*Gardena-The City of Gardena was in a celebratory mood once again. On Sunday, August 24th, the city held its annual Gardena Jazz Festival. This is a signature event for the City of Gardena, held in Rowley Park, from 11:30AM-7:00PM.
Founded in 2003 by then Councilmember Steven Bradford, the Gardena Jazz Festival has already proven that it is one of the best in Southern California for the global jazz community.
The crowds arrived early, before the scheduled opening of the gates at 10:00AM. They wanted to find the perfect spot to enjoy and experience this day long musical festival, on this beautiful, sunny Southern California afternoon.
Rowley Park was festive with the sights of families, friends and fellow co-workers and children’s gathered for a good time. The aroma of delicious foods filled the air whether it was from the many vendors on sight, or people bringing their own picnic baskets or coolers.
The melodic mellow sounds of contemporary jazz, R&B, and some straight ahead jazz provided the soundtrack for the thousands of music lovers gathered in the park. Pat Prescott of 94.7 The Wave served as Mistress of Ceremonies with DJ Quick keeping the summer grooves flowing on the ones and the twos in between acts.
The jazz purists witnessed a wonderful presentation of jazz showcased by the award winning Long Beach Poly High School Jazz Combo 1. It is re-assuring to know that the future of jazz is in good hands after hearing these talented youth on the following tunes “Longevity,” “Moonlight Musing,” and “Fickle.” The band consisted of Sam Ross on keyboards, Tom Hughes on drums, Cole Brossus on bass, Ian Schaid on guitar, Bryan Baker on Alto sax, Brad Croes on Tenor Sax, and Tyler Lansdell on Baritone sax.
The festival continued in a jazz and neo-soul mode during the outstanding set by Raffia. The crowd was treated to Raffia’s amazing vocal styling’s on the tunes “Into My Life,” “Golden,” “Maybe It’s Not,” “Smooth Operator,” “Déjà Vu.” The second half of Raffia’s set transform the VIP section into an intimate jazz club as Raffia performed “My Funny Valentine,” “Good Morning Heartache,” “That’s The Way Loves Goes,” followed by I Believe in You and Me,” and “Please Me.”
Karina Pasian also heard the wow factor from the audience during her time in the spotlight. Ms. Pasian is a classically trained vocalist and pianist from the Dominica Republic, earning rave reviews throughout the contemporary urban music industry. Her solo performances consisted of jazz standards and cover tunes “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons,” “Misty,” “Overjoyed,” and two original tunes “Take Me Away,” and “Lately.” She stood out when she performed a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on the tunes “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “I’m Stepping Out,” “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” “Lazy,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” and “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole.
Celebrated keyboardist, composer and in-demand studio musician Brian Simpson shared his musical artistry with the captivated crowd with material from his prior CD’s. His set featured the tunes “Funk Intro,” “It Could Happen,” “Juicy,” “Just What You Need,” “Blues in G,” “Whip Appeal” with special guest vocalist Kedrick Johnson, followed by Let’s Get Close” with another special guest saxophonist Grace Kelly, “Saturday Cool,” and “It’s All Good” with Grace Kelly.
Steven Eugene Grove, aka, Euge Groove is a popular contemporary jazz saxophonist. You already know what to expect from someone with “Groove” as part of their name. Euge Groove didn’t disappoint as he performed a crowd pleasing set for his return engagement to Rowley Park. Euge Groove immediately took command of the stage on “House of Groove” followed by “Faithful Central.” He continued his energetic set with “Got 2 B Groovin” (Good God! Father!), “Livin’ Large,” “Sneak a Peek,” “Miss Bane mixed with “Chillaxin,” “Rain Down on Me,” “Old.EDU,” “Born to Groove,” and closed with “From the Top.”
A musical breeze towered over Rowley Park for the closing act for the 12th Annual Gardena Jazz Festival. Dave Koz & Friends- Summer Horns consisted of Richard Elliott, Mindi Abair and Gerald Albright. These four dynamic saxophonists sealed the deal with a simmering, highly energetic set of tunes from their latest collaboration CD Summer Horns.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based music reviewer, writer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]