By Sheryl Aronson, Mikey Adam Cohen & Linita Sotelo-Masters
The 29th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival kicked off on Day II, Saturday, August 13th,once again with a superb lineup on the Main Stage: Mindless Groove, Paul Jackson Jr., Everette Harp, The Rippingtons, BWB (Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, and Norman Brown) and the headliner, Jeffrey Osborne.
As the brilliant music pervaded the air, the Rainbow Pavilion was filled with local vendors offering delectable food to entice the palate and holistic speakers sharing their knowledge with the thousands of people attending the festival. On the JazzyTyme Pavilion Stage the bands were: Railway HD Band, Niki J. Crawford, Alana & Alana Masterpiece, and Rico Moreno & The Latin Groove.
The Hollywood 360 were in front of the Main Stage when each act performed, and then behind the scenes, ready to interview and photograph the musicians on the red carpet set up by, KimiRhochelle, KRPR Media, PR Works and Rainbow Promotions, L.L.C.
Our first interview was with Paul Jackson, Jr. who plays fusion/urban jazz and is an accomplished studio musician. He has played with many world renowned musicians like Michael Jackson, Elton John, George Duke, and Barbara Streisand. He received a Grammy Award in 2015, for his performing and composing contributions to the album, Daft Punk.
(The Hollywood 360) What does it mean to you to be a part of the Long Beach Jazz Festival?
Paul Jackson, Jr.- It means a lot because it’s a local festival, and Ozzie and Kim are doing a great job putting on a great festival. The crowd is great, the sound is great, and they always have a wonderful lineup. I am just honored to be here.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about your set today playing with your band.
Paul Jackson, Jr.-I was just trying to relate to the crowd and trying to get the music past the stage and out to the people. It is my contention that people can play the record at home so they come to the show to be entertained. That’s what I try to do…make the music feel good and get it out there.
(The Hollywood 360) What are you doing right now?
Paul Jackson, Jr.-My new CD is called Stories from Stompin Willie and the single BFAM is #1 in the country right now and has been #1 for two weeks. You can get it on Amazon, iTunes. I have Jeff Lorber, Tom Scott, Patrice Rushen, Jimmy Haslip, Byron Miller, and Michael Lington on it.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about your career a bit.
Paul Jackson, Jr.-I’ve been blessed. I started off doing sessions with people from Barry White to Ella Fitzgerald to Johnny Matthias… a lot of musicians like Earl Klugh, Boney James, The Crusaders, Joe Sample then transitioned into doing solo records. My first record got nominated for a Grammy. Twelve years ago I had a number one record with, it’s a Shame and now I’m doing it again with Stories from Stompin Willie and BFAM so it’s been a long journey, but a great one.
(The Hollywood 360) You’ve seen jazz go through all of its transitions over the years since you’ve played with Ella up to now.
Paul Jackson, Jr.-It’s been great. There’s straight ahead, traditional, I’d like to see a lot more fusion come back like what they were doing in the late 70’s. A lot of great music, a lot of great people…I’ve been fortunate.
Everette Harp wowed the crowd with his improvisational chops playing two John Coltrane compositions, Central Park West then sliding into Giant Steps. We heard very dreamy licks which Harp blew with ease then the music turned around with wild, fast riffs going into double time. He told the crowd, “I’m a jazz musician, so I can’t be afraid to take risks and play John Coltrane.”
Everette Harp has recorded more than ten albums and in 2006, In the Moment released to #1 on Billboards Contemporary Jazz chart followed by the #2 chart hit, First Love.
(The Hollywood 360) What was it like to have your song, In the Moment be a #1 hit?
Everette Harp -It was great. It’s always wonderful to have a record come out and be received well.
(The Hollywood 360) Why did you choose to play some John Coltrane today in your set?
Everette Harp -We did that song on my first record I did with George Duke, First Love…the song was called Central Park West and it was a song I always loved. I never had the guts to do it, or the right vehicle to do it…to put together a straight ahead record with George. I said to myself, this will be the only chance to do it, which allows me to do it live, and then go into Giant Steps. Some people might think it’s convoluted, but I like to do it because it might inspire some sax players out there to stretch beyond what we do in smooth jazz. What we do in smooth jazz is wonderful and it provides good listening music, but it’s limited. I always try and tell young players, don’t limit yourself. I love playing funky, contemporary music, but given the opportunity and someone says can you stretch out and play something different, you should be able to do it. Don’t limit yourself and try to be famous for one thing.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about being at the Long Beach Jazz Festival.
Everette Harp –I’ve been coming here since 1991. It’s always a blast. We’ve lost a lot of our friends over the years and I miss people like George Duke. When I was standing onstage I was missing them
The Rippingtons lived up to their name when the guitar combo of Russ Freeman and bassist, Rico Belled ripped up the lines of music with their electric rock sound on the song, Spice Rack. The keyboard player, Bill Heller and drummer, Dave Karasony created an exotic sound as Jeff Kashiwa’s sax playing brimmed with an Eastern feel and a driving beat.
The Rippingtons have been on the scene since 1986 and are celebrating 30 years of being major influences in the contemporary jazz scene.
The Hollywood 360 was able to interview Jeff Kashiwa, the sax player.
(The Hollywood 360) You’re playing with your old group, The Rippingtons today. What a wonderful reunion.
Jeff Kashiwa -These guys are my family and I cut my teeth with them years ago. I’ve lost track of the number of years…way past twenty.
(The Hollywood 360) The Rippingtons have such a unique sound.
Jeff Kashiwa –It’s an interesting combination because Russ conjures up rock, some jazz, a little R&B…it’s all mixed together.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about playing for the Long Beach Jazz Festival. You’re coming back again tomorrow and playing with the Sax Pack too.
Jeff Kashiwa –This is my old alma mater, I used to live down the street. I got my degree at Cal State Long Beach, so this is my home, my second home…my first home is Seattle. The Long Beach Jazz Festival always guarantees us a huge crowd.
(The Hollywood 360) How did you think the crowd responded to the Rippingtons?
Jeff Kashiwa -I thought they dug it. I was looking at people cheering for different songs.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about what you’re doing right now musically.
Jeff Kashiwa -I’m actually subbing for my old gig with the Rippingtons because the new sax player couldn’t make a couple of gigs, so I’m stepping in and subbing for my old gig. I’m doing my own group and playing with the Sax Pack and we’re playing tomorrow – we have Kim Waters and Steve Cole. We were texting each other and asked each other what we were going to wear, because it’s going to be hot. Kim goes, ‘I’m wearing a suit,’ so we all decided to wear suits.
(The Hollywood 360) What are you working on now?
Jeff Kashiwa –I am working on my 10th solo CD and I’m in the middle of writing songs for that and should be out 2017.
The effervescent trio of BWB (Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, and Rick Braun) entertained the audience by composing a delightful symmetry by leaning into one another and wailing away on their respective instruments. Braun and Whalum blew some down home blues, as Brown tore up his guitar with a funky groove.
Each musician has had success in their careers individually. Norman Brown’s 2002 Just Chillin CD received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental, and his most recent collaboration, 24/7, with Gerald Albright, brought him a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Kirk Whalum has had eleven Grammy nominations and received a Grammy for It’s What I Do. Rick Braun has been a session musician and has toured and recorded with War, Sade, Tina Turner. Natalie Cole and Rod Stewart. Every New Year’s Eve he puts on a star studded benefit concert in Tucson, Arizona to raise money for autism.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about why your chemistry works so well together.
Rick Braun: We have been in awe of each other’s talent for many, many years. We got a start on this thing about 13 years ago. We then had a long break from each other, but we recently got another opportunity to record. We feel like it was our best effort…all original material. When you talk about chemistry…these guys…we don’t see each other for a long time, then we get together and it’s like it was just yesterday. We truly love each other.
Kirk Whalum: It’s true. When you don’t see each other every day…but when you do see them you play together, there’s actually a deeper connection. We actually used to play together unofficially at jazz festivals. You would find us…’Where’s Norman?’ ‘Find where Rick is and that’s where Norman will be and vice versa.’ We like hanging out. We also share a lot of the same influences.
Norman Brown: We refer back to the same pool of music.
(The Hollywood 360) How do you choose the songs you want to play?
Norman Brown: This new record here is about sitting down in a room and writing songs, so as far as choosing songs we’re kind of done with that for a while. But doing our own stuff – that’s where we are now.
Kirk Whalum: We’ve evolved to that now.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about playing at the Long Beach Jazz Festival.
Rick Braun: This festival is legendary. It’s been a big part of Southern California for many, many years. And to be a part of it for so many years and the memories that I have playing in this event is so great. I have my family here today. It’s a beautiful day and we’re out in the sunshine and blue skies.
Kirk Whalum: It’s the bomb.
Jeffrey Osborne riveted the fans with his ever -youthful and sensual performance. He comes on the stage dressed in an elegant suit and after a few songs, his jacket was thrown off, he jumped around and his singing grabbed the heart with his perfect pitch vocals and sweet romantic lyrics.
He has achieved longevity in his career as a super star in the R&B world, releasing 12 albums (5 Gold and Platinum). He recently released a new CD called, Music is Life and it’s the first record on his own label, Jay Oz Records.
The Hollywood 360 asked Jeffrey Osborne about the jazz standard CD he made with his mentor and friend, George Duke, A Time for Love.
(The Hollywood 360)You came out with a wonderful jazz album, A Time For Love that George Duke produced. Please talk about singing jazz and what George Duke has meant to your career.
Jeffrey Osborne – I always wanted to do a jazz record, but once I got my first single with LTD, it became more of an R&B thing and I started writing R&B songs. The companies didn’t want me to do jazz…they wanted my original R&B material. Finally, I got to a point when my career slowed down a little bit… I just said, ‘I’m going to do what I want to do.’ George Duke had produced most of my records and I told him he was the only person I wanted to do my jazz CD. Finally, we got it done three years ago, just before George passed. That was the last record he did, actually. So I feel blessed that I got to do it with George… probably my favorite person of all time, not just as an incredible artist, producer, singer, and musician in his own right, but he was the nicest guy I’ve ever met. I feel him on that record. I generally don’t listen to myself, but I listen to that record all the time. A lot of it is because I want to hear George, I want to feel George with me and I dedicate every show that I’ve done ever since then to George Duke. That’s how much he meant to my career.
Day II of the 29th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival ended. The crowds were delivered a very satisfying menu of music.
All Photos by (unless otherwise noted): Sheryl Aronson and Mikey Adam-Cohen/The Hollywood 360
The festival is held annually at Rainbow Lagoon Park at the Long Beach Convention Center on Shoreline Drive. Gates were open at 11:00AM and the show began at noon and ended at10:30PM. For more information, artist bios and to purchase tickets visit www.longbeachjazzfestival.com.
TWITTER: @LBJAZZ #LBJAZZFEST