Al Williams Honored at 27th Annual Long Beach Jazz FestivalColumnists, Jazz N LA, Kim's Kronicles — By Kim Webster on August 20, 2014 at 3:46 am
By Kim Webster
LONG BEACH CA – Although this year’s festival was 2 days, August 9 & 10 instead of the traditional 3 day weekend, it was a musical collage. Joining vendor’s row was the addition of a health and wellness pavillion of speakers translating this year’s theme “A Healthy Taste of Jazz.” “From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your support and love,” said Al Williams founder of the Long Beach Jazz Festival. He received citations, awards, and verbal accolades celebrating his retirement. Al will serve as consultant to his daughter Kimberly Benoit who will continue producing this Long Beach tradition.
On Saturday, singer/songwriter Jesse Boykins III opened the festival with poetic lyrics and music flavored with jazz, R&B, and reggae. The sax grooves of Michael Lington were like a welcome mellow breeze during the warm afternoon. Composer/pianist/songwriter Ramsey Lewis elegantly stroked those piano keys as the audience reminisced listening to “The In Crowd” and “Wade in the Water.” Composer/pianist/vocalist/songwriter Rachelle Ferrell’s voice mesmerized the audience with her range of vocals. Najee had the audience clapping and singing along to innovative jazzy rhythms from his sax and flute. Tyrese closed the evening with women, young and mature, reaching for his hand as he performed his signature hits.
Vocalist/saxophonist Rick Parma put folks in a party mood on Sunday with performances of music hits including “Before I Let Go” (by Frankie Beverly & Maze) and Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much.” Al Williams Jazz Society Band, with special guest saxophonists Wilton Felder and Ronnie Laws, honored the memory of trombonist/composer Wayne Henderson with a musical tribute. The diverse musical influences presented by Hiroshima always ignite the soul. UK singer/songwriter Daley’s performance had the ladies swooning. Al Jarreau’s performance was outstanding and playful as always, he also did a tribute to his dear friend George Duke. The vocals of singer/songwriter Will Downing romantically serenaded the audience. Singer/songwriter/producer Lalah Hathaway closed the festival with her sensuous vocals that caress lyrics and blend harmoniously with instrumental melodies.