*Long Beach, CA –The Long Beach Jazz Festival returned to grassy knoll of the Rainbow Lagoon, on Saturday, August 9 and Sunday, August 10. This was the 27th edition of the festival that put the City of Long Beach on the world wide jazz map. The weather was nice and pleasant for the most part on Saturday, and a bit hot on Sunday.
The 2014 Long Beach Jazz Festival theme was “A Healthy Taste of Jazz because of the generous dose of contemporary and straight ahead jazz, classic soul and R&B served up to satisfy everyone’s eclectic musical taste.
“A Healthy Taste of Jazz also refers to the many information booths in the Health and Wellness Pavilion to give festival goers an overall personal awakening of their body, mind and soul. Representatives from American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Be the Match-Bone Marrow Donor (City of Hope), Community Family Guidance Center, Covered California, Guard-Heart, K. I. S. Foundation (Kiki Shepard’s Sickle Cell Foundation), Loma Linda, Farmers Insurance (Financial and Estate Planning), Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Triple Step Toward The Cure Breast Cancer Foundation.
There were two additional themes that also could apply to the Long Beach Jazz Festival. “Here’s To Life” to celebrate the life and legacy of two great musicians that were honored throughout the festival. The late, great Wayne Henderson and the late, great George Duke will forever hold a dear spot in the hearts and minds of music lovers all over the world.
My other unofficial theme for the 27th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival was “Sing That Summer Song.” I chose this theme due to the plethora of outstanding vocalists on the line-up for this wonderful festival.
The groovy people were all settled into the Rainbow Lagoon to get their groove on. Jesse Boykins III got the crowd grooving early to kick off the festival. His wonderful set consisted of the tunes “B 4 The Night Is Through,” “I Can’t Stay,” “The Perfect Blues,” “Show Me Who You Are,” and “4 U 2 B Free.”
The musical soundtrack that the Long Beach Jazz Festival provided continued with the sax appeal of Michael Lington showcasing material from his latest CD Soul Appeal. He revisited the 60’s soul sounds with his arrangement of “Twice in a Lifetime/Maputo,” “Gonna Love You Tonight,” “Everything Must Change,” “Love &Happiness,” and “Come on Over.”
The tempo slowed down for the straight ahead jazz set performed by the one and only Ramsey Lewis. Someone yelled out “that’s real music” at the beginning of his brilliant set on the tunes “Close Your Eyes & Remember,” “Clouds,” we traveled to church as Mr. Lewis sermonized on “A Spiritual Medley,” followed by “The In Crowd” interspersed with a few bars of Latin tinge “On Broadway.”
Rachelle Ferrell was another crowd favorite. Her 6-octave vocal range were on full display throughout her high octane set on “Satisfy,” “Sista,” “I Forgive,” “I Can’t Explain,” “How Can We Heal Our Wounds,” and “Love is All Around.”
Saxophonist Najee opened his set with “What You Won’t Do for Love” and other gems from his extensive catalog, as well as new material from his current CD The Morning After.
Actor/Singer Tyrese wrapped- up day one of the festival with some original tunes from his previous five CD’s.
Early arrivals to the festival on Sunday got a chance to party hearty with the dynamic new vocalist/saxophonist Rick Parma. This talented Chicago native played some R&B, pop and funk laced covers to get the crowd up and dancing and singing in unison on the tunes “Before I Let You Go,” “Shake Your Body,” “Treasure,” “Happy,” “Tell Me What I Say,” and “Until the End of Time.”
Al Williams Jazz Society featuring special guests’ saxophonists Ronnie Laws and Wilton Felder in a tribute to the late, great Wayne Henderson. The band opened with “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock, followed by “Put It Where You Want It,” “Way Back Home,” “Street Life” with vocalist Sky, “Keep That Same Old Feeling,” and “Everything Must Change.”
Local crowd favorites Hiroshima kept the groove flowing smoothly with their distinct sound of jazz, R&B with an Asian influence. “Red Beans and Rice,” “Turning Point,” “State of Mind,” and “One Wish” were the tunes performed during their set.
UK soul singer Daley caused the crowd to sit up straight and take notice as he opened his set with “Pretty Wings” by Maxwell. He continued his captivating performance with the tunes “Good News,” “Game Over,” “Sweet Thing,” “Good Things Comes to Those Who Wait,” “Be,” and “Blame the World.”
Al Jarreau kept the crowd engaged as he performed classic tunes from his massive catalog of hits and demonstrated his incredible scatting ability. The second half of his program consisted of a tribute to George Duke from the CD My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke.
The 27th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival concluded with the vocal stylings of Will Downing and Lalah Hathaway.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]