What will they think of next? Anxious to draw more of the betting public, Santa Anita Park came up with a new, potentially fabulous lure: a “Concert on the Green” with three prominent jazz/rock/R&B acts filling the time between the horse races. All for an unbelievable $ 3.
A spokesman for the track said the turnout for the concert exceeded expectations — and judging by the overflow, ethnically mixed SRO crowd on the designated section of the infield lawn, that’s believable.
At least three more such concerts are being proposed for the main Santa Anita Meeting, which runs from Dec. 26 through April 24.
This concert format was, shall we say, unique. Each band played for about half an hour, then took a five-minute breather while the horses ran, then played for another half hour (“That was the quickest break we ever had in our life,” quipped Gerald Albright.). With additional half-hour set-up breaks between bands , enlivened by more races, it was a marvelously relaxed way to pace a festival.
The sound, in contrast to the picture-perfect weather, wasn’t too clear — boomy and often imbalanced, with a fun-house echo toward the rear — and it quickly dissipated into a muffled, distant din from just outside the lawn.
For most of his set, Atlantic recording artist Albright could only serve up the usual thumping, boilerplate fuzak cliches. But there were stretches of subtler, more inspired alto sax work and backing on “C Jam Blues” and “Boss of Nova.”
Capitol sax symbol Dave Koz was somewhat more engaging, playing showman to the hilt with athletic R&B-revue choreography and sporting a tougher, road-tested rock edge on his sound, thanks in part to excellent ex-Rufus guitarist Tony Maiden.
Epic’s Tower of Power, normally as tight and punching a band as one can find, never got completely in sync — not helped by the disfigured sound — and their potentially funky rhythms lay in fragments. Still, with James Brown-inspired vocalist Tom Bowes in good form, they managed to squeeze out a catalog of hits (“So Very Hard to Go,””What Is Hip?”) and some solid ’90s material like “A Little Knowledge (Is a Dangerous Thing).”