Smooth Summer Jazz Featuring Men of Soul

Entertainment — By on September 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

Cover Photo- Jeffrey Osborne. Inside Photo- Mindy Abair.

By Paul A. Batson

There are quite possibly one million ways to spend a beautiful, late summer Sunday evening in Los Angeles. If you chose to spend it with the Men of Soul, featured at the Smooth Summer Jazz Concert at Hollywood Bowl last Sunday, you definitely made a very wise choice. The event, produced by the L.A. Philharmonic and sponsored by 94.7 The Wave, featured Smooth-Jazz saxophonists Mindi Abair and Euge Groove, along with guitarist Peter White. The L.A. Phil then served up the main course with venerable R&B/Soul crooners Freddie Jackson, Peabo Bryson, and Jeffrey Osborne.

Mindi Abair opened the show with a talented lineup that included Rodney Lee on keyboards, Andrew Berry on bass, Jamey Tate on drums, and Jay Gore on guitar. This beautiful young lady wasted no time at all in displaying the skills which earned her Best International Instrumentalist at the 2011 Wave Awards, and Best Female Artist of the Year at the 2011 Oasis Contemporary Jazz awards. About mid-way through her set, she mellowed the audience with a bluesy and soulful rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, then brought out Special Guest David Pack of Ambrosia fame. He showed he’s still got it by performing his hit “You’re The Biggest Part Of Me” as Mindy skillfully backed him up.  She finished with unusual flair by admitting to the audience that she’d been a “band geek” all throughout her high school and college years, then brought the Pasadena City College Marching Band and Color Guard to the stage to perform with her on her final number. She left the stage to a rousing ovation, and probably had many in the audience doubting that she could have ever been a “band geek”.

Euge Groove.

Euge Groove and Peter White came to the stage accompanied by Darryl Williams on bass, the powerful Eric Valentine on drums, and the fine keyboardist Gregg Karukas. This performance was high octane throughout, and seemed to wipe out any post-dinner lethargy the crowd might have considered settling into. Both were animated and enthusiastic players, and Peter White showed a repertoire of dance moves that most likely have been kept out of public view up until now. This set was accented by a scintillating drum solo by Eric Valentine that had the crowd dead-quiet until he had finished. Euge and Peter then combined on a medley of sterling soul standards smooth-jazz style, such as “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” to put the finishing touch on what had been a lively and entertaining hour.

Freddie Jackson.

After a brief intermission, a remarkably slimmed-down Freddie Jackson strode out, dressed in white down to the nines. He immediately launched into his 1985 No.1 hit single, “Have You Ever Loved Somebody”, and styled it with amazing range and vocal gymnastics. During his entire 35-minute set, he put his multitude of talent on display, and continued to prove that all of his 11 No. 1 singles were well-deserved. He was playful and engaging with the audience from the front row to the crow’s nest, and showed the flexibility that losing 107 lbs can bring. Mr. Jackson looked great and sounded as good he did in 1985.

Peabo Bryson.

Enter Mr. Peabo Bryson in a classy grey suit….He began with the slightly up-tempo “By The time This Night Is Over” in his signature tenor that made it hard to remember that this is 2012. His voice was as clear and strong as it was some 25 years ago, and his gentlemanly style was vintage class throughout the set. As he prepared to sing “Tonight I Celebrate My Love For You”, his timeless duet with Roberta Flack, he introduced a lovely and extraordinary vocalist by the name of Kristie L. White in Roberta’s stead. There was no harmonic letdown as the moving ballad ran its’ course. Peabo ended his set with a funky version of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Noboby” that served to prime the audience for the irrepressible Jeffrey Osborne.

Jeffrey Osborne.

Mr. Osborne came out at nearly a run, performing “Baby Stay With Me Tonight”, as he took the crowd by storm. His incredible energy despite his age, had the audience dancing in the aisles as he crooned and danced his way through “Back In Love Again”, “We Party Hearty” “Holding On” and other rocking hits from his days as lead singer of the R&B group LTD.  He then slowed it down a bit and treated the audience to his vast repertoire of tender love songs, none more stirring than the 1976 blockbuster “Love Ballad”. That was an obvious trip down memory lane for many as couples all over the bowl began to cuddle up and slow dance. For his finale, he brought Mindi Abair, Peabo Bryson and Freddie Jackson back onstage to help perform his world famous “Woo Woo Woo” tune  named “You Should Be Mine.” It turned into a series of trade-off between the vocalists and the sax. Mindi also showcased her vocal talents in a scat trade-off with Jeffrey that received a loud ovation.
As the performers left the stage and the crowd was filing out, the overall consensus was that years have been extremely kind to all three of these talented gentlemen, and that the Los Angeles Philharmonic had staged a classy event of the highest order.

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