LALAH HATHAWAY closes the sets on Sunday.
In a constantly changing musical environment, few things have remained a consistent. Musical styles come and go, legends rise and fall. Events gain popularity and like the late San Dimas Jazz Festival, end with saddening silence.
While the crowd that gathered in Long Beach this past weekend speculated over the drama that may or may not have caused the death of another great jazz festival, they rejoiced at the rejuvenation of a local great, the Long Beach Jazz Festival (LBJF). In its 27th year, the founder and a jazz legend himself, Al Williams has passed the baton to his daughter Kimberly Benoit, who brings a new youthful exuberance to the administrative staff at Rainbow Promotions, the parent company that runs the LBJF.
With Benoit at the helm, the LBJF continued to provide top notch entertainment that combines Jazz greats and Rhythm and Blues legends in front of arguably one of the most diverse crowds there is. Ranging from ages 20 to 80, with a sprinkling of toddler, elementary and cradle babies all present joined together singing, dancing or otherwise grooving to the tunes of classic musicians and singers.
This year’s theme was “A Healthy Taste of Jazz” and featured an equal share of music and food, as it did healthy living presentations in its Health Pavilion located adjacent to the vendors. In full swing, the vendor area resembled a bazar in Timbuktu with merchants standing in front of their booths haggling and price gouging to sell the next piece to the influx of festival attendees.
Although word was that attendance was down, you could not tell from the stage to lagoon seats blankets, lawn chairs and tents that left only the concrete walkway clear reaching all the way back to the waters of the Rainbow Lagoon and even some setting up camp across the two arcing bridges that made a circle around the water and back towards the main stage area.
Saturday’s headliner was Transformers star Tyreese who relished in the hits of his past, and hinted at a new album. Joining him on Saturday were Najee, Rachelle Ferrell, Ramsey Lewis and Michael Lington. Ferrell did double duty, playing and singing her many hits from the 80’s while Lewis took the crowd back to church with a medley of Gospel tunes. Newcomer Jesse Boykins III opened with wild hair and a crowd pleasing positive attitude.
Sunday the crowd was taken down the path of romance and elegance with the setting of the sun bringing forth more love songs than four candles and some incense. Will Downing opened the women up with a light pelting of low base thumps combined with a deep vocals and the confidence to say what needed to be said. Following him like a classy show piece wife turned CEO, Lalah Hathoway walked on stage and took over, charming the festival’s crowd with her smile and smooth voice and showed what her lineage was known for, great music layered with top notch vocals.
Also gracing the stage on Sunday were Al Jarreau, Hiroshima and newcomer Daley. Although heading into his 8th decade, Jarreau had no problem singing all of his hits in his hour long set, even hinting at his still intact prowess that seemed just as strong as his voice. Hiroshima, led by the quiet fingers of koto player June Kuramato wowed the crowd in their usual up tempo fashion. Daley, a new singer from Europe showed that he had what it takes to stand on stage with the greats.
For more information about the Long Beach Jazz Festival, go to www.longbeachjazzfestival.com. For more information about Rainbow Promotions, go to www.rainbowpromotions.com.