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Stepping Out

Sweet sounds at the Long Beach Jazz Festival

Jazz greats hit all the right notes


Long Beach’s beloved Jazz Festival is back, after its brief hiatus last year.

The City by the Sea is ready to welcome the festival’s newest installment, when it returns Sept. 19-22.

Longtime Festival Producer Steve Adelson, the renowned Chapman Stick player, is glad to be on board again as artistic director and event organizer.

“After 15 years as producer, I officially ‘retired’ in 2018. Encouragement from the fans convinced me to return for another season,” Adelson says. “It’s still very gratifying to present four days of world-class music and experience the excitement of the attendees and the players themselves.”

“It still amazes me how these prominent artists want to share their talents with our community. Through the generosity of our sponsors LBJF remains free, totally free.”

The event, which started as a local “experiment” all those years ago, according to Adelson, has greatly expanded over the years. It now attracts an audience from throughout the metro area and beyond.

“Without the hassle or expense of going into Manhattan, you will experience some of the most creative music you will ever hear. Many of these musicians rarely perform on Long Island.”

The multi-national roster offers a mix of returning performers and some new additions.

“Each year I receive over 100 submissions from very good players who want to play the festival,” Adelson says. “In my role as artistic director and programmer, I must narrow it down to four days and 13 sets of music. As always, the main criteria for every band accepted is a high level of musicianship, creativity and entertainment value.”

“The international flavor is a large part of our program. This variety adds to the potpourri of sonic expression.”

The 2019 lineup showcases innovation, expressiveness and individuality. “Aside from the 13 sets of music on the main stage in the library, seven other venues around town will be presenting additional bands all four days,” says Adelson. “LBJF culminates with an all-star open jam Sunday night at Roc & Olive.”

The Michael Wolff Trio is a newcomer to the event this year, performing on opening night.

“Michael is best known as musical director for Nancy Wilson and was bandleader for many years on the Arsenio Hall Show.,” Adelson states. “He has performed on piano with Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderly and Jean Luc Ponty.”

“Following Michael will be a quartet led by the extraordinary Israeli-born guitarist Yotam Silberstein. I first discovered Yotam on a YouTube video where he was playing the music Lennie Tristano. I was so impressed I contacted him immediately and we did a couple of gigs together. So naturally I asked him to play at LBJF.”

A major highlight this year, according to Adelson, is the participation of Will Lee, who will be playing with the Oz Noy Boogaloo Band. “As some of you know, Will was the bassist in the house band for David Letterman for 30 years. He’s also a major part of the Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux. He has been recorded on over 2,000 records.”

Also, making their first LBJF appearance is Strings Attached, featuring four guitar players. Band members include Jack Wilkins, Ron Affif, Vic Juris, and Mark Whitfield.

“This group has been playing regular gigs in Manhattan, featuring the harmonic interplay of 24 strings. As a former guitar player myself, I’m very excited to hear this group,” Adelson says.

As always, LBJF welcomes back many favorite “alumni.” Some of the returning celebrated performers include festival regulars the Dean Brown Band, Bakithi Kumalo Group, Rachel Z and the New Unicorns, Alex Blake Group, Michael Manring, the Frank Vignola/Vinnie Raniola Duo, the Oz Noy Boogaloo Band, the Lepley/Cammack/Belluccio Trio, and of course, the Steve Adelson Stick-Tet.

“Dean Brown is a local Long Beach legend, fronting the band Primo for many years. Now a resident of California, Dean travels worldwide regularly with his own group. We are always thrilled to have him here, Adelson enthuses.

“Bakithi, who will always be remembered for playing the iconic melodic bass lines on Paul Simon’s historic “Graceland” album, will be bringing a quintet. If you know the song “You Can Call Me Al,” that bass interlude is pure Bakithi.”

“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.”

“And Michael Manring and Alex Blake are two of the most innovative bassists on the planet. You won’t believe your eyes or ears.”

Virtuoso guitarist Frank Vignola returns with partner Vinnie Raniola after a three year break. “His repertoire is widely varied. He spent many years playing with the legendary Les Paul in Manhattan,”Adelson notes.

“This year I look forwarding to presenting another special Stick-Tet ensemble with many special guests,” Adelson adds. “Core members of my band include master drummer Frank Bellucci. percussionist Nydia “Liberty” Mata, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, plus percussion specialist David Langlois and sax master Karel Ruzicka. True to the jazz tradition we hope to create spontaneous fireworks.”

“We greatly appreciate our sponsors who make this event possible. I would also like to thank the entire library staff and library board for their help and support. Also a special thanks and welcome to new Library Director Tara Lannen-Stanton.”

For more information, visit www.longbeachjazzfest.com.