September 23, 2011
On the year's first Friday of fall, September 23, the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach's INFINITI Summer Concert Series presented by ROLEX South Coast Plaza cooled down and amped up the energy with the series' "Jazz Attack," featuring smooth jazz musicians Rick Braun, Peter White and Gerald Albright.
As the breezy Back Bay evening neared showtime, VIP fans finished their complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cocktails and quickly headed to their seats. With another sold-out program, many fans were left with standing-room only above the outdoor amphitheater.
Trumpeter and vocalist Braun lead the enthusiastic crowd into brassy bliss from a virtual stage in the stands, sounding off his horn from the middle aisle to start the show. Braun lavishly mixes ritzy trumpeting with surprisingly sultry vocals. He's used his voice to back artists like Rod Stewart and Sade, and his 2011 release Sings with Strings finally features the embodiment of both Braun's talents, resonating as a lively lead against the album's orchestra. Braun gave the crowd a taste from the new album with the album's first track, "Time After Time."
Keeping the fans on their feet, White and Albright introduced their presence by joining Braun to amplify the smooth synchronicity of sound for the cheering fans throughout the trio's opening performance. As the opener reached its climactic segue, the attention turned to focus on smooth jazz guitarist White.
English-born and self-taught, White notes Hendrix, Page, Steve Howe, and James Taylor as a few of the influences to his lifelong connection with guitars. Performing since the '90s with a nylon-string acoustic/electric guitar, White rocked it out at the Hyatt with island flair in both his gear and in the tropical tone of his guitar melodies. White sent the fans on their own island adventures as he got comedic about a story of a horse, and introduced his song "Ramone's Revenge," receiving a standing ovation for the witty tune.
Following White's energetic act, saxophonist and L.A. local Albright sauntered onto the stage and announced, "I need my Newport Beach choir tonight!" With a confident air and a sparkle in his ear (Albright sported a large, exquisite diamond earring); Albright filled the amphitheater across the bay with feel-good dance music. Selling over one million albums and receiving a Grammy nomination for his 2010 album Pushing the Envelope, Albright impressed with effective pauses between trills and hit notes in a realm of octaves that would seem unreachable on a wind instrument. By adding humorous staccato endings to make one last statement, Albright crowned the night's lively lineup of solos with his straight-ahead sax style.
But the musicians didn't end the entertainment with their performances. The three jazz stars stuck around for album signings and crowd conversation long after the electrifying show ended.