By Sheryl Aronson
On Sunday, May, 28th for the first time in over 28 years, the KSBR Birthday Bash took place indoors. The site was The City National Grove in Anaheim. The fans packed the house while the all-star lineup jammed the night away. Tony Guerrero, co-host for the evening commented to The Hollywood 360:
“I already knew the Grove was a great venue. The sound was excellent. It was definitely different than the outdoor venue, it had its own unique vibe. It had a feel from the audience that seemed favorable.”
The 29th Bash had a special co-host this year, Kate Flannery, who is best known for her 9 seasons as Meredith Palmer on NBC’s “The Office,” and recently toured the country as Jane Lynch’s sidekick in Jane’s anti-cabaret act, “SEE JANE SING.” With Kate’s endless costume changes, quirky humor, and boundless energy, she added a savory, spirited tone to the four- hour concert. At one point, the comedic actress slayed the crowd with some virtuoso scatting while trading off vocals with Bill Cantos.
On the program that Sunday night were Max Bennett, Daryl Williams, Tom Dante, Tony Moore, Nathan Scott, Evan Stone, Marc Antoine, Paul Brown, Chris Standring, Keiko Matsui, Rafael Feliciano, Ramon Yslas, Mombo, Greg Vail, Greg Adams, Derek Bordeaux, Spencer Day, Slim Man, Bill Cantos, Jackiem Joyner, Jessy J, David Benoit, Brain Bromberg, and Brian Simpson. Artists making their first appearance at the Bash were guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., guitarist Doc Powell, keyboardist Philippe Saisse, and saxophonist Will Donato.
Here are some the highlights from the 29th KSBR Birthday Bash during the performances.
Chase Huna, the youngest musician of the evening at 17 years old, kicked off the the Bash with a blazing rendition of the National Anthem. He stormed the stage with his fiery sax licks which matched his fiery, glorious red hair.
Brian Simpson and Will Donato traded some bluesy, funky, fast paced riffs back and forth that led to a climatic high kicking ending.
Doc Powell whipped the frets of his guitar with a light touch yet lightning fast fingering. One could hear the layering of chords combined with such a sweet sound.
Paul Jackson, Jr. added his pure thick coating of jazz guitar when he played a Stevie Wonder song.
Keiko Matsui’s hands flowed like a river of lush water when she took the stage adding her deep spirit to the music. Jesse J took charge of her sax raising it to the heavens while blowing notes in the highest register.
Brian Bromberg’s bass solo was a kaleidoscope of the funkiest, fast flying, free form, finesse of finger plucking, I have ever seen. The other musicians onstage with him, Tony Guerrero, Will Donato, Doc Powell, and David Benoit followed suit with their bustling solos burnishing the air waves with monster chops.
The finale was led by Slim Man which started off with a Prince tribute that undulated with a frolicking jazzy tone, then turned bluesy and wild when he sung “Take Me to the River.” Hans Zermuehlen lifted up his keyboards at one point ripping up the ivories, while Chris Stranding crouched over him plowing chords on his guitar.
Another great year at the KSBR Birthday Bash!
The Hollywood 360 interviewed some of the musicians on the patio behind the theater before they hit the stage.
Marc Antoine, Guitarist
The Hollywood 360: What do you think about the new venue?
Marc Antoine: I don’t know yet but I am looking forward to playing with my friends tonight.
The Hollywood 360: What are you doing right now?
Marc Antoine: I moved back to California two years ago. I finished a record last year called, “Laguna Beach.” Two songs went to number one. I just finished a record with David Benoit, which is called, “So Nice.”
The Hollywood 360: So it’s a duo, you playing guitar and David playing piano?
Marc Antoine: There is also a drummer and double bass player. The music is like from the 60’s – jazz from the 60’s. It’s got Brazilian stuff…I love that sound.
The Hollywood 360: You have had quite a career. You are originally from France.
Marc Antoine: As an artist, I started off here. When I was in Europe, I was a session player, I would go on tour with bands. But when I moved to California in 1990… in 1993 I became a solo artist. I decided I didn’t want to work for anyone else.
The Hollywood 360: Who will you be playing with today?
Marc Antoine: I will be playing with Phillip Saisse, he’s from France and plays the keyboards. He’s played with the Rolling Stones. I will be doing something with Brian Simpson and David Benoit.
The Hollywood 360: Anything else you would like to say about KSBR?
Marc Antoine: I love those guys. I listen to them often. They go above and beyond featuring jazz music.
Paul Jackson, Jr. – guitarist
The Hollywood 360: You were just in Europe. Tell us what you were doing?
Paul Jackson, Jr.: I just finished the Dave Koz cruise. That was a lot of fun with Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, Patrice Rushen. We did a tribute to George Duke, Michael Jackson, and Al Jarreau.
The Hollywood 360: Let’s hear what you are doing right now.
Paul Jackson, Jr.: I am still touring off “Stories from Stompin Willy.” I leave to go do festivals, one in Birmingham, Alabama and in Washington, DC. I also will be doing the Nappa Valley Jazz Festival with Brian Culberston. I will be playing at the Hollywood Bowl in a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on July 18th. I will be at Spaghettini, July 22nd. I am doing the Catalina Jazz Festival.
The Hollywood 360: Are you recording?
Paul Jackson, Jr.: Yes. The new CD will be coming out in January. This will be called, “More Stories,” following “Stories from Stompin Willy.”
The Hollywood 360: Talk about KSBR… this the first time you are playing at the Bash.
Paul Jackson Jr.: Yes. I was always doing television when the Bash took place. I was on the “Tonight Show” and “American Idol” so this is the first time that I had off.
The Hollywood 360: Who are you playing with today?
Paul Jackson, Jr.: Jessy J, Brian Simpson and a whole lot of folks.
Brian Bromberg, bass & Brian Simpson, keyboards
The Hollywood 360: I had the pleasure of sitting in on your rehearsal for the George Duke Tribute Concert at the Berks Jazz Festival. How did the actual concert go?
Brian Bromberg: It was great.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about the feelings that you experienced when performing.
Brain Simpson: It was very emotional for all of us. I spent ten years touring with George… and Brian you did some recording with him.
Brian Bromberg: Yes. We all had a connection with George, but you Brian, were in his band for a long time. It was very emotional. George Duke was a beautiful man.
The Hollywood 360: Are you playing together today?
The two Brain’s: No we are not.
The Hollywood 360: Brain Bromberg, what are you up to now?
Brian Bromberg: I am getting ready to start a new record and producing other people.
The Hollywood 360: Last year you talked to me about your new CD and how you were honoring your father.
Brain Bromberg: It’s called “Full Circle,” and I play drums on it. It was a straight ahead jazz record and was something I needed to do. The next record will be completely different. Very funky. I never made a record like this before. I don’t like to make the same record every time. I like to produce different projects.
The Hollywood 360: Who will you be featuring on your new record?
Brian Bromberg: Actually, George Duke. I got him playing on a track, so that will be great. Randy Brecker, maybe George Benson…Najee. I am still talking with friends. The music is already written. I’ve been working on this project for the past several years and I am finally making it. It’s sat there stewing, so now I am going to see if I can cook the stew.
The Hollywood 360: It sounds wonderful.
Brian Bromberg: It will be nothing like I ever did before. It will be in your face, very vertical. It’s hard to explain. Jazz records are real horizontal. I am recording it in my home studio.
The Hollywood 360: What have you been doing Brian Simpson?
Brain Simpson: I’ve been traveling. I just got back from London. I also played the Majorca Jazz Festival. I will be starting a new CD, yet it’s only been six months since “Persuasion” came out. I start writing on Tuesday. I don’t have a name for it, I don’t know who is going to be on it… I will be on it.
The Hollywood 360: You are both going to be playing together again for another George Duke Tribute Concert.
Brian Simpson: Yes. We will be playing I Cincinnati. June 10th.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about KSBR and being here today.
Brian Simpson: I love KSBR. They have supported me for many, many years.
Brian Bromberg: They’re an incredible station because they keep playing the great music. I am thrilled they lasted this long. I love how they support our music.
The Hollywood 360: Anything else you would like to say.
Brian Bromberg: This is the first time it will be indoors. It will be different, but I am sure it will be fine.
Greg Vail, sax
The Hollywood 360: What are you doing right now musically?
Greg Vail: I have a get together called the Pro Jam. These are some of my Orange County friends who are all pros and we have a big jam session. It’s a full band and a lot of great singers come in to add their vocals. It’s a once a month thing which takes place at Campus Jacks by the Orange County Airport.
The Hollywood 360: I’ve been to some of your jams and they are a lot of fun. What else are you doing?
Greg Vail: I am going to be doing this concert called the KSBR Bash and it will be starting in an hour. LOL. I have done it for 24 years out of the 28 years. I used to have long, long hair when I started doing these bashes. A lot of the artists that are playing today, I am playing on a lot of their CD’s. I am on Marc Antoine’s hit single, “Why Not” and I am on Paul Brown’s CD… and I am on Hans Zermuehlen’s CD, plus Slim Man’s album. East Bay Soul just started funding for their new album too. Most of these guys, I have worked with for years.
The Hollywood 360: Greg, why do you always dress so GQ? You always look amazing.
Greg Vail: It seems to me that when I wear these red shoes, I will be in twice as many pictures. In fact, just my shoes appear in pictures without me. LOL. I like to dress well…I’m not a kid anymore… no more jeans and t-shirts.
David Benoit, piano
The Hollywood 360: What have you been doing this past year since I have last interviewed you, May 2016?
David Benoit: I am releasing three records this year which are very different. Early this year I released an album of my symphonic compositions. Then I released my all solo piano album for Steinway records, with a lot of my “Evergreen” tunes; but also some classical etudes I composed as well.
The Hollywood 360: Where can people find your records?
David Benoit: They can find them on my website. Benoit.com.
The Hollywood 360: And what was the third CD?
David Benoit: The third was with Marc Antoine.
The Hollywood 360: What do you think about the KSBR Birthday Bash this year?
David Benoit: I’ve been doing this for many years. I love seeing Max Bennett, the legends. I’ve known Max a longtime. I played in his bands.
The Hollywood 360: Are you still at 88.1, K-Jazz?
David Benoit: Yes, still doing K-Jazz as a DJ.
The Hollywood 360: Who will you be playing with today?
David Benoit: I am coming on with Marc Antoine… Maybe Brian Bromberg.
The Hollywood 360: Anything else you would like to say?
David Benoit: I will be conducting for Keiko Matsui on June 16th and we will be having a full symphony orchestra… we will be doing some new arrangements for her. June 16th, Friday night, at the Pan American Theater.
The Hollywood 360: Will you be playing with her?
David Benoit: We will be doing a number together. We’ll be jamming on two acoustic pianos.
Will Donato, sax
The Hollywood 360: Will, you have just begun hosting Smooth Saturdays with Aysha on LA Talk Radio. Talk about how you like doing the program?
Will Donato: I am so surprised about how much fun I am having. Normally I am on the other side of the camera. I really enjoy it. It’s fun starting the day with people I love being around and we always have fun guests.
The Hollywood 360: What are you doing right now? You have a new CD out.
Will Donato: I have a brand new CD in the works called, “Super Sonic.” I am producing this record. I’ve never done that before. I have a lot of signature players that I love being around, like Darryl Williams, Roberto Valle, Steve Oliver, Tony Moore and a lot more people. It’s the first time I am getting to use my home studio.
The Hollywood 360: What is your favorite song on the Cd?
Will Donato: I actually wrote a ballad for my wife called, “Captivated.” We were recording it the other day. The verse was so beautiful but I didn’t think the bridge was powerful enough… but I had gone into the studio thinking I have the world’s greatest bridge, but then I felt it wasn’t good enough for my wife. When you write something for the one you love, it has to be the best. I am retooling it right now.
The Hollywood 360: What do enjoy the most about playing your sax? You look so debonair plus you really blow your horn.
Will Donato: I don’t mean to sound trite. I had throat cancer, so every day is a gift. I like celebrating people with music. It’s an outward art. Yet at the same time you can’t just show up. You have to have the skill and the mindset. I work very hard behind the scenes to make it look easy. Sometimes I will spot someone in the crowd who I don’t think is getting enough love, and I will celebrate them with my sax.
The Hollywood 360: You haven’t played with KSBR in a long time.
Will Donato: I played here 20 years ago in 1997. I just started doing other things but then I realized how much fun it is playing here.
The Hollywood 360: Anything else you would like to say.
Will Donato: It’s all about bringing peace and enjoying the world.
Keiko Matsui, piano
The Hollywood 360: Keiko, you have been traveling the world. Let’s hear about your adventures.
Keiko Matsui: I did a smooth jazz cruise in the Caribbean. Then I started “Journey to the Heart,” world tour, spent two weeks in Russia and did 12 shows. Nine of those shows were piano solo. I just got back from Tokyo…
The Hollywood 360: What are you promoting?
Keiko Matsui: Actually I was promoting my new upcoming show on July 27th which will be at the Yamaha Hall, and I will be featured as a soloist pianist.
The Hollywood 360: You are also having an upcoming concert here in Los Angeles. Please tell us about it.
Keiko Matsui: June 16th I will be at the Aratani Theater in downtown Los Angeles, featuring the American Asian Youth Orchestra, the conductor is David Benoit. I am the guest performer.
The Hollywood 360: How has your CD been doing, “Journey to the Heart?”
Keiko Matsui: Great, because I receive so many emails from my fans saying how much my new songs touch their hearts. So honored.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about being here at KSBR.
Keiko Matsui: This is so special beacause I am reunited with my drummer and my bassist, Joe Perrone and Tom Landers… we recorded about thirty years ago.
The Hollywood 360: Is there anything else you would like to say Keiko?
Keiko Matsui: Still in this era, the live concert is the root of music. Please come to my shows and I want to share that emotion and experience with everyone.
Jessy J, Sax
The Hollywood 360: How was it tonight playing?
Jessy J: It was amazing. I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in a really long time. This was the first time I met Doc Powell. I heard his music for years and years and when I found out he was here, I was excited.
The Hollywood 360: The saxophone section was sizzling tonight.
Jessy J: Yes. They were hot!
The Hollywood 360: Tell us what you are doing.
Jessy J: On June 17th I will be playing at Jazz at the Creek in San Diego and in July I will be at the Winter Park Jazz Festival in Colorado, and in August Santa Barbara at the Granada Theater, the Oxnard Jazz Festival, the San Antonio Jazz Festival and back to San Diego for a jazz festival. In December I will be at Spaghettini for my Christmas concert. It will be a busy year.
The Hollywood 360: Talk About your CD and what is going on with it.
Jessy J: My latest album is “California Christmas” and before that I had “My One and Only One” that has songs from my travel to Cuba. Also my song, “Magical Paradise.”
The Hollywood 360: You and Keiko Matsui were the only females tonight. How is getting up there and jamming with all the men?
Jessy J: I don’t think about it anymore because I am used to the environment being male dominated. Music in general, it’s probably less than 5% women that are involved. It was fun having Keiko backstage and we were doing our girl talk. It’s a blessing having her here. She’s such a wonderful role model.
The Hollywood 360: How did enjoy the last jam tonight?
Jessy J: It was my first time meeting and performing with Slim Man. He’s a character. He was out there singing and doing his thing and I enjoyed it. I had so much fun jamming with everyone at the end. Paul Jackson, Jr. and I have been seeing each other a lot lately. This was our third show together.
The Hollywood 360: Anything else you would like to say?
Jessy J: I just want to thank the fans that support live performances.
Tony Guerrero, trumpet/co-host
The Hollywood 360: KSBR started indoors originally and now 28 years later, we are back inside The Grove.
Tony Guerrero: That’s true. I didn’t think about that. I already knew that the Grove was a great venue. It’s definitely different than the outdoor thing…different vibe, the sound is great, good audience.
The Hollywood 360: How was it hosting with your friend Kate?
Tony Guerrero: Kate’s great. She’s always fun. We’ve been out on the road a bit and we always have good stories.
The Hollywood 360: She’s a good singer. She can scat!
Tony Guerrero: Very talented.
The Hollywood 360: What were some of the highlights for you tonight?
Tony Guerrero: The last jam was hot. I really enjoyed doing my song, we did “Over the Rainbow,” I thought Bill Cantos and Paul Jackson, Jr. played so beautifully.
The Hollywood 360: You always sound fabulous. What are you doing now?
Tony Guerrero: I am doing a lot of random things…producing and writing. Actually this week, Dick Van Dyke is going to record a song of mine. It’s a Christmas song. He’s doing his own album and I got to play on that.
The Hollywood 360: Any last words for the KSBR Birthday Bash?
Tony Guerrero: We will see you next year for the 30th KSBR Birthday Bash.
I plan on being there! Can’t imagine what Slim Man and all the fabulous musicians have up their instruments, (LOL) for topping the 29th finale jam. But you can find out by joining KSBR, 88.5, Saddleback College next year as they celebrate their 30th -year Birthday Bash. The Hollywood 360 will be there as always covering this fun time.
For more information regarding KSBR: http://www.ksbr.org/
Photo Credit: Sheryl Aronson / The Hollywood 360 ( unless otherwise noted )