Although it's easy to complain about the "festivalization" of jazz and bemoan the fair-weather crowds that only appear at festivals, I'm grateful for outdoor gigs like the Pony Boy Records Jazz Picnic. There are jazz fans who would rather not ingest gales of smoke or undergo the rite of passage of hearing a wide-tie wearing drunk heckle a performer to play "Melancholy Baby" (it happened behind me at Jazz Alley in 1988 or '89, back when cover was a two-drink minimum). And I have yet to meet a musician who prefers an audience of gabbling drunks to semi-sober listeners.
Anyway, I attended the Pony Boy Records Jazz Picnic last year and enjoyed it immensely. It was a homey affair. The musicians were crammed on a tiny square stage. The amphitheater was easy to find (just listen for the music), the PA sounded good, and the seating (on grass tiers) comfortable. The music ranged from good to excellent. And people listened.
Pony Boy Records's second picnic has a similarly good roster. A few of the performers: Seattle trumpet legend and sometime crooner Floyd Standifer; pianist Craig Hoyer (last year, his jazzy ode to a hippopotamus was hilarious); trumpeter Jay Thomas and Buddy Catlett, a bassist who has played with just about everyone, though everyone name-checks Count Basie and Sinatra; and keep your ears open for Alexey Nikolaev, a commanding tenor saxophonist.
Vocalists are out in force too, including Karen Shivers, the Japanese singer Shoko, and Carolyn Graye, whose mostly vibrato-free voice reminds me of June Christy but with warm blood in her veins instead of liquid nitrogen. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
Catch the Pony Boy Records Jazz Picnic Sun Sept 11 from noon to 5 pm (Sand Point Magnuson Park Garden Amphitheatre, 7400 Sand Point Way NE), free.