Music, dancing in the air

The 6th Annual West Coast Salsa Congress takes place Memorial Day weekend, featuring a plethora of dance teams, workshops, bands and dancing for all. Joel Ball / TMT

Music and dance lovers have a variety of venues available this Memorial Day weekend, two of the more sizzling: The Playboy Jazz at the Old Pasadena Summer Fest and the 6th Annual West Coast Salsa Congress at the Hollywood Casino.

The Playboy Jazz Fest is a free community concert featuring everything from salsa to blues to contemporary jazz. The tentative lineup for Saturday includes the Tres-Dos Latin Jazz Band, Hubert Laws and the South Pasadena High School Jazz Band. The Henry Mora Orchestra, Paul Jackson Jr., Sounds of New Orleans and the Crenshaw High School Jazz Band are a few lined up for Sunday, and the legendary Poncho Sanchez is featured on Monday, along with Paul Brown and the Hamilton High School Big Band.

Later, on June 17, “Jazz on Film at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art” will screen rare and often never before seen jazz footage hosted by noted archivist Mark Cantor. The big to-do takes place June 19 and 20 at the Hollywood Bowl-the 2004 Playboy Jazz Festival. Big names such as Wynton Marsalis Septet, Etta James, Savion Glover, Herbie Hancock and Bela Fleck and The Flecktones are just a few of the tantalizing line up for the 26th Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival, MCd by Bill Crosby and Kevin Eubanks.

More information can be obtained on the jazz festivals by calling 310.449.4070.

Now, for those who want “puro” salsa, the West Coast Salsa Congress is the place to be. Five nights and four days of excellent bands, shows, dancing, contests and workshops, even a salsa party on the beach.

Here’s just of sample of who’s playing: Johnny Pacheco, who has had nine Grammy nominations and 10 Gold records; El Gran Combo from Puerto Rico; The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, winner of the 2003 Latin Billboard Award for Salsa Album of the Year-Best New Group; and Africando, composed of musicians and pioneers in Afro-Cuban music. A spectacular entertaining aspect of the Congress is the salsa dance performances. Dance groups from around the world, which have been practicing endlessly for at least a year, prepare sometimes elaborately choreographed routines.

For those who don’t know how to dance salsa, there are beginning workshops, and those who already have their feet wet, intermediate and advanced classes are taught by professionals from L.A., New York and other cities.

The Congress has grown so much that the performances, bands, open dancing and workshops take place this year in a special “salsa land,” a huge “salsa city” with a covered dance ballroom and performance tents, as well as vendor tents and a restaurant, built in the parking lot of the casino. More information can be found at

There you go. Don’t say you didn’t have anything to do this weekend.