Stepping Out

In tune with the Long Beach Jazz Festival

Jazz greats hit all the right notes


The City by the Sea is ready to welcome the latest installment of the Long Beach Jazz Festival, which returns with another dynamic edition next week, Sept. 14-17.

Now in its 15th season, the Long Beach Jazz Festival is proud of its history as it marks its milestone achievement.

Producer Steve Adelson, the renowned Chapman Stick player, has presented over 1,000 creative artists on the Long Beach Jazz Festival main stage since 2003.

“The evolution of the festival has grown beyond my wildest expectations,” he told the Herald, reflecting on his years at LBJF’s helm. “We are considered one of the premiere jazz festivals in the metropolitan area. Two factors go into this, the generous participation of our world-class artists and, of course, the excitement from our fan base. Attendance has grown each year with continued expectations of entertaining and high quality performances.”

The event, which started as a local “experiment,” according to Adelson, has expanded over the years to include national and international artists. It now attracts an audience from throughout the metro area and beyond.

“Many of these musicians rarely perform on Long Island,” says Adelson. “It’s a rare treat to present their talents to fans who might not be able to see them otherwise.”

“Each year we get solicitations from all over the country and we must narrow them down to 14 sets of music,” Adelson says. “The decisions are tough but our highest criteria are quality, creativity and appeal.”

The 2017 lineup showcases innovation, expressiveness and international flavor. “Long Beach takes on a jazzy flavor for the four-day event as many venues join in the festivities,” he says. “From the main auditorium to local restaurants and clubs, we present approximately two dozen sets of music from over 100 musicians.”

Each edition highlights major influential musicians. “This year we are very pleased to bring in, from Nashville, legendary bassist Jeff Berlin, who actually has Long Island roots,” Adelson states. “Jeff has played with Alan Holdsworth, Yes and Bill Bruford. He’s regarded as one of the top bass players of all time.”

Keyboardist Dave Frank is another newcomer this year. “Dave is fluent in all piano styles and is master of the jazz history,” Adelson notes.

Other first-timers include guitar masters Peter Bernstein and Yotam Silberstein. “Their intuitive interplay have earned them the great respect of the guitar community. “We are also very excited to bring the innovative Michael Manring to our stage for a solo performance showcasing his totally unique style of performance.”

As always, LBJF welcomes back many favorite “alumni.” Some of the returning celebrated performers include festival regulars Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Chieli Minucci with Special EFX, Charlie Hunter, Bakithi Kumalo, Kerry Kearney, Alex Blake, and Vicki Genfan. And, of course, the Steve Adelson Stick-Tet will make their annual appearance.

“Omar Hakim has graced the stage with Sting,Weather Report, David Bowie, Madonna, Herbie Hancock, Chic, and countless others. Omar was just named chairman of the drum department at the Berklee School of Music,” says Adelson, of Hakim’s resume.

“Rachel Z has performed with Trio of Oz, Al DIMeola, Wayne Shorter, and spent six years touring with Peter Gabriel. She’s equally comfortable on grand piano and electronic keyboards.”

“Special EFX is entering its fourth decade performing as a unit. Chieli, the founder, continues to write and arrange most of the material. His other credits include composing for TV, radio and sharing the stage with an array of jazz and pop stars.

“Charlie Hunter is regarded as one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. His funky innovative approach has broken down many guitar barriers. And he’s been a great friend to LBJF.”

“Bakithi continues to tour with the iconic Paul Simon. He will always be remembered for his major contributions the Graceland record.”

As always, LBJF does not charge admission. “As a result of generous contributions, it remains free to the public. Without the fantastic support of our sponsors, this event simply wouldn’t happen,” says Adelson.

“This year I look forward to presenting another special Stick-Tet ensemble with many special guests,” Adelson adds. “Core members include master drummer Frank Bellucci. percussionist Nydia “Liberty” Mata, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, plus special guests Rachel Z on piano, T.K. Blue on sax and Gregoire Maret on chromatic harmonica. True to the jazz tradition we hope to create spontaneous fireworks.”

The festival main stage is in the auditorium of the Long Beach Public Library

“We greatly appreciate our sponsors who make this event possible. I would also like to thank the entire library staff for their help and support.”

There will be a closing jam session Sunday night at a new venue, The Junction, open to the public and players alike.

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