Playboy Jazz Festival, Day 2 -- Concert Review

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Young Irvin Mayfield came out to lead his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra wearing a three-button suit with all the buttons buttoned.

Perhaps this was to be expected from the Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana, who also serves as a member of the National Endowment of the Arts and is a member or former member of the Louisiana Rebirth Advisory Board, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission Cultural Sub-Committee, the New Orleans Public Library Board and the Hyatt New Orleans District Rebirth Advisory Board.

Completely unexpected was the output of his 17-piece orchestra, seated in a crescent on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday. There was not a trace of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The sound was modern, thrilling, swinging and as much fun as was to be had during Day 2 of the Playboy Jazz Festival.

Mayfield's trumpet playing was absorbingly intelligent jazz, like that produced by the rest of the soloists -- among them a banjo player, several saxophonists and trumpeters and that astonishing trombone player Ron Westray.

Riding a high-speed tempo, Westray played a lengthy successor to "The Flight of the Bumble Bee," without missing any of the thousands and thousands of little notes. Then the whole band flawlessly played a copy of his swiftest chorus, allowing each note its assigned duration and not an instant more or less.

This and the band's other numbers, such as the closing "C Jam Blues," were done with an affectionate and generous spirit that isn't much heard from the workers in the industrialized field that jazz has become since it left Mayfield's hometown.

You might mention Manhattan Transfer or George Benson or Bobby Hutcherson and Cedar Walton as members of that industrial category, as well as the newly initiated steel guitarist Robert Randolph.

But definitely not the irresistible Esperanza Spalding, whose jolly singing, bass playing and hair-tossing were all her own.

The Cos of Good Music, always a welcome interlude when Bill Cosby hosts the 32-year-old festival, was another example of personal, nonderivative creativity, led by the frill-free trumpet work of Ingrid Jensen in the company of Mark Gross, saxophone; Jay Hoggard, vibes; and D.D. Jackson, piano.

As on Saturday night, the patrons filed out to the beat of a Latin group. Tiempo Libre was leaner than Saturday's Escovedo bunch but nowhere near as accessible. These were purists.
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