By Michael YEGHIAYAN
Fans of jazz who made their way to the Los Angeles Arboretum this past weekend were treated to a performance featuring some of the most respected legends of the genre.
With a lineup that included Stanley Clarke, Rachel Ferrell, Rita Coolidge and Booker T., the Pasadena Jazz Fest was a testament to the revival of live music in the Pasadena area.
The Arboretum itself made for a fantastic venue for enjoying music. Jazz flowed intermittently from the festival’s two stages, creating a casual and laid back atmosphere as the musicians traveled across the spectrum of jazz and blues. The Jazz Fest was sponsored by the foremost hub of jazz in Pasadena, redwhite+bluezz, and produced by the affiliated company Pasadena Entertainment.
The festival opened with a series of high energy and crowd pleasing acts that set the tone for the weekend. Regulars to redwhite+bluezz would recognize house bassist Byron Miller and the redwhite+bluezz all-stars in a remarkable tribute to the late musical great Michael Jackson. Later that afternoon, the New Orleans based Big Sam’s Funky Nation invigorated the crowd with the sounds of their brass and stunning showmanship.
However, it was blues legend Booker T. who stole the first day of the show with a set list that stretched the length of his illustrious career. He played a number of songs from Potato Hole, his recent Grammy Award winning album recorded with the Drive by Truckers and Neil Young. Additionally, Booker T. treated the audience to a few songs from his newest album with the Roots’ drummer Questlove due out in Spring 2011.
Yet it was Booker T.’s classic hits that brought the crowd to its feet. “Green Onions” was met by ravenous cheers and “Hip-Hug Her” prompted a sizable conga line across the grass. These were the moments that Booker T. sights as a large part of his inspiration as an artist.
“I don’t really push myself, music comes to me and I try and capture it,” he said. “These big festivals are great because you get to play in front of a
lot of people that love the music and get into what you’re playing.”