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David Sanborn
Little Rock Jazz Festival
Riverfest Amphitheatre
June 23

Smooth-jazz saxophonist David Sanborn electrified a warm Friday night audience of 800 people at Little Rock’s first Jazz Festival.

Sanborn had listeners swaying with his upbeat groove on “Full House,” and treated them to his sensitive side with such numbers as “Smile” and “Maputo” (from the “Double Vision” album he did back in the 1980s with Bob James). Later he and his band engaged in an infectious jam session that had the audience on its feet. Sanborn brought the evening to a sanguine close with “The Dream.”

Backing Sanborn were a handful of talented band members that included keyboardist/organist Ricky Peterson and jazz bassist/Marcus Miller-sound-alike Richard Paterson.

The festival opened with a taste of traditional jazz by the local Dave Rogers Trio — Brian Worthington on bass, Les Pack on guitar and Rogers on drums. The performance was highlighted by a solo performance by Pack, who channeled the sound of the late jazz guitarist Joe Pass; some spectacular bass plucking by Worthington, and Rogers’ intense drumming on “Ken’s Blues.” Another highlight came when Pack blended a mellow sound with an up-tempo flair on “Adrian’s Groove.”

Sultry singer Genine Perez rocked Riverfront Park and the venue with a mix of jazz, R&B, blues, rock and African rhythms during her set. Perez’s sassy voice shone throughout, but especially on “At Last” and the India Aire hit “I Am Not My Hair.”

Perez was fittingly accompanied by a local all-star band consisting of Gerald Johnson, Eric Ware, Carl Mouton, Cliff Aaron, Rico Zaragoza and Ed Lanier. Johnson played his sax with authority on Grover Washington’s “Mr. Magic.” Ware’s jazz/rock guitar playing was comparable to that of James “Blood” Ulmer. And Zaragoza’s African rhythmic bongos blended perfectly with Johnson’s sax.

According to promoter Sean Porch, tentative plans are to make the festival an annual event — something sure to be greatly anticipated by jazz fans, especially by those who witnessed Friday’s performances.

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