By Sheryl Aronson, Mikey Adam Cohen and Linita Sotelo-Masters
Day III of the 29th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival featured a superb lineup, with Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr., Al Williams Jazz Society with Najee and Barbara Morrison as special guests, Stanley Jordon, the Sax Pack (Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Kim Waters), Michael Lington with Kenny Lattimore, and the big headliner ,Dave Koz & Dave Sanborn: Side by Side Saxophones.
On the JazzTyme Pavilion Stage: Ash Janga, Sabine, Marian Marie, and Wendell Musicman Moore.
The crowd of jazz fans continued to party and celebrate on this final day of the Long Beach Jazz Festival. As the intense heat sizzled the air, the jazzy, soulful, bluesy music offered that day sizzled the airwaves too. The mood was high and swinging freely.
Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr. took the stage and brought his famous full sound, using all 88 keys of the piano fueling a set that abounded with soul, funk, jazz, and gospel. This was the first time Turner has performed with his own band at the Long Beach Jazz Festival and was very excited to be given this spot in the program. Some of the artists “88 Fingers” has performed with are: James Ingram, Patti Austin, Teena Marie and was the musical director for saxophonist, Eric Darius.
After we counted his fingers and determined there were only ten…
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about how you developed your style and where you got this nickname from.
Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr.: I developed my style in church, playing a lot in church. When I started playing with different artists, they would tell me, ‘You play so many so many notes.’ That inspired me to play 88 keys for every performance because there are 88 keys on a piano. Then everyone would say, ‘Hey, that’s 88 because he plays all 88 keys when he performs, no matter what.’
(The Hollywood 360) There are only 12 notes but 88 keys on the piano so…
Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr.: There are only 12 notes, but 88 keys on the piano, so I got the instrument with the most keys.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about the Long Beach Jazz Festival.
Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr.: I usually play behind Eric Darius, I’ve played with Paul Jackson, Jr. here, so I’ve played behind people. This time I get my own band. It was very exciting… it was quite amazing. I grew up in LA…I went to school in Hawthorne and I went to college at Cal State Dominguez, so this area is home.
(The Hollywood 360) What kind of music did you play today?
Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr.: I got to play some original compositions that I’ve been sitting on for the last 20 years. It was very cool to see that come to life
(The Hollywood 360) Do you have a new CD coming out?
Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr.: Yes, I do. I haven’t given it a name yet because I was hoping that it will be finished by the Fall. Most of the music will be up on my website: Richardturnerjr.com.
The next group gushed with an impressive docket of jazz musicians, as the Al Williams Jazz Society took the stage. The Al Williams Jazz Society is headed by Al Williams on drums. Williams founded the Long Beach Jazz Festival and has been a big promoter of jazz, as the owner of various venues in Long Beach. The other musicians in the Jazz society were: George Shaw/trumpet/composer, Steven Tyler/guitarist, Frank Potenza/ trombone, Ron Kobayashi/keyboards, Henry “The Skipper” Franklin/bassist, and Doug Webb/saxophone/flute.
The special guests were Najee on flute, who is celebrating 30 years as a solo artist and the legendary, Barbara Morrison/vocals.
The Al Williams Society band blasted the crowd with superb straight ahead jazz. When Najee took the stage for his performance with the band, the artist constructed his mastery on the flute by running his precise trills with ease.
Najee revealed to The Hollywood 360 his most recent news.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about being at the Long Beach Jazz Festival.
Najee: This is the first time I get to relax a little bit because I’m playing with Al and not my band. I love that and I’m doing some traditional jazz which is good. I will be playing on a Cannonball Adderley song.
(The Hollywood 360) You’ve been traveling the world. Tell us what you’ve been doing.
Najee : I go back to New York City and do a concert there. Essence Magazine is honoring my thirty-year career in the industry. I’m doing it at the Time Warner Building next Thursday, August 18th. It will be a private concert and I will be performing with Eric Roberson, Meli’sa Morgan, Jeff Bradshaw, and Barry Eastmond. This is a major milestone for me.
Barbara Morrison, who hit the LA jazz scene in 1973, has played with so many renowned musicians : Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Etta James, Joe Sample, Tony Bennett, Count Basie Orchestra, and so many more. Ms. Morrison heads The Barbara Morrison Performance Arts Center, located in Los Angeles, which supports the Harmony Project, an after-school out-reach program that teaches children music.
(The Hollywood 360) You’ve played with so many jazz greats and have led your own bands throughout the years, talk about how jazz has evolved.
Barbara Morrison: The thing I was really proud of today was we were honoring the Jazz Crusaders. I went out on the road with them for three years and traveled around the world with them. I’ve been singing since I was 8 years old and turning professional in 1973 after I got out of school. I’ve had a chance to work with some of the greats like Ray Charles, Lou Rawls and people like that.
I’ve been doing the Long Beach Jazz Festival for 27 years. I have a lot of fun performing with the different artists.
I have a Performing Arts Center and we try and get the kids going with music.
When Barbara Morrison sung the Jazz Crusaders song, Street Life the crowd went wild and danced.
Stanley Jordan showed off his versatility by playing the keyboards, saxophone, guitar and singing as well. He musically tackled a variety of genres, such as classical, straight ahead jazz, and rock. He displayed a colorful expertise when he played Reverie, a classical composition by Debussy. It built to a wild frenzied crescendo and leveled out with intricate chords of lush melody. The next number, Jordan rocked out by playing and singing Jimi Hendrix’s Red House Blues. Needless to say, the musician received a standing ovation.
(The Hollywood 360) You play so many different genres in your set…talk about what the different genres mean to your music.
Stanley Jordan: Tonight with the show, it came and went so quickly with the hour performance. We opened with some straight ahead jazz. We did a piece called Reverie by Claude Debussy. One of the things I love to do is take music from the classical repertoire and reinterpret it with improvisation. I try to be true to the original style of music…I don’t slap some other style on top of it. I try to bring out another approach to it. We did Now is the Time by Charlie Parker and we did Song for My Father by Horace Silver which already has a Latin feel but we double timed it and went into a salsa style. The drummer soloed on that.
This was a special dedication to my Dad. I just lost my Dad in the last year so I’m feeling his spirit with me when I’m on stage.
(The Hollywood 360) You also played Jimmy Hendrix.
Stanley Jordan: Yesterday I played with Phil Lesh and Friends and they did a recreation of Woodstock. They had a lot of other artists there playing the music that was played there. In that event, I did Carlos Santana and I finished off the whole event with Jimmy Hendrix. I’m in that frame of mind.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about how you switch over so easily from one genre to another.
Stanley Jordan: I always liked different types of music. It wasn’t until I became a professional musician that most people don’t do that. In the market, they want you to focus on one thing so they know how to market you. It’s been a little challenging to me to accept that and recently I just said, forget it, I give up, I’m just going to do my thing.
Aristotle said that a work of art should have unity and coherence to it. I still follow that. So even if I’m doing different styles of music, I’m trying to make it all come together so it doesn’t sound random as a set.
(The Hollywood 360) Do you have any new music out right now?
Stanley Jordan: Right now I’m focusing on my summer music camp. At the end of this month, I will be teaching a week of music up in the Catskills in the mountains of New York. We have some great artists that will also be teaching. That is called Stanley land Music Camp. One of the things we’re doing is helping people connect with their inner genius and help people maximize their practice so they get the most out of their practice time and also practice a more holistic way so they’re really sharpening their creativity as well as their technique. We’re focusing on young adults. My daughter Julia Jordon Comata will be there and she already teaches a lot of young people.
I am just completing an album that will be released in February…I’m looking forward to that.
The Sax Pack (Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters) regaled the crowd, first, with their debonair hip dress. Each musician wore a classic suit… ]
Kim Waters in pale gray…Steve Cole in charcoal gray…and Jeff Kashiwa in a satiny, iron-steel gray. Kashiwa founded the Sax Pack in 2004, with each member being a headliner in their own right. They have released three CD’s as a group, The Sax Pack, The Pack is Back, The Power of Three.
The dynamic threesome killed it with their funky groove and a large, powerful blend of the saxes.
The Hollywood 360 got a chance to talk with Kim Waters after the set.
(The Hollywood 360) How did the sax pack get started? We want to hear your version.
Kim Waters: Everything Jeff Kashiwa said is right. Jeff started the group. He called me and Steve…it was kind of a joke at first… do some basic music…but then we did a record and the record was the # 1 record of that year. So we became a group and have been doing it almost 12 years now.
(The Hollywood 360) How to you all blend the different sounds of playing the saxes?
Kim Waters: When the three of us play together, it’s a special gel. A lot of sax players play together, it doesn’t fit. When we play together, it’s bad!
(The Hollywood 360) What are you doing now?
Kim Waters: I have a new record out in June called Rhythm and Romance. I have been doing a lot of touring throughout the summer and producing a lot. I produced my daughter Kayla’s record.
(The Hollywood 360) How do you feel about the Long Beach Jazz Festival?
Kim Waters: One of my favorite festivals in the world. I love it. The people are great.
Michael Lington and Kenny Lattimore graced the stage, dressed in crisp white jackets and black dress shirts, providing the crowd with some vocal and instrumental “heat” and soul. Michael Lington has seven acclaimed albums under his belt and his last two CD’s Soul Appeal (2014) and most recent, Second Nature (2016) contain more of the Memphis sound combined with Lington’s firm funky feel. Kenny Lattimore, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter has recently been touring with Dave Koz. He has been entertaining audiences for over twenty years with his silky smooth vocals.
The two performing together, set the stage ablaze –
(The Hollywood 360) Your show was so funky and classy.
Michael Lington: This is probably my 10th time playing here and it’s one of my favorite things. It’s right down the street from me. Great audiences, always a big crowd. This year was extra special for me. Kenny and I had a really fun show together. The audience really engaged. This was the first time I played this late in the festival. I began in daylight then the light went down…then the lights came on.
(The Hollywood 360) Talk about your new music project. You just released a CD.
Michael Lington: The CD is called Second Nature and we just released the second single from that, Memphis Strut. We’re having a lot of fun with this record. I went to Memphis to record it. It’s a very old school sound with original songs and honors the old soul music like King Curtis, Otis Redding, Jr. Walker, Sam Cooke…that kind of style. Where music just had one purpose, and that was to make you feel good.
(The Hollywood 360) Where did you grow up in Europe?
Michael Lington: I grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark. I listened to soul and R&B music on the radio. Jazz is big in Europe but I always gravitated toward the more funkier sound than straight ahead of jazz.
(The Hollywood 360) You’ve been around for quite a while enchanting the women with your vocals, talk about your career.
Kenny Lattimore: It’s been a little over twenty years as a solo artist and it’s been quite a blast. There’s been times when I didn’t feel so in love with the whole industry and the whole music thing. But performing in the last five years has given me a new life and a purpose to sing to the hearts of women, to the minds of men and encourage love…that’s my whole musical purpose. I have enjoyed it quite a bit because of my friends in the smooth jazz market like Dave Koz and Michael Lington. I am Michael Lington’s guest today.
(The Hollywood 360) You’ve sung with Dave Koz…
Kenny Lattimore: I have a Christmas album coming and I’m going on a Christmas tour with Dave Koz this year. I did Michael’s Told to Feel album and when we did the album, I said, I would love to do some dates with you. A lot of times you have collaborations on albums then the artists don’t do anything together, so I said, ‘Why not?’ That’s the greatest to make magic coming outside of the studio and doing it live. So we did several shows together, and we’re kind of at the end of that now.
Now I’m going to go back to my solo thing… my show back. Honestly, it’s because of Michael and Dave Koz I start performing a lot more and getting back to the real purpose of music which is the reason I started doing this at the beginning. It’s a blessing.
So to be here at the Long Beach Jazz Festival and be on stage with Michael and being in front of all these people not too far from LA, I think it’s going to be a blast.
Dave Koz and Dave Sanborn: Side by Side Saxophones ended the 29th Annual Long Beach Festival, lighting up the stage with their masterful performances. Dave Koz not only blew his instrument with delicious, rhythmic and colorful chops, his super charged choreography as he interacted with the musicians, burst with happiness and passion for his craft. Dave Sanborn held court blowing with intensity and fluidity, with eyes closed and spirit soaring.
Dave Koz has had nine albums hit #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts and has been nominated nine times for a Grammy Award. He has hosted his own weekly radio show for more than 20 years, and offers a premiere jazz cruise: Dave Koz and Friends Smooth Jazz Cruises, featuring the top contemporary jazz musicians world-wide.
Dave Sanborn is a six-time Grammy Award winner and has released 25 albums, eight Gold and one Platinum. Dave Sanborn has played many genres of music and has been called by critic Scott Yanow, “the most influential saxophonist on pop, R&B and crossover players of the past 20 years.”
Side by Side, the two artists closed the 29th Annual Long Beach Festival with the consummate aplomb befitting this premiere three-day event.
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
Photo Credit: (unless otherwise noted) Sheryl Aronson, Mikey Adam-Cohen, Linita Sotelo-Masters/ The Hollywood 360