*Gardena-The dog days of Summer is heading into the homestretch.
This could mean several things: millions of kids are heading back to school, adults are returning to universities and colleges for the Fall Semester. The end of Summer always segue into the upcoming NFL Football season.
Sadly, the end of Summer also means an end to the outdoor music festival season. The City of Gardena made sure that the Summer was escorted out with the sounds of comtemporary smooth jazz during the 11th Annual Gardena Jazz Festival.
The Gardena Jazz Festival has become a destination event for many thousands of jazz fans who flock to Rowley Park year after year to enjoy a day filled with music, food, family, and friends.
The Gardena Jazz Festival has grown tremendously since 2004, the last times I was in attendance. A capacity crowd sprawled out all across the grounds of Rowley Park, on this beautiful Southern California Sunday, August 25, 2013.
The festival got under way after the sound crew worked out the technical issues. The festival ran smoothly from that point on. DJ Quick manipulated the ones and twos to entertain the crowd enterting the venue, as well as played tracks in between acts.
World renowned bassist Nedra Wheeler lead a tight ensemble of teens that were recipients of the 2nd Annual Roderick D. Jones Memorial Scholarship. The Roderick D. Jones Memorial Scholarship Awards were given to a select group of young jazz artist who submitted outstanding essays in regards to their love for jazz while representing excellence in education as well as a passion to perform the music of “JAZZ.” The 2013 Teen Jazz Ensemble and 2nd Annual Recipients of the Roderick D. Jones Memorial Scholarship are Alice Shin-vocals, Michael Plascencia-guitar, William Cabason-keyboards, Christopher Astoquillca-sax, and Makela Session-drums.Their wonderful set list consisted of soul and straight ahead jazz classics on the tunes “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield, “The Kicker,” “Song For My Father” by Horace Silver, “Cheek to Cheek,” “Bright Sides Life,” “and closed their set with “You Gotta Have Freedom” by Pharoah Sanders. This tune was appropriate in time for the 50th Anniversary March on Washington and the captivating “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on August 28,1963. Roderick D. Jones “R.J.” was instrumental in bringing the vision of a world class jazz festival to the City of Gardena; a city that he loved and in which he lived and served his entire life. “R.J.” worked tirelessly as a devoted coach and mentor to the youth in his community and it is his name and memory that the 2013 Jazz Festival Committee is proud to award scholarships to this year’s recipients.
The festivities continued with keyboardist Lao Tizer who also made a returned engagement from August 2004. He brought along another tight band to perform some original tunes. The band members consist of Jeff Kollman-guitar, Rufus Philpot-bass, Steve Nieves-sax/percussions, Raul Pineda-drums. The crowd and I were groovin’ on “Uptown,” “Fire,Nice” with hot Latin/Flamenco influences, “Diversify,” “Downbeat,” and “What It Is.”
Guitarist Nick Colionne is the best dressed man in all of smooth jazz community. He opened his set with “Sharp Dressed Man,” and continued with “Some Funky,” and slowed the tempo down on “Rainy Day in Georgia,” while channeling Wes Montgomery, and concluded his crowd pleasing set with “Super Bad.”
Saxophonist Mike Phillips collaborated with the Hollywood High School Drumline “Pride of Sheik Nation” presented by L.A.C.E.R After School Programs(Literacy,Arts,Culture,Education,Recreation). Mike Phillips made a thunderous entrance onto the stage with the Hollywood High School Drumline on the appropriately named tune “Partying with Mike Phillips,” followed by a straight ahead jazz tune with his band “Stolen Moments.” Vocalist Ashley J joined the band for “Lady In My Life,” and “Night to Remember.” Mike worked the crowd into a frenzy while holding a note for what seem like forever through circular breathing.
Super group DW3 never fails to bring the “Partae” to each and every occassion. They brought that and more as they took the crowd on a musical journey through some classic old school soul and R&B, as well as some original tunes from their latest CD.
Mulit-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson brought the house down to close out the 11th Annual Gardena Jazz Festival that left the crowd wanting more.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based music reviewer, writer and photogrpaher. contact him via: [email protected]