. 18: Christian McBride Quartet and Eric Reed Trio
* Aug. 25: Charlie Haden's Quartet West
* Sept. 8: TBA (admission: $18)
* Sept. 15: TBA
All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m. and admission is $15, except when noted. At the Hyatt Newporter, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach. (714) 650-5483.