Strike up the bands for a hot season

The Baltimore Sun

Just as I do with my clothes when the seasons change, I pull out or buy music appropriate for the shift in temperature.

More sun for me means more uptempo grooves at the crib and in my ride. My playlist in the past week or so has been dominated by classic disco (the 12-inch mixes of Donna Summer's "Spring Affair" and "I Feel Love"), feel-good funk (Mass Production's "Welcome to Our World of Merry Music" and Bernard Wright's "Haboglabotribin'") and sun-drenched soul (Stevie Wonder's "As" and Minnie Riperton's "Reasons").

The tunes have helped me maintain a more spirited state of mind. And with the inviting change in weather, I'm also looking forward to getting out and experiencing live music under the sun and under the moon. This year's summer concert season is dotted with what is sure to be thrilling shows.

The Capitol Jazz Fest kicks off the season May 30-June 3. The musical focus centers more on commercial smooth jazz, a genre Grammy-winning vets such as George Benson and Al Jarreau helped establish in the 1970s and early '80s. The two, who last year joined forces on the fine duet album Givin' It Up, will appear at the festival. Other major names include Anita Baker, Ramsey Lewis and Isaac Hayes. The concerts take place at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

On July 25, the Vans Warped Tour stops at the venue, featuring the white-hot rock sounds of Coheed and Cambria and New Found Glory. That same day, John Mayer, whose superlative album Continuum was one of last year's best pop releases, will play the Verizon Center in Washington.

Here in Baltimore, two major festivals will take over the city in August. The Virgin Festival by Virgin Mobile returns to Pimlico Race Course on Aug. 4 and 5 with a blazing lineup. The Police, perhaps The Biggest Concert Draw this year, are playing the fest on the first night. Amy Winehouse, the much-talked-about, slightly nutty British pop-soul singer, will also take the stage that evening. The same folks who established the successful Rochester International Jazz Festival will bring to Baltimore the Paetec Jazz Festival on Aug. 9-11. The festival's last show - starring blues and soul legends BB King, Etta James and Al Green - will funk up Pier Six Pavilion.

Hot sounds and hot fun - appropriate for the summertime.

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