Chasing Music, Newport Edition: Day 3

If Days 1 and 2 were something, then Day 3 confirmed, once and for all, that I came to the right place for music. I have got to do this again next year.

It started raining a bit earlier in the morning, and while it was overcast most of yesterday, I still managed to get a fair bit of a sunburn. My ears will recover (I don’t mean from the music either), I am sure.

Now, onward!!!

Shilts and Brian Simpson

If you saw my Midtown Groove designwork, you will recognize their faces, to be sure. Shilts being the ex-saxman for the original lineup of Down to the Bone and self-billing as the ideal dinner guest, and a powerhouse on the tenor sax, always puts on a kicky, funky show. Brian Simpson, who is best known as Dave Koz’s musical director, shows at Houndstooth that he is versatile enough to venture outside of what one would expect of piano jazz; he meanders very well and isn’t afraid to show off a bit.

Playing together at Newport was a great show, and between Brian and Shilts you get a barrel of laughs, but…again…the sound was driving me up a wall. Even when Shilts blasted into my favorite, Back on the Hudson, I could hear Brian’s ripple of the keys above the tenor sax. What the hell, soundman?! Since when is it that you cannot hear a sax on a sax-based piece of music?

The Sax Pack

Now, about this show I had my reservations, in part because of the sound quality of the prior shows. But, nonetheless, I parked myself right there for Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, and Kim Waters. Yes, Kim Waters surfaced for this gig, and man, was it good to hear Waterfall. Easily my favorite by him, and, thankfully, soundman kicked up the alto, hard.

And you know, those guys are funny. I can think of very few other artists who can make me crack up as much as these guys. Jeff Kashiwa told a story of having an unrequited crush, and the way he told that story had the audience in stitches. Steve Cole and Kim Waters bounced jokes both off Jeff and each other, and Steve got progressively more warmed up with the banter.

And again, I was ready to whack the soundman over the head a few times. Why? Because when Steve covered Sarah MacLachlan’s Angel, there were several hard, high notes that he hit. None of which were discernable by volume. I sat close enough to notice Steve’s face reddening as he hit those notes, but the sound stayed even. It should’ve been anything but even. If the guy is pushing into the higher-alto range, this is not the time for the drummer to be more audible than the sax!!!

Tony Exum, Jr. was next to me, and I think there was a moment of a shared cringe.

Randy “Dynamite” Jacobs

You know what, Randy, if this entire “touring with Dave Koz” thing isn’t working for you, the blues festivals around the world would welcome you with open arms. That’s all I’m sayin’. Ladies and gents, the man can sing! And he can sing blues like a master.

I had a quick lunch while Randy tore it up with Sugar Girl, and he more than justifies the nickname Randy Dynamite.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

There’s no proper words to describe Troy Andrews’s showmanship. Really, no, there is not. This youngin grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and walked in parades with his trombone before he could push out the slide to all the positions. And by the time that slide went places, he evolved into a dynamic onstage presence.

And let me tell you this, dear readers, Bourbon Street came full-force to Newport Beach, to the point where Troy should’ve brought a spare roof. He blew the first one clear off the stage. Holy shit. Louis Armstrong classics, James Brown at note perfect pitch, hit a wail like Michael Jackson, bring out Mindi Abair…what did this guy not do, short of lead a parade straight out of Newport Beach?

Dave Koz…and guest. ;)

I think you would know where this one is going, but I’ll just tell you the story. That’s my job. ;)

Dave, you and I both know, is a ham. He is a major ham. He will peek over Randy Jacobs’s shoulder (regardless of whether or not he has to stand on tiptoe to do it!), give Andre Berry a kick, lead Andre and Randy on a makeshift stage-march… anything to make his audience laugh and have as much fun watching him as he has onstage. And he certainly had a blast with it.

Now, the special guest…was little Vincent Ingala.

Some people said that Vinnie is taking after Dave. And you know, that may or may not be the case. But if Dave is the example and the teacher, then Vincent Ingala is, hands down, the star pupil. In his solo show just the day before, Vincent proved that he could marshal the stage every bit as well as any other saxman in the festival. But put him on stage with Dave and toss in The Pink Panther from Dave’s At The Movies album, and there are, once again, multiple jaw indentations on the lawn.

You know the song. C’mon. It’s impossible to miss when you hear it. It’s kicky, playful, slick, and sounds great on nearly every sax that plays it. So…Dave on the soprano, light and a bit sly, and Vincent’s tenor, rich and straightforward, take one of each, mix well, and add the exuberant energy of the song and the festival atmosphere, and the mix is combustible.

At risk of outing myself as a nerd, if Dave is the Jedi Master, this concert was Vincent’s trials, and he passed with flying colors; the audience gave a standing ovation. The Padawan has learned well indeed.

(shaddup, I’m a nerd, and I’m proud of it!)

So now, it’s the day after the festival’s wrap-up. I’m flying somewhere over Colorado right now, cloud cover everywhere, in a Delta jet taking me home. I had a blast reuniting with old friends, meeting face-to-face with my online friends, meeting new people, and drinking in an atmosphere completely unlike the NYC hustle that I’m used to. The sweet Southern California sunshine got under my skin from the moment that the plane began to circle Orange County, and I am now carrying it – and many amazing memories of people and music – back with me to New York.

With special thanks to Lory, Anita, Joy, Anisha, Tony, Len and Julie, Lisa and Char, Renata and Tamara, Bruce, Marissa, Vinnie, and everyone whom I’ve connected with on this trip. You made this a hell of a birthday weekend to top!!

Until my next high-flying adventure…

K.G.

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