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JAZZ : When Music Swings, Toes Will Tap

August 31, 1995|BILL KOHLHAASE | Bill Kohlhaase is a free-lance writer who regularly covers jazz for the Times Orange County Edition.

Vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, who plays a very visible role at the West Coast Jazz Party this holiday weekend, thinks he's discovered a winning similarity among those groups and individuals scheduled to play.

"They all play toe-tappin' music," he explains in a phone call from Los Angeles. "Anybody who likes good, swingin' jazz is not going to be disappointed. It's not going to be like some of those festivals where you have one real jazz band followed by some fusion band or something like that. This is all the real thing."

The slogan of the WCJP, "Right Down the Middle and Straight Ahead," seems to support Gibbs' observation. So does the lineup.

Friday's headliners are the Kings of Swing, led by Gibbs and clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. Their set will pay tribute to the original King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Saturday, the Jack Sheldon Orchestra directed by saxophonist Tom Kubis is expected to get the joint jumpin'. Sunday, Gibbs returns with his star-studded Dream Band. And Monday it's a "Monster Jam" with dozens of musicians taking part.

Among those booked to appear over the four-day run at the Irvine Marriott are trumpeter Conte Candoli, saxophonist Pete Christlieb, seven-string guitar whiz Ron Eschete, sax man Red Holloway, trumpeter Stacy Rowles, bassist Andy Simpkins, trombonist Bill Watrous, drummer Jake Hanna, flutist Holly Hofmann, drummer-vocalist Grady Tate and guitar legend George Van Eps.

Most of the participants will be there every day, notes party co-producer Joe Rothman. The exceptions are: Candoli will attend only on Saturday and Sunday, Christlieb Sunday and Monday, Holloway Friday and Sunday, Holly Hoffmann Friday and Saturday. Bassist John Leitham will be out performing with Mel Torme on Saturday but at the Jazz Party on the other days.

Jam sessions are a central part of the festival, with five scheduled each day preceding the headliner. If jams live and die on the quality of the participants, these should be kicking-and-screaming dandies.

Rothman says the booking philosophy for the event came easily. "We just signed the kind of musicians [co-producer John McClure] and I love, that play straight-ahead jazz music that you can tap your toe to or hum or sing along with."

Gibbs' Dream Band will include a host of big names when it takes the stage Sunday. Trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, drummer Frank Capp and alto saxophonist Med Flory of Supersax are in the ensemble.

"You know why I can get these kind of guys in the Dream Band?" Gibbs asks. "It's because the music is so good. I've got charts from the best."

But the secret to presenting that music successfully, he confides, is to have a lot of fun doing it. "Sure, you've got to be serious about music. But basically our band is 16 idiots out having a party. I like to make it feel like getting together in my living room. Everybody gets the chance to be themselves."

* What: The West Coast Jazz Party.

* When: Friday through Sunday beginning at 7:30 p.m., Monday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

* Where: Irvine Marriott, 18000 Von Karman Ave., Irvine.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Jamboree Road and head south. Go right onto Michaelson Drive, then right again onto Von Karman Avenue. The hotel is on the right.

* Wherewithal: Four-day priority seating $145 to $175. Daily reserved seating $30 to $50.

* Where to call: (714) 798-3320.

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