Los Angeles Jazz Institute celebrates the birth of Cool Jazz with a comprehensive series of concerts, films and panels in Westchester

Ken Peplowski, who played with Benny Goodman, will perform during the upcoming “Something Cool” festival

Ken Peplowski, who played with Benny Goodman, will perform during the upcoming “Something Cool” festival

By Michael Aushenker

Why wait for the weekend to go out when “Something Cool” is already underway?

Today through Sunday, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute is celebrating the landmark 1957 Miles Davis album “Birth of the Cool” and the age of Cool Jazz (1949 to 1959), the post-Bebop phase of the musical art form, with a series of 26 concerts punctuated by rare film footage, panel discussions and special presentations — all under the handle “Something Cool.”

Jazz legend Lee Konitz, one of the musicians who collaborated with Davis on “Birth of the Cool,” appears in person during the festival at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel at LAX.

“He was kind of omnipresent throughout the whole thing,” Los Angeles Jazz Institute Director Ken Poston said of the now 87-year-old composer and alto saxophonist.

“Something Cool” covers Cool Jazz’s four major strains: the Woody Herman and the Four Brothers sound, the music of Lennie Tristano and His Disciples, Davis’ “Birth of the Cool” and its participants, and West Coast Cool Jazz.

Festival concerts include: the Woody Herman Alumni Band with special guest Ken Peplowski; the Frank Capp Juggernaut Big Band performing the music that introduced Lester Young to the world; Rickey Woodard and Keith Fiddmont celebrating Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray; a remembrance of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims featuring Peplowski and Harry Allen; and a trio led by Alan Broadbent, who studied with Tristano in the 1960s. The Gary Foster All Stars, featuring Broadbent, David Sills, Larry Koonse and Putter Smith, celebrate the music of the Lennie Tristano Sextet, and a special all-star tribute to Konitz features Foster, Broadbent and Ted Brown.

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute gathers dozens of musicians for its biannual festivals celebrating jazz greats (pictured: the 2012 “Groovin’ Hard” festival)

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute gathers dozens of musicians for its biannual festivals celebrating jazz greats (pictured: the 2012 “Groovin’ Hard” festival)

There will also be a tip of the hat to the group that preceded the renowned Dave Brubeck Quartet.

“Bill Smith is coming in from Seattle to direct a concert of the original Dave Brubeck Octet that he wrote or was a part of,” Poston said.

Some of the footage includes Lester Young, Stan Getz, Woody Herman and Bobby Troup.

Sunday features a recreation of sorts of “Kind of Blue,” Miles Davis’ seminal 1959 album.

Bill Mays is also flying in from New York for a Bill Evans tribute concert, Poston said.

“Within the four days, there are a lot of important things going on. There are oral histories happening, stories being told,” he said.

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute typically holds two festivals each year: one Memorial Day weekend and another in the fall. The institute’s inaugural festival took place in 1991 at the Four Points by Sheraton LAX.

Konitz isn’t the first jazz man to be feted in person by the group. Many of the genre’s icons, including Jerry Mulligan, Kenny Burrell, Buddy Collette, Shorty Rogers and the aforementioned Stan Getz have made appearances over
the years.

The institute has been based at Cal State Long Beach since 1998 but expects to relocate early next year and is looking for a new home, Poston said. Despite the transition, he said, the group won’t waver in its mission to preserve the work of jazz greats and introduce them to a new generation of listeners.

“I’m really proud of the fact that we’re doing something that no one else is doing. What we’re doing is an ultimate tribute to the musicians and arrangers,”
he said.

“Something Cool” events happen mornings, afternoons and evenings from Thursday to Sunday in the Grand and Gateway ballrooms of the Sheraton Gateway LAX,
6101 W. Century Blvd., Westchester. Tickets are $10 to $50 for individual events or $400 to $450 for four-day passes. Call (562) 200-5477 or visit lajazzinstitute.org.

michael@argonautnews.com

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