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Ray Brown Is Festival's Man on Bass

August 29, 1996|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a way, bass great Ray Brown was raised on jazz parties, those three- or four-day events where a number of jazz aces get together and jam.

Starting in 1948, when he was 22, Brown was a member of Jazz at the Philharmonic, an organized jam that was essentially the father of all jazz parties. J.A.T.P., as it was known, was a traveling show that featured many giants, among them trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge, saxophonists Charlie Parker and Lester Young and singers Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

In the '70s and '80s, Brown was a regular at Dick Gibson's annual Colorado Jazz Party.

"I liked Gibson's because you'd see everybody. There'd be 60 or 70 guys, a great variety of musicians," said Brown, 69, from the Van Nuys home he shares with his wife, Cecilia. "And a lot of jazz festivals back then were like parties. When I played the Concord [Calif.] Jazz Festival in 1972, Jake Hanna, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis and I just got up and played."

That set became "Seven Come Eleven," the first album released on the Concord Jazz label.

Brown doesn't do many parties these days.

"Sometimes it's like jumping through hoops, when somebody sits down and makes a list of guys, missing the essence of who should play with whom, and why," he said.

So it's a fairly big deal he's appearing this weekend at the Irvine Marriott for the second annual West Coast Jazz Party.

The bash, again produced by Joe Rothman and John McClure and taking place in the Marriott's Grand Ballroom, will spotlight headliners Brown (Saturday), the Four Freshmen (Friday) and Jack Sheldon's Jazz Orchestra (Sunday). Other players include clarinetist Buddy De Franco, trumpeter Conte Candoli, pianists Paul Smith and Tom Ranier, guitarists Mundell Lowe and Ron Eschete, trombonist Andy Martin and drummers Jeff Hamilton and Butch Miles.

Camaraderie is the main reason Brown is coming to Irvine after just finishing three weeks in Japan and a weekend in San Diego with his trio. On Saturday, he'll appear in a quartet that includes Hamilton, a former member of his trio. He'll also play with a quintet featuring, among others, saxophonist Rickey Woodard and Candoli.

Brown has known Candoli "since he was with Woody Herman and I was with J.A.T.P. He's a helluva trumpet player. . . . And Jeff is one of the top drummers around."

The best sets at these parties, where players are more or less thrown together to deliver a few, mutually agreed-upon tunes, usually happen when musicians who haven't worked together in a while finally do.

"That's when you get the fireworks," said Brown, who hasn't collaborated with Hamilton in the 18 months since he left the bassist's trio. They parted after a decade's partnership so Hamilton could step out as a bandleader. Brown hasn't worked with Candoli for a year, when he performed on an album Brown produced for San Diego singer Kristen Korb.

"It will be fun," said Brown, who recently received the International "Bird" award, previously given by a Dutch jazz society to Gillespie, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, among others. "We'll get together in the dressing room, find some tunes to play, and then just go out and let it happen."

* What: Second annual West Coast Jazz Party.

* When: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

* Where: The Grand Ballroom and Lobby Lounge, Irvine Marriott, 1800 Von Karman Ave.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at MacArthur Boulevard and head south, turn left on Michelson Drive and left again on Von Karman Avenue.

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* Wherewithal: $35-$50 per day; $125-$175 for three-day passes.

* Where to call: (714) 724-3602 or (714) 553-0100.

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