The tenth annual Sweet & Hot Music Festival, a four-day tribute to the jazz sounds of the 1920s to the 1940s, is scheduled for Friday, September 2nd, through Labor Day, Monday, September 5th, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, 5855 Century Blvd., Westchester.
Performances go on from 10:30 a.m. until after midnight each day of the festival. Tickets are $35 Friday; $45 Saturday and Sunday; and $25 Monday. A four day festival pass is $90.
The performances take place in eight different rooms of the hotel.
The core sounds of the Sweet & Hot Music Festival include swing, big band, classic jazz, traditional blues, and New Orleans- and the Chicago-style jazz of yore.
The festival features tribute acts, modern acts influenced by the sound of the period and even a few old-timers of that era.
Featured performers at this year’s event include Herb Jeffries, Jack Sheldon, Banu Gibson and Ernie Andrews, and Yoshio Toyama. Special activities planned at the festival include a “Friday Night Swing Dance/Battle of the Bands,” and the “Saturday Night Dance,” with Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni and guest host Chuck Cecil of “The Swingin’ Years.” In all, the festival will present about 200 musicians in 20 bands with 40 guest artists.
There will be an open dance floor during all the performances for guests to swing dance, and oldies records and nostalgic items will be sold at the festival.
The name Sweet & Hot is a nod to the bands of the 1920s and 1930s that played “sweet dance music,” “hot jazz” or a mixture of both, according to festival director Wally Holmes.
One of the highlights of the four-day festival will be the return appearance of the Hues Corporation and the hit songs they perform from their show, “The Great American Rhythm & Soul Songbook,” including favorites from Gladys Knight, Sam Cook and The Temptations, as well as the group’s own hit, “Rock the Boat,” from 1974.
The group Pieces of Eight will add a touch of R&B to the festival lineup.
Festival favorite Yve Evans, who has been invited back each year of the festival since its inception, will play piano and sing a mixture of blues, ballads and novelties, with her smooth style of music and commentary. Evans will also host a special performance of all the divas of the festival, performing together.
Blues pianist Evans has been a musician since childhood. She has performed with Ernie Andrews, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, June Christie, Mahalia Jackson, Della Reese, Bobby Darin and Rosemary Clooney.
When Evans releases an album, she is said to prefer to release live recordings, rather than studio recordings.
Jazz and Western film crossover Herb Jeffries, a regular at Sweet & Hot, is scheduled to be back again this year. Early in his career, Jeffries, who is African-American, made it his goal to become the first “black Western star” and gain the same acclaim and respect as Caucasian cowboy heroes of the silver screen such as Gene Autry or Roy Rogers.
He succeeded in landing a starring role in the 1938 film The Bronze Buckaroo, a title that has stuck as his nickname ever since.
Even prior to his days in film, “The Bronze Buckaroo” had taken steps toward pursuing a career in big band jazz. In 1939, he landed a gig singing and touring with Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Jeffries is best known for his lead vocals on the 1941 Ellington hit, “Flamingo.” He also released a tribute album, The Duke and I, around what would have been the 100th birthday of Ellington.
A newly featured act at the festival this year will be ukulele chanteuse Janet Klein and Her Parlour Boys, who play rare and obscure musical gems from the songbooks of the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s.
The festival was started by the nonprofit Sweet & Hot Music Foundation as an attempt to preserve the dying popular music forms of the first half of the 20th century. Organizers set aside a portion of proceeds from the festival to fund scholarships for high school students who are hoping to pursue traditional jazz, blues and swing music as a profession.
The Sweet & Hot Music Foundation was started by festival director Holmes. Holmes, a trumpeter, performs each year at the festival with his band the Yankee Wailers.
Holmes began playing jazz while attending San Diego High School in 1946. At that time, he played in a band that would perform for World War II servicemen and -women, because older musicians were off to war, according to Holmes.
In 1956, he went to Las Vegas and stayed there for several years, working as a performer.
Holmes eventually developed the group Hues Corporation, for which he penned the hit song “Rock the Boat.”
In 1987 he became active with the Los Angeles Classical Jazz Festival, which featured about 200 performers and 50 groups playing big band, swing and traditional jazz of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. He worked as director of that festival for several years. There he gained the experience that he eventually used to organize the Sweet & Hot Music Festival.
Each year since the Sweet & Hot Music Festival began in 1996, organizers have taken time out from the music to honor classic jazz legends. The foundation places permanent bronze plaques with the names of the honorees inscribed on the grounds surrounding the pool area of the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.
The array of plaques is known as the Sweet & Hot Music Walk of Fame.
To date, the names of about 50 jazz legends have been inducted poolside, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Cole Porter, Lionel Hampton and Billie Holiday.
This year, the names of six more jazz legends will be added to the Sweet & Hot Music Walk of Fame.
A special Sweet & Hot Music Walk of Fame preview show and ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, September 1st. Tickets to the preview are $20.
Information, (310) 641-5700.