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MUSIC | JAZZ FESTIVAL

Strike Up the Band

Valley's first gathering will feature 44 hours of music at Lake Balboa.

May 15, 1997|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The San Fernando Valley Jazz Festival. Sound strange?

Well, sure it does. After all, it hasn't been done before and the Valley is not exactly recognized as a jazz Mecca.

But "Jazz on the Lake," the Valley's first jazz festival--44 hours of nonstop music on three outdoor stages around Lake Balboa in Encino--hopes to change all that.

The event, which runs from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, is presenting a kaleidoscope of jazz in a colorful, outdoor atmosphere.

And, on second thought, the Valley really isn't all that unusual a place for a jazz happening.

One could surely make a case for the fact there are as many first-rate jazz players living in the Valley as any place in the country (with the possible exception of Manhattan).

Nor is there an absence of small jazz club activity, dating from North Hollywood's much-missed Donte's to such current rooms as the Baked Potato, the Moonlight (formerly Moonlight Tango), Chadney's, La Ve Lee, J.P.'s Lounge and Monty's, to name only a few.

"So, why not the Valley for a jazz festival?" asks festival producer Marty Cooper.

"Not only is this the place where jazz musicians live, it also has the kind of melting-pot community that can provide a receptive audience for jazz.

"Somebody once said," continued Cooper, who promoted and produced the Playboy Jazz Festival for five years, "that the two things that bring people together are sports and music. We could all use some bringing together now, and what better way to do it than through a jazz festival that can make the entire community proud."

Putting the event together wasn't easy. Cooper points out that there was virtually no local experience with assembling an event of such magnitude.

"Add to that," he says, "the fact that the first time you do something like this is always the most difficult time, and you can get a sense of the problems we faced."

But the upside has been the constant enthusiasm of the musicians, staff, volunteers and everyone who's been associated with the event.

"This may be our first time out, but we think it's going to be the real start of something big," Cooper said.

Here's a guide to catching most of the highlight events--and bear in mind that some of Saturday's performers also appear on the Sunday schedule:

*

Saturday:

Noon, Stage 1. In an appropriate gesture to the jazz future, winners of the High School Jazz Band Competition kick off the weekend celebration (also playing on the same stage at 1 p.m.)

Noon, Stage 2. Abe Most, the festival's music producer, and brother Sam lead a first-rate sextet that includes Tom Ranier on piano and Frankie Capp on drums.

Noon, Stage 3. Trumpeter Al Aarons performs with the Jazz Caravan and singer Barbara Morrison (who also perform on Stage 2 at 2:15 p.m.)

2 p.m. Stage 1. An unusual duet performance by trumpeter-vocalist-humorist Jack Sheldon and pianist Ross Tompkins (they also perform on Stage 2 at 3:15 p.m.)

3 p.m. Stage 2. Two of the Southland's best female jazz artists, Betty O'Hara and Ann Patterson lead a fine septet (returning on the same stage at 5 p.m.)

3 p.m. Stage 1. A chance to see a pair of well-known actors--Conrad Janis and George Segal--trying out their musical chops with the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band (also performing on the same stage at 4 p.m.)

4 p.m. Stage 3. They're not exactly a jazz group, and they're not exactly the originals, but the Ink Spots (led by Johnny Smith, a substitute singer with the original group) will undoubtedly appeal to the festival's swing-era fans (they also perform at 6 p.m.)

4:15 p.m. Stage 2. Veteran singer Sue Raney performs with the Dick Shreve Trio (also at 5:15 on the same stage).

5 p.m. Stage 1. One of the festival's genuine don't-miss events: the big roaring Latin Jazz HMA Orchestra led by trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez.

7 p.m. Stage 1. The contemporary portion of the festival begins with a smooth jazz performance by Daniel Ho & Kilauea.

8 p.m. Stage 1. Some energetic fusion jazz from the Jeff Lorber Quartet.

9 p.m. Stage 1. More smooth jazz, showcasing the easygoing trumpet of Rick Braun.

*

Sunday:

1 p.m. Stage 1. A brassy four trumpet band--featuring Bob Summers, Jack Trott, Bill Berry and Graham Young--brightens the afternoon program.

1:45 p.m. Stage 3. Trombonists get their chance at the spotlight in a three-trombone band featuring veteran players Bob Enevoldsen, Herbie Harper and Chauncey Welsch.

2:15 p.m. Stage 2. Armed services jazz with the U.S. Navy Jazz Band.

3 p.m. Stage 2. More armed services rhythms from the U.S. Marine Corps Jazz Band.

3:15 p.m. Stage 2. A segment for swing aficionados, with Les Brown and his Band of Renown playing such legendary hits as "Sentimental Journey" and "Leapfrog" (with another set at 4:15 p.m.)

7:15 p.m. Stage 2. Rob Rio revives boogie-woogie piano.

8:15 p.m. Stage 1. A great closing performance from the solidly rhythmic Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band.

BE THERE

The San Fernando Valley Jazz Festival: "Jazz on the Lake." Sat.-Sun. at Lake Balboa, Victory and Balboa boulevards, Encino. Ticket prices, Sat. or Sun., $17.50; both days, $30. Children ages 5-12, Sat. or Sun., $8; both days, $14; children under 5 admitted free. (818) 703-7859.

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