*The late great blues singer, Muddy Waters, said it best,
“Young and old, get yourself together and let the good times roll.”
Hundreds of thousands of jazz fans have attended the Long Beach Jazz Festival over the past 24 years. “These music fans travel from all across California, throughout the United States, and some international music lovers as well,” stated Al Williams, Festival Founder and Producer.
The 2012 installment of the festival is a major milestone event, presented by US Bank, celebrating the theme “Jazz and Beyond.” Friday-Pastor Wayne Chaney got the festival underway with an Opening Prayer. The festival producer honored the men and women serving in the military; and the volunteers and security were also acknowledged for their hard work.
The music portion of the show featured saxophonist, Eric Darius, to start the show in grand style. I’m wondering if Eric is willing to take the blame for bringing along some humidity from Florida. Eric heated up the setting even moreso with material from his latest CD, “On A Mission.” Additional tunes performed throughout his set consisted of, “Let’s Stay Together,” “Love TKO,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” and a new twist on “The Wobble” song and dance, to engage the crowd.
Actors Robert Townsend and Michael Jai White were spotted in the crowd during the set by the Isley Brothers. They dug deep into their classic, timeless catalog of hits including, “Fight the Power,” “Who’s That Lady,” and “Living for The Love of You.” The Blackbyrds closed out the opening night of the festival with some hip swaying jazz, funk and soul; that was so popular back in the day, and still relevant today.
On Saturday: Dat Ezy Band proved to be a tight band that excelled during their set of cover tunes with “Come On and Groove.” This could also serve as a theme for the festival. They continued to groove on “You Bring Me Joy,” “I’m Every Women” and continued with a medley of tunes by the late, great Teena Marie. Shilts showcased both his contemporary smooth jazz and straight-ahead chops during his dynamic set. Leela James set was action packed. She worked the stage and roamed into the crowd to energize the audience during her powerful set on “Soul Music,” “We Came to Party,” and “Change is Gonna Come.” Dianne Reeves is a magnificent vocalist who gave a memorable performance during the 25th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival. The festival ground felt like an intimate jazz club, as we enjoyed Ms. Reeves’ trademark vocal stylings; demonstrated on Bahail,” “12th of Never,” “Afro Blue,” “Tango de Jour” (with some incredible scat singing),”32 Flavors,” and the crowd favorite, “Better Days.”
Saxophonist Kirk Whalum’s set featured several tunes from his latest CD, “Romance Language.” He performed, “Grover Worked and Under Paid,” “Valdezin the Country,” “Do You Feel Me” with his brother Kevin on vocals, and continued with “I Will Always Love You.” A quiet hush fell over the crowd because of how much people could relate to this tune. The brothers closed their set with, “You Are Too Beautiful,” and “Love TKO.” Poncho Sanchez and Soul of Summer featuring Jonathan Butler, Warren Hill and Maysa closed out the show on Saturday evening.
On Sunday: The Jazz Search Winners kicked off the final day of the festival. Al Williams and Friends treated jazz purists to an afternoon delight of straight-ahead jazz. People were swaying and bopping to a different groove on “Cantaloupe Island,” and “Dis Here.” Les McCann and Henry “The Skipper” Franklin joined the band onstage for the always popular and relevant tune
“Compared to What.”
Vocalist Barbara Morrison livened up the festival as only Barbara can on the tunes “Sundown” and “Down Home Blues.” The festival continued with neo-soul vocalist Chrisette Michele; and we got “Down and Dirty” during the set by Rick Braun and Richard Elliott of happy, contagious smooth jazz, from their individual catalogs as well as their dual collaborative efforts: Metro Blue and RNR. The crowd and I got on board the train with Larry Graham and Grand Central Station for a set of high-energy soulful funk. The festival concluded with Keith Sweat and The Dream Tour featuring David Sanborn and Brian Culbertson.
US Bank presented the 25th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival and sponsors include Budweiser, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Long Beach Press Telegram, Long Beach Hilton, 94.7 The Wave, KJAZZ 88.1, and KJLH 102.3.
The Long Beach Jazz Festival is produced by Rainbow Promotions, LLC. Visit www.rainbowpromotions.com for information about upcoming events and concerts.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]