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How to Enjoy Festival Music at Home

June 16, 1996|Don Heckman | Don Heckman is The Times' jazz writer

It's jazz festival time at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend, Playboy style, and all the music may have left your ears crying out for more. Not to worry. Most of the players in the all-star gathering have fairly recent albums available, providing an abundant sampling of the kind of music heard at the festival. Here is a sampling of the most current offerings of what's available in stores around town:

* The Saturday Lineup: Joe Lovano, the first major act, has two recent albums--"Live at the Village Vanguard" and "Worlds" (both on Blue Note)--illustrating his proficiency as a versatile tenor saxophonist and a convincing composer. And the feisty Eddie Palmieri's guarantee that his music will "definitely excite you" is fully justified in the hot Latin tracks of "Palmas" (Elektra Nonesuch).

The deft and multifaceted singer Dianne Reeves is accompanied by such young jazz lions as Joshua Redman and Roy Hargrove on "Quiet After the Storm" (Blue Note). And Fourplay and the Yellowjackets, two of the more dependable contemporary jazz groups ("dependable" because they are so well grounded in fundamental jazz), can be heard, respectively, on "Elixir" (Warner Bros.) (which has been on the jazz charts for more than 40 weeks) and "Dreamland" (Warner Bros.).

Lalo Shifrin's "Gillespiana," a Dizzy Gillespie tribute revived for the festival, can be found on CD in its original version, with Dizzy up front, in a 1961 double album, "Gillespiana/Carnegie Hall Concert" (Verve), and Shifrin's jazzing of the classics continues with "Firebird: Jazz Meets the Symphony No. 3" (Four Winds).

The veteran pianist McCoy Tyner performs at the festival with another saxophonist, Michael Brecker, and both can be heard in an earlier recorded collaboration--"Infinity" (Impulse)--in which two seemingly distinct players manage to discover a solid musical linkage.

Arriving in the climactic headline spot for the Saturday show, Tony Bennett, Generation X's favorite uncle figure, has had "MTV Unplugged" (Columbia) on the charts for nearly two years, and his latest album, "Here's to the Ladies" (Columbia), is a characteristically enthusiastic salute to divas such as Barbra Streisand and Lena Horne.


The Sunday Lineup: The first important highlight of the day is the return of jazz hall of famer trombonist J.J. Johnson, whose recent outings include "Tangence" (Verve), a smooth-as-silk collection of ballads with arrangements by the much-revered Robert Farnon, and "Let's Hang Out" (Verve), which features pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Rufus Reid from the band Johnson brings to the festival stage.

The second highlight is the appearance of Jesus "Chucho" Valdes and his now-legendary band, Irakere, making their first U.S. tour since 1987. Irakere's most recent album is "Live at Ronnie Scott's" (World Pacific), a roaring performance recorded in 1991 at the London jazz club.

The T.S. Monk group, which opens today's program (following the Washington Prep High School band), plays with the spunk, the drive and the straight-ahead energy of the great Art Blakey ensembles on "The Charm" (Blue Note). And Wayne Shorter's new album, "High Life" (Verve), showcases his not-always-sufficiently acknowledged skills as a composer.

Performing in today's contemporary jazz corner, saxophonist Everett Harp generates a surprising amount of fire and imagination with his work on "Common Ground" (Blue Note), while bassist Stanley Clarke cruises in search of funk on "East River Drive" (Epic).

The world-class jazz men in Bill Cosby's "Cos of Good Music II"--Stanley Turrentine, Nat Adderley, Joey DeFrancesco, Lou Donaldson, Charles Earland, Kevin Eubanks and Bernard "Pretty" Purdie--have numerous individual albums, far too numerous to list here, but all readily available.

The Playboy Festival closes with two pop acts--singer Gladys Knight and former Stray Cat singer-guitarist Brian Setzer. Knight's newest release is the typically elegant "Just for You" (MCA), and Setzer and his big band romp noisily through the blues on "Guitar Slinger" (Interscope).

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