Most of us who enjoy jazz and attend events all around the Southland have been spoiled. We had all types of music available at hotels, clubs, boats, outdoor events, theaters and even at private homes. We were able to hear some of the finest musicians and singers in the world. Some were new names, who were just beginning their jazz careers. Others were out of colleges and music schools, ready to challenge the world. Some performers had been “working jazz” for decades and they continued to wow audiences.
We may think we know what it takes to present the music to audiences, but we don’t know anything! Our niche of “show business” is very difficult. It shouldn’t be, but jazz is a format that includes so many elements. There is so much work to do before a performer steps on stage in any venue.
There are two impresarios in the Southland who have presented the finest entertainers in the world to grateful audiences. Joe Rothman and John McClure have seen it all, experienced it all and they’ve made it look so easy. I had a few questions for them.
L.A. Jazz Scene When, why and how did you decide to create the West Coast Jazz Party in Irvine in 1995 and the Newport Beach Jazz Party in Newport Beach in 2001?
Joe Rothman and John McClure Probably the best place to start is going back to 1995, several years after Joe Rothman’s retirement of 31 years with Marriott Hotels and in his final position as General Manager of the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. While at that hotel in 1987, Joe had heard about a “Jazz Party” being held at a competitive hotel and as a big mainstream jazz lover, it became a high priority of his to move it to the Marriott which he did the next year. Being the host hotel of this quality event for 4 years really hooked him on the idea of creating a first-class jazz event. Joe felt Orange County would be an ideal place for a new jazz party and the Irvine Marriott was selected, over Labor Day Weekend, as the host hotel. In addition to Joe Knowing the Marriott’s General Manager to be a mainstream jazz fan, he asked John, who was working as a Convention Sales Director of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, if he would become a full partner in the company – West Coast Jazz Party llc. As founder and co-producer, Joe handles all of the music and hotel reservations and negotiations and John books the artists and coordinates the staging logistics. The WCJP had a great 15 year run with its closing party held in 2009.
While the WCJP gradually saw an increase in attendance each year, Joe and John felt there could also be similar success with creating a second jazz party over Presidents’ Weekend in Newport Beach, thus starting the Newport Beach Jazz Party in 2001. With our relatively warm climate in February, many of our Mid-West and East Coast jazz lovers showed us their acceptance by attending two parties a year!
L.A. Jazz Scene What were some of the obstacles you had to face?
Joe Rothman and John McClure Since the funding mechanism of holding a 4 day event in a hotel requires a majority of the attendees renting a guest room (the rental of guest rooms being the primary economic engine of a hotel) recruiting mainstream jazz lovers from around the country to come to Irvine was the primary challenge. Thanks to the support and patience of the Irvine and Newport Beach hotel’s management and so many of our artists who were willing to “invest” their time & support in performing at our parties, we have been able to enjoy strong attendance for these events over the past 22 years!
L.A. Jazz Scene How much time did it take to create the first show?
Joe Rothman and John McClure About 8 months, securing the facilities and contracting the artists.
L.A. Jazz Scene Who were the first artists that you booked?
Joe Rothman and John McClure The first artist we booked to help us “launch” the West Coast Jazz Party was Butch Miles, the well-known drummer of the Count Basie Band who Joe and I enjoyed getting to know when Butch played the San Diego Jazz Party. The list of artists we hired for our first WCJP also included Conte Candoli, Pete Christlieb, Buddy DeFranco, Ron Eschete, Terry Gibbs, Urbie Green, Jake Hanna, Holly Hofmann, Red Holloway, Luther Hughes, Roger Kellaway, John Leitham, Tom Ranier, Emil Richards, Stacy Rowles, Jack Sheldon, Andy Simpkins, Paul Smith, Grady Tate, George Van Eps, Bill Watrous and Rickey Woodard.
L.A. Jazz Scene Was that first party successful? Did you cover expenses and make a profit?
Joe Rothman and John McClure The first party lost thirty thousand dollars (although a creative success, in our opinion) with the Marriott paying all expenses the first year. We assumed all costs in year 2, cutting losses in half due to what we learned in year 1 and broke even in year 3 with all subsequent parties turning a profit- starting in 1998.
L.A. Jazz Scene After that first party, were you convinced that you could do it again?
Joe Rothman and John McClure With the amazing support of the artists, our suppliers, volunteers and most importantly the patrons, we were excited and motivated to continue bringing jazz to Orange County for a number of years but not expecting a 22 year run of producing 15 West Coast Jazz Parties and 17 Newport Beach Jazz Parties!
L.A. Jazz Scene Why are you making the 2018 Newport Beach Jazz Party your last?
Joe Rothman and John McClure Joe’s best answer; “John and I are not getting any younger”. Truthfully, we wanted to go out on a high note (presenting 5 big bands and over 130 artists for our last party) while now allowing our full attention to producing the Sunset Jazz series!
L.A. Jazz Scene What are your plans for the future?
Joe Rothman and John McClure Not wanting to disappear into the sunset of jazz impresarios, Joe and I are continuing to produce our successful Sunset Jazz at Newport summer series, with next summer being our 9th year. The event consists of 11 Wednesdays nights of mainstream jazz held in the delightful Rose Garden of the Newport Beach Marriott. Patrons enjoy appetizer and dinner selections for purchase with table service, while listening to a number of the popular artists who have appeared at both jazz parties over the years. The 2018 series will begin on July 11 and conclude on September 19.by Myrna Daniels
NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. This year’s party, featuring a big band closing each of the 4 nights, will take place February 15-18, 2018, and will again be the time for mainstream jazz lovers from around the country (& world) to arrive in Newport Beach for Jazz at the beautiful Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa. In addition to a Saturday and Sunday Champagne Jazz Brunch, daily evening concerts will take place in the Marriott’s Grand Pacific Ballroom plus afternoon pool sessions on the grounds of the resort. Title sponsor for the Newport Beach Jazz Party & Big Band Blowout is The Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea Cruise, the world’s only full ship charters dedicated to “Straight-Ahead and Contemporary Jazz”. Media sponsor will be the nation’s #1 jazz station- KJAZZ.
Thursday’s Grand Opening Night,starting at 7:30pm, will feature 3 concerts, beginning with a Weekend Preview Show hosted by Ken Peplowski with James Morrison, Tom Ranier, Chuck Berghofer, Matt Witek plus guests Dena DeRose, Scott Hamilton, Bria Skonberg & Houston Person.
The second concert will feature THE FOUR FRESHMEN plus One Great Trombonist! Closing this Grand Opening night will be Chuck Redd Plays The Music of the TERRY GIBBS DREAM BAND, featuring Joe LaBarbera and Ken Peplowski.
Fridayevening will feature 4 concerts starting at 7:00pm (as well as Saturday & Sunday evenings) with the first concert featuring the Emmet Cohen Trio with Ken Peplowski,
followed by Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen in Heavy Juice featuring Tamir Hendelman, Chuck Berghofer, Butch Miles.
The third concert will bring to our stage for the first time trumpeter & vocalist Bria Skonberg with her set including all-stars Larry Fuller, John Clayton, Chuck Redd plus special guest- James Morrison. Closing the evening will again be a big band in a tribute to the late Frankie Capp with his FRANK CAPP JUGGERNAUT directed by drummer Butch Miles.
Saturday-the third of four swingin’ nights, will open with Harry Allen’s Four Others in a tribute to Woody Herman with Harry Allen, Ken Peplowski, Rickey Woodard, Adam Schroeder, Ehud Asherie, John Clayton, Joe LaBarbera.
Concert #2 will bring to the stage pianist/vocalist Dena DeRose together with Houston Person who will lead the group including Katie Thiroux and Special guest- Bria Skonberg.
Next will be the iconic songs of Alan & Marilyn Bergman as performed by Alan Bergman, along with pianist Bill Cantos. Completing this stellar evening will be the PATRICK WILLIAMS BIG BAND conducted by Patrick Williams and featuring Peter Erskine plus some very special guest artists.
Sundaywill bring together a glorious close to “A Weekend For the Love of Jazz and Big Bands”, with the Ken Peplowski Quartet featuring Tom Ranier, Chuck Berghofer & Joe LaBarbera followed by the Larry Fuller Trio.
The next set will feature James Morrison and his sons,- Harry on bass and William on guitar plus Tom Ranier and Butch Miles. Adding variety to this final night of the Newport Beach Jazz Party & Big Band Blowout will be funnyman Pete Barbutti- Johnny Carson’s favorite comic.
Closing out this world class weekend of mainstream jazz will be the NEWPORT BEACH JAZZ PARTY ALL-STAR BIG BAND directed by John Clayton and featuring Lewis Nash on drums plus various special guest artists!
(Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon until 3:30pm), include Kevin Kanner Quintet, Tony “B3” Monaco Quartet, James Morrison Quintet, Bill Cunliffe’s Brazil with Carol Bach-y-Rita, Scott Hamilton Sextet, Two Drummers/Two Tenors/Two Trumpets- Unleashed!, Butch Miles & Friends, Mike Costley Band and the CSULB CONCERT JAZZ ORCHESTRA directed by Jeff Jarvis.
featuring David L. Abell’s Piano Legacy with 8 world class pianists-Bill Cunliffe, Larry Fuller, Tamir Hendelman, Tom Ranier, Yuko Mabuchi & others plus The Peak Experience Jazz Ensemble featuring Carl Saunders, Rickey Woodard, Ann Patterson, Ron Kobayashi, Kendall Kay & Andrea Miller.
featuring Barbara Morrison-Houston Person plus a reunion of H.E.R.K with Luther Hughes, Ron Eschete’, Tom Ranier & Paul Kreibich.
Tickets are now available for the complete four night, three-day package including one Champagne Brunch. Prices are $440/495. Individual evening reserved seats are priced at $75/$90 for Friday and Sunday; $79/94 for Saturday evening performances and $58/79 for the Grand Opening Sessions on Thursday. $30 each for “Friday, Saturday & Sunday By the Pool” and $65 for each Jazz Brunch. For tickets to the 18th Annual Newport Beach Jazz Party, call the Jazzline at 949.759.5003 or for complete artist appearance times and an order form visit our website at: www.newportbeachjazzparty.com . Those wishing to have a weekend getaway may also enjoy the Marriott Newport Beach Hotel & Spa special rate of $194 per night for a standard room, $210 for Pool/Music View, $220 for Ocean Music View and $245 for Concierge.
I’ve heard drummer Stix Hooper in concert several times. His programs are always interesting as he hires different musicians and usually has fresh arrangements ready to perform. On this evening he featured: Jamelle Williams from New Orleans-trumpet, coronet & flugelhorn, Scott Mayo from New York- saxophonist, Eugene Maslov pianist, originally from St. Petersberg, Russia and coarranger, Del Atkins from Los Angeles-bass guitar and, Andreas Oberg from Stockholm, Sweden-guitar, Zac Wolfe,with Thai roots from Eugene,oregon-soprano sax and Brazilian Cassio Vianna-keyboard.
Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” began with amazing force as Hooper touched every drum around him with his mallet. The two horns stated the gorgeous melody and the piano, bass and guitar were ready to add their voices to the tune. It was really very fine, cohesive group. Atkins’ guitar solo was crisp and clear in his capable hands. The tune was powerful yet held together with precise additions by everyone on stage. It closed with Hooper fully in charge. We have to admit that a good drummer really does drive the rest to give their best.
‘You’re My Spring” (written by Hooper) was made richer by Maslov at the piano stating the sweet melody. The audience was enjoying the music, the richness that this particular theater provides. Every instrument was clearly heard all evening. “Billy's Bounce” was so cool and sturdy, giving Oberg a chance to show us his jazz chops. So far, everything is more than good!
Oberg swung right into “And Then There Was the Blues.” (written by Hooper) Oberg’s take was so fine and quite individual. Hooper is always present, sometimes forcefully or holding back a bit, whatever the tune required. So far this concert is pretty perfect in my humble but enthusiastic opinion. It’s such a pleasure when everything works, the venue, the musicians and the material they choose to play. This night had it all! The audience applause was enthusiastic as well. They hooted and hollered when inspired!
Zac Wolfe added a lot of soul to “Samba del Cielo,“ (written by Hooper) which was so scintillating, I’m sure some were wishing for a dance floor. Good music makes fans want to dance, which is a real compliment to the group. Hooper’s drums are always present but he uses his power judiciously. He could easily swamp everybody on stage but on this evening the band is in perfect sync, so to speak. Vianna’s composition “Belmont” gave him a chance to really show how skillful he was. I was impressed by each and every musician on stage.
The audience was asked by Hooper to stand and sing the lyrics to the song, ‘Way Back Home.” The original was writte by Wilton Felder with current lyrics adapted to "loves the way" written by Hooper. The lyrics were displayed above the stage and we did a good job with the lyrics!
“Sombrero Flamenco” written by Hooper was quite dazzling, after Oberg’s glorious intro in a traditional Spanish style, at breakneck speed! Wow! Hooper drummed something like a military march. Bassist Del Atkins was so supportive all evening. Again, the audience applauded with great enthusiasm for all the fine musicians who entertained us so well. At one point one of the creators of this particular theater, Jerry Moss was introduced by Hooper. He has been in the music business for many years and this auditorium will be well used for decades. Thanks for that gift. This program, created by Stix Hooper is one of the best I heard all year. It was a singular pleasure to hear a first-class group of musicians performing wonderful compositions in a perfect auditorium.
Column was revised on 12-09-2017Myrna Daniels