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Partly Cloudy,67°
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Stepping Out
Making music at the Long Beach Jazz Festival
Fall beckons with a jazzy flavor
By Karen Bloom
Renowned jazz guitarist Frank Vignola (left) demonstrates his musical versatility with Vinny Raniolo when the duo appears at the Long Beach Public Library on Sept. 21.

As Long Beach moves forward with its post-Sandy recovery, residents and visitors are ready to welcome the annual tradition that is the Long Beach Jazz Festival. The “City By The Sea” will reverberate with some vibrant sounds, beginning Thursday, Sept. 19, and concluding Sunday, Sept. 22. Once again, a world-class group of musicians will perform in the auditorium of Long Beach Public Library, along with other venues throughout the city during four days devoted to spirited music-making.
“This is a very special year for the Long Beach Jazz Festival,” said Steve Adelson, the festival’s longtime producer. “Besides the obvious physical damage, the city took a big spiritual hit. The recovery has been remarkable in both respects and this great music event tops off a very successful summer season of beach attendance and festivities.”
On a personal level, Adelson has been organizing the logistics of the festival while rebuilding his own home, which was extensively damaged by the storm. “The recovery process after the storm has been very difficult for many Long Beach residents, including myself. We’re pleased to bring back the festival for its 11th year and hopefully bring some musical joy to people’s lives.”
“This year was atypically difficult to get sponsorship because of the devastation to many of the local businesses, our loyal supporters. We applaud all of our sponsors who rose to the occasion and understand the value of keeping the festival going. It’s s much-anticipated yearly event and we’re so pleased to be able to make it work again.”
The festival opens its 11th edition with some very exciting music to be played by international superstars of creative improvisation. “We fully expect standing room only crowds,” Adelson stated. “The response for the first 10 years has been absolutely marvelous and we anticipate a terrific turnout once again.”
Adelson’s event continues to attract a diverse group of acclaimed talents. “The level of musicianship amazes me each year,” Adelson said. “I am a true fan of all the music that we’re presenting throughout the weekend.”
As always, the festival brings back some all-star “alumni” along with a select group of new artists. Some of the returning celebrated performers include festival regular Chieli Minucci with Special EFX, Bakithi Kumalo (an integral part of Paul Simon’s Graceland Band), Frank Vignola, Edmar Castaneda, and local legend Dean Brown.
“Chieli, who is a good friend of mine, has an incredible resume as a player and a composer,” said Adelson. “His renowned band Special EFX is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and he recently toured with the Bernie Williams Band. Bakithi adds one of the signature sounds of Paul Simon’s music. He’s responsible for the catchy bass line on such songs as “You Can Me Al” and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” For this occasion, he will be bringing own personal band of international musicians.”
“Frank spent many years playing with the legendary Les Paul. Les’ vaudeville antics have influenced Frank’s stage presence, so be prepared to smile. This year Edmar is bringing a five-piece band, featuring his talented wife Andrea Tierra on vocals, leading his harp-based band. Dean Brown is making a special effort to again perform at our festival, taking a one day break from touring with Billy Cobham. We’re very pleased to have our former Long Beach resident and guitar hero revisit our wonderful city.”
Other returning bands include local big band Uppercut, a 10-piece horn band playing the music of Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago, among others, Onaje Allan Gumbs and the New Vintage Band; along with virtuoso pianists Ted Rosenthal and George Cables.
New to the lineup this year are the Levi Barcourt Group; the French band Avalon, featuring percussionist David Langlois; and The Visit with Rod Morgenstein.
“Rod was the drummer with supergroup The Dixie Dreggs.,” said Adelson, and is currently with the rock band Winger. We are very excited that Rod has agreed to play our festival. David Langlois was recently featured in Modern Drummer.”
The event brings a variety of unique styles, which runs the gamut of the jazz tradition. Each band and musician develops improvised music from their own life experiences,” said Adelson.
 He emphasized that the public should come out ready to be thoroughly entertained by these special artists. “This music will wash away any pre-conceived notions of the jazz genre. It is thoroughly entertaining and use-friendly.”
The festival still remains free to the public. “The Long Beach Public Library is still our main conduit for presenting this great musical event,” Adelson stated. “A big debt of gratitude goes out to Library Director George Trepp and the executive board. Of course, the festival could not exist without the generosity of our sponsors.”
Adelson, the acclaimed Chapman Stick player, makes an appearance with his new Stick-Tet, including master drummer Frank Belucci, pianist Bob Lepley, longtime percussionist Nydia “Liberty” Mata, and a special guest, guitarist Vic Juris. Adelson and his band will be performing a special jam with members of Rod Morgenstein’s band at the Long Beach Public Library stage on Saturday afternoon, at 2:30 p.m. He will also be at Sugo restaurant on Saturday, at 7 p.m., for a dinner set, and his trio will host an all-star jam session at the new Long Beach Hotel next Sunday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.
The Chapman Stick is a revolutionary 12-string instrument that enables the player to perform multiple parts simultaneously by using a tapping technique.
When not involved with the Long Beach Jazz Festival, Adelson continues to teach and perform throughout the U.S. and internationally. He and Minucci are also formulating a trio for a possible future tour.
Adelson expects more than 3,000 people to attend over the four days. During that period, 22 acts will play in the many venues throughout the city. In addition to Long Beach Public Library, locations include a number of restaurants — Lola’s, Sugo, Sutton Place, The Cabana, — and the Long Beach Historical Society Museum and the Allegria, along with a new venue, the Long Beach Hotel.

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