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Eddie Palmieri and Pete Escovedo at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival

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Summer means one thing to the jazz world - the return of several festivals around the country, showcasing a variety of artists, including Latin Jazz musicians. These events take many shapes and sizes; some cover several days while others employ a number of different musicians throughout the course of one day. Many of these summer events take advantage of the beautiful weather and place the artists (and audience) under the sun. In many cases, these festivals evolve into parties that include food vendors, artists, music business people and more. These events serve as the highpoint of my summers, and I regularly look forward to my local events.

This past Sunday, I had the good fortune to attend the Latin Jazz on the Green event as part of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. This outdoor event featured a day of fantastic music from Pete Escovedos Latin Jazz group, featuring John Santos, and Eddie Palmieris Latin Jazz Sextet. The event was held in Healdsburgs Recreation Park, a good-sized field set in the midst of a residential neighborhood. The concert opened with a short salsa dance lesson, moving directly into a long set from Escovedo. After a brief intermission, Palmieri stormed the stage with an extended set full of energy and excitement. The opportunity to hear a legend in a small setting made for a great day.

Pete Escovedo

In the past, Ive held a mixed opinion about Pete Escovedos work. He holds an important place in Bay Area Latin Jazz history, and the whole scene owes him a debt of gratitude. He was one of the early players on the scene, and he holds a good deal of knowledge about the music. His playing often reflects this background, and he brings a straight-ahead intensity to his work. At the same time, many of his releases have leaned towards smooth jazz, often ignoring the musics rich heritage. These releases seemed focused more on sales than artistic integrity, and they just didnt sit well with me. Unfortunately, Escovedos smooth jazz sound stayed with me, and Ive (too) often overlooked his work.

For the most part, Escovedo stayed on the straight-ahead Latin Jazz path during his performance and allowed his musicians to stretch out on a variety of standards. He featured Roger Glenn on vibraphone during a rousing rendition of the Tito Puente tune Philadelphia Mambo. As the band continued to warm-up, they jumped into a stirring version of Claire Fischers Morning. Glenn switched to flute here, providing a strong solo, and pianist Murray Low pushed the band with montunos and a strong improvisation. Unfortunately, the sound was horribly mixed during these songs, so despite strong performances from the musicians, the overall experience felt uneven.

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