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Summer Splash / JAZZ

Priceless Concerts

The Playboy Jazz Festival sponsors free events in Pasadena, downtown L.A. and Santa Monica.

May 22, 1997|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The good news is that the Playboy Jazz Festival is presenting three days offirst-rate jazz at the Old Pasadena Summer Fest over the Memorial Day weekend, from Saturday through Monday in Pasadena's Central Park.

The even better news is that it's all free.

And the best news is that the Playboy events are the start of a colorful array of free jazz and world music programs taking place throughout the summer.

"Jazz in Central Park" actually includes a lot more than jazz. The three days of continuous live entertainment also feature blues, Latin/salsa and R&B. Headliners are acoustic guitarist Peter White on Saturday's program, Latin jazz percussion master Pete Escovedo on Sunday, and pianist Kevin Toney and the swing revivalist Royal Crown Revue on Monday.

Among the other first-rate ensembles, there are the talented young players of the World Stage All-Stars, hand-picked and nurtured by drummer Billy Higgins; bassist (and closet traffic reporter) Jennifer York; saxophonist Bennie Maupin; vocalists Bill Henderson and Dwight Trible; guitarist Phil Upchurch; Freddie Crespo and Costazul's Caribbean rhythms; and Latin jazz artist Bobby Matos.

"The purpose of sponsoring these free jazz events," says Richard Rosenzweig, president of Playboy Jazz Festivals, "is to bring jazz to people who may love the music but have limited access to or familiarity with jazz."

Playboy's programs don't stop at Pasadena, however. On May 31, the Jazz Classics (featuring pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Ndugu Chancler) will perform with the R-Mondo Band and the Saxual Behavior Horn Section on the Plaza at the Music Center--the first free community concert by Playboy at this popular venue.

"It is a particular pleasure," Rosenzweig adds, "to be able to showcase this music on the Plaza at the Music Center, which many Angelenos regard as the artistic and cultural heart of the city."

On June 8, Playboy's free events surface on the Westside when "Jazz in Santa Monica" presents saxophonist Everette Harp, singer Kevyn Lettau, the Billy Mitchell Group and Rudy Regalado's fiery Latin jazz ensemble Chevere, at 1:20 p.m. at Santa Monica College's Corsair Field.

The Playboy events conclude with "Jazz on Film With Mark Cantor," June 13 at 7:30 p.m. Archivist Cantor has one of the most encyclopedic collections of jazz films in the world, and brings a set of his more intriguing items to the festival every year. The program, at the Pacific Design Center, will screen more than 50 jazz-related documentary-style film clips and videos, with commentary by Cantor. One of the items reportedly is rare footage of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the first jazz band to record an album for commercial sale.

Beyond Playboy, there's more. The Los Angeles County Art Museum continues its programs of free Friday night jazz concerts through the summer, adding a series of weekend big-band events as well.

The museum's admirable policy of booking talented, Southland- area jazz artists continues, with a sterling group of performers scheduled to appear. The series begins June 6 with the Kim Richmond/Clay Jenkins Ensemble. The Sandra Booker Quartet arrives June 13, followed by the Ernie Watts Quartet on June 20. The balance of the summer will see performances by Cecilia Coleman, Michael Session, Art Davis, the L.A. Jazz Quintet, Vinny Golia and singer Cathy Segal-Garcia.

In August, the California Plaza presents its "Moonlight and Matinees" series of free concerts at the Water Court Friday and Saturday evenings at 8, and Sunday afternoons at 3.

BE THERE

Playboy Jazz Festival Presents Jazz in Central Park at Old Pasadena Summer Fest. Central Park, on Fair Oaks Avenue, two blocks south of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Saturday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the Playboy Stage. Valet parking available at Dayton and Fair Oaks avenues. (310) 449-4070.

The Playboy Jazz Festival Presents Sounds of the City on the Plaza at the Los Angeles Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., May 31. 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. On-site parking available for $7. (310) 449-4070.

The Playboy Jazz Festival Presents Playboy Jazz in Santa Monica. Corsair Field, Santa Monica College. June 8, 1:30 p.m.

The Playboy Jazz Festival Presents Jazz on Film with Mark Cantor, co-sponsored by AFI Fest. The Center Green Theatre at the Green Building, second floor, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. June 13, 7:30 p.m. (310) 449-4070.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art free jazz concerts. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Jazz ensembles Fridays, 5:30 p.m.; big bands, Sundays at noon.

California Plaza Presents Moonlight and Matinees Concert Series, the Water Court at the California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. (213) 687-2159.

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