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UPDATED: Playboy Jazz Festival hosts free concert

Posted: April 5, 2011 3:57 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2011 3:18 p.m.

Master saxophonist and composer Justo Almario played a free concert presented by the Playboy Jazz Festival on Sunday, May 1 in Beverly Hills.

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Acclaimed multi-talented master saxophonist and composer Justo Almario brought his distinctive fusion of jazz, South-American and world rhythms to Beverly Hills in a free concert on Sunday, May 1.

The show also featured award-winning Israeli pianist Tamir Hendelman and his Trio.

Presented by the Playboy Jazz Festival, the event took place from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Beverly Hills Civic Center Plaza, located at 450 North Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills 90210.

This is the first free concert in Playboy's series of free community events to be held in conjunction with this year's upcoming 33rd annual Playboy Jazz Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at the renowned Hollywood Bowl.

Justo Almario
A native of Colombia, Almario (also a flutist, clarinetist and arranger), went from child protégé to virtuoso by captivating audiences with his mesmerizing rhythms. His music can be heard on such diverse Grammy-winning works as Linda Ronstadt's "Frenesi," Placido Domingo's "A Mi Alma Latina," Andrae Crouch's "Mercy," Cachao's "Master Sessions" and more.

A stellar artist, he has played with Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Andy Garcia, George Duke, Herb Alpert, Dianne Reeves and numerous others. Almario was also featured on the Oscar-winning soundtracks from the films "Happy Feet" and "Sideways," has produced and played on TOLU's "Rumbero's Poetry," and appeared as the featured soloist with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Walt Disney Hall's season opener in 2010.

Right now, Almario is working on an album celebrating his 50-year career.

Tamir Hendelman
Just 28 years old, musician Tamir Hendelman -- who appeared courtesy of Resonance Records -- is already in constant demand as a pianist and arranger, touring throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

A member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Hendelman has toured and performed with such acclaimed artists as Natalie Cole, the Jeff Hamilton Trio, Houston Person, John Pizzarelli, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall and Tierney Sutton, among others. Recently, Hendelman was also the featured pianist on Barbra Streisand's "Love is the Answer" and "One Night Only," recorded live at the Village Vanguard.

With his trio, Hendelman explores and interprets an eclectic mix of traditional jazz standards, Brazilian rhythms, as well as the music of his Israeli roots and the blues. His 2008 CD "Playground" was followed by "Destinations," his debut CD on Resonance Records, which went to No. 1 on the Jazzweek chart and won him international acclaim and rave reviews from Jazztimes and Downbeat.

At the Beverly Hills concert Sunday, the lineup featured Hendelman, drummer Dean Koba and bassist Ryan McGillicuddy.

"My trio has been together several years," Hendelman told The Signal. "Dean has been in there basically from the beginning. Ryan's been playing for the last year. They're both wonderful musicians and sensitive accompanists -- very, very sympatico to what I'm doing. It's really an adventure playing with them."

Hendelman said the trio's set will showcase material from "Destinations."

"It's an exciting blend of a lot of the music that I love," he said. "There's a lot of straight-ahead jazz, a lot of standards. There'll be songs from the bebop repertoire, songs by other jazz pianists. So there'll be a lot of swingin' music, plus some  Brazilian flavor and even some from the Caribbean."

An Israeli playing jazz with a South American vibe isn't as unusual as one might think. "I've always loved Brazilian music," Hendelman said. "They played it in Israel, so I grew up with that music and that inspired me to write my own original music, so it has that certain flavor sometimes. I try to soak up whatever music I love and let it come through in what I do."

While Streisand did not make an appearance Sunday, we were curious about Hendelmen's experience working with the celebrated singer on her "Love is the Answer" album.

"It was very spontaneous and natural," he said. "I was introduced to her and she mentioned to me what she wanted to do, and so I just played with her right there and we rehearsed it. (Arranger) John Clayton said, "OK, let's see what chords you're doing," and we recorded it. And I really enjoyed seeing the way she had her visions for even some of the orchestrations of some of the songs, and in the studio she knew how to express what she wanted and bring out more from the musicians."

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