A Very Successful 2019 Long Beach Jazz Festival
Magazine,Entertainment, By Ricky Richardson
Long Beach- Rainbow Lagoon was transformed into a jazz oasis this past weekend. The 32nd Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival began Friday, August 9-Sunday, August 11, 2019. Attendees enjoyed three days of music, food and health awareness. The Heath and Awareness Pavilion featured inspirational and expert wellness speakers, treatment centers, vendors, healthy food sampling stations.
Organizers of the festival, Rainbow Promotions LLC couldn’t have asked for better weather. The Weather Gods looked down favorable upon the festival, Blessing it with a picture perfect, beautiful, sunny Southern California weather with a light breeze.
A stellar-line-up of the best artists in the genres of Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Latin Jazz, R&B and neo-soul entertained thousands of fans over the three- day duration of the festival.
The festival got under way on Friday evening with an Opening Prayer delivered by Pastor Woods, followed by a tape recording of “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles. This opening ceremony was very heartfelt and poignant considering the events of the previous weeks.
Radio Personality Pat Prescott-94.7The Wave returned as Mistress of Ceremony for the evening. Guitarist David P. Stevens kicked off the program with a fiery, rockin’ version of “Pretty Young Thang” by Michael Jackson. He continued with a nice cover of “Two Occasions,” by Babyface, “For the Win,” “The One,” and concluded his set with “Give Me the Night” by George Benson. The group was made up of David P. Stevens-guitar, Jamal Randall-bass, Clifton Williams-keyboards and Bo Lamar on drums.
Sax to the Max- Michael Lington, Paul Taylor and Vincent Ingala took to the stage with enough energy to launch the nearby Queen Mary Ship out to sea. These three talented saxophonists are leaders in their own right. They opened their set with “Let the Music Take Your Mind” which served as the unofficial theme for the festival. The trio took turns in the spotlight to showcase some original tunes.
News Anchor Pat Harvey, CBS2/KCAL9 had the special honor of introducing Eric Benet. The popular neo-soul crooner closed out the first evening of the festival with new materials ad classic tunes from previous CD’s.
Saturday, Day 2- Festivities continued with an opening set by Willie Bradley. He was assisted by Jamal Randall-bass, Bo Lamar-drums, Tateng Katindig-keyboards and Kayta Matsunaco-guitar. They entertained the captivated crowd with “Doc’s Groove,” “Its Own Now,” “Life on top,” and “I’m Ready.”
Al Williams Jazz Society is always a treat to hear. Their featured guest were Barbara Morrison and Alexis Joi- A Tribute to Nancy Wilson. The group opened with “Sand Dance,” followed by “Tutu.” Vocalist Alexis Joi received thunderous round of applause for her version of “Sleeping Bee,” and “Guest Who I Saw Today.” Vocalist Barbara Morrison is a great artist adept at connecting with audiences the world over. She had the crowd in the palm of her hands on “How Glad I Am,” “The Very Thought of You” and a rousing version of “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be.”
Jazz in Pink is an awesome ensemble of talented female musicians. Gail Jhonson-keyboards, Robin Bramlett-bass, Darlene Moreno-guitar, Tomoka-sax, Dee Simone-percussions, plus Karen Briggs-violin and Mariea Antoinette-harp. They took it up a notch once again to wow the audience with expert musicality and energy. They got their set under way with “Bread, Sandwiches and KatGirl,” “Do Something Else,” Always There,” “M Q Overture,” “Give Me Your Love,” “Pusher man,” “Gratitude,” “Sugar Free,” Golden” and a unique arrangement of “Boogie Nights” to the delight of the audience.
The Jazz Classics featuring Patrice Rushen dedicated their set to the late great drummer Ndugu Chancler who a part of this wonderful group. Ernie Watts-sax, Reggie Hamilton-bass and Marvin “Smitty” Smith-drums rounded out the group. The crowd and I were bopping and swaying throughout their set on the tunes “Shorties Portion,” “I Mean You,” “The Spirit of Joy,” and “Home Life.”
I made a side trip to the McDonald’s Pavilion Stage produced by JazzTyme. Sulpacio Jones is a dynamic vocalist who the crowd and I vibing and partying with her.
Things started to heat up a bit with the presence of Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band. This year marks the 30th time that Poncho Sanchez has performed at the Long Beach Jazz Festival. Need I say more?
Norman Brown with special guest Angie Stone closed out Day Two of the festival with several of their respective tunes.
Sunday, Day Three- The final day of the festival got under way with Darryl Williams with special guest Bryan Thompson. This is a wonderful group of performers, composers, musicians and producers. The band consisted of Darryl Williams-bass, Bryan Thompson-trumpet, Phil Martin Jr., -drums, Jamal Randall-bass, Tateng Katindig-keyboards and Kayta Matsunaco-guitar.
Next up were Special EFX All-Stars with Chieli Minucci-guitar, Karen Briggs-violin, Lao Tizer-keyboards, Elliott Yamin-vocals, and Joel Rosenblatt-drums. They thrilled the crowd with “Cruise Control,” “7th Heaven,” “Baby Cakes,” and “Gather Around” to name a few.
The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman took the crowd and I on a wonderful musical journey. The crowd were delighted to hear some of their classic tunes. They rocked out on “Purple Haze,” and “Let Me Stand Near Your Fire” by the late great Jimi Hendrix.
The show continued with brilliant sets by Terence Blanchard, Arturo Sandoval with an energetic set by Brian Culberston as the closing night headliner.