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The younger they were the harder they fell at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday during the Playboy Jazz Festival. And vice versa: The older they were, the higher they soared.
Take the great Snooky Young, who is 91. He learned to play when he was 6 or 7 from a man who’d been with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, started playing after World War I with the Young Snappy Six, a family group, and his nickname is Sack.
There he was, after many more wars, at the Playboy festival, sitting in the second chair of the trumpet section, where he’s perched with the bands of Count Basie, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Gerald Wilson, Jimmy Lunceford and Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” band, among others.
On this day it was the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and Sack drew from his bag a uniquely aged spice to flavor the high-powered fellow trumpeters that paced this rich and mighty group. What a beautiful sound they all get! And every soloist said something.
The storied local band turned the tables merit-wise after a loosy-goosy but hardworking set by a Marcus Miller small group. The 27-year-old Christian Scott, a trumpet player out of New Orleans, applied himself with vigor but came out muscle-bound. An even younger alto player, Alex Han, showed lost fire as the group plowed a Miles Davis groove.
Les McCann, now 75 and mainly recovered from a stroke a couple of years ago, prodded the group led by Javon Jackson from his electric keyboard earlier in the day. The former Art Blakey tenorman came out with a welcome helping of hard bop that lifted the clouds of unease that rose from the Kurt Elling set just before.
McCann applied his patented punch and brought back the 1960s with his uniquely conceived hits “Cold Duck” and “Compared to What.”
Another septuagenarian, the great Roy Haynes, stayed in the compelling present as he provided an inescapable groove for pianist Chick Corea’s Freedom Band. Saxophonist Kenny Garrett made it seem like jazz despite the fusion leanings of the fecund leader.
But their output wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as the Pete Escovedo bunch, which rocked out, wailed, grooved, soared, took over and I don’t know what-all. Justo Almario and Arturo Valasco, saxophone and trombone, were among the rousing soloists, and no matter how scorching Escovedo got on his diminutive percussion weapons, his daughter Sheila E. got hotter on her drum set. Plus, she wore a short skirt.
Trombone Shorty of New Orleans, who played bright and sunny trumpet on an afternoon of the same description, had to follow crowd favorite Jake Shimabukaro, a ukulele virtuoso.
Naturally 7 did some outre gospel at a certain forgettable period, and Sax for Stax sent everyone home with their ears unboxed, if undelighted.
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