October 18, 2007

All Aboard! Last Chance For 2007 Catalina Jazztrax Festival

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

The final weekend of the Catalina JazzTrax Festival begins this week and if it’s even half as good as the first two weeks you’ll want to be there, since the first two weeks of JazzTrax brought unbelievably great familiar, new and emerging talent to the historic Casino Ballroom. Outstanding performances were delivered by every performer during weeks one and two, where most artists garnered multiple standing ovations from seasoned jazz fans who traveled from around the globe to be a part of the decade anniversary of this festival. Below is a brief review of performances that were exceptional.

Newcomer Jesse Jay’s set included original songs that were fresh and infused with a contemporary Latin flavor that is sure to set her apart and quickly move her to the forefront once her debut cd, Tequila Moon, is released in February 2008.

Nick Colionne’s set was absolutely incredible and will probably be voted the best performance of the festival. Colionne can easily be considered one of the best showmen in the industry, based not only on his ability to connect with the audience but also because of his extraordinary talent as a musician. Playing everything from contemporary jazz to smooth jazz to blues to rock and roll, Colionne had the audience in the palm of his hand. Colionne’s pairing of storytelling, humor and superb musical talent make him a musical tour de force. His show is an “experience” that is unrivaled in the smooth jazz industry.

Other performances of note where delivered by newcomers Lao Tizer, and Jackiem Joyner and emerging artist Ollie Silk. Both Joyner and Silk, in their separate sets, exercised full command on stage with perfectly executed performances that equaled that of their contemporaries, making it hard to believe they are new and emerging artists.

On the ferry ride back to the mainland, I had an opportunity to talk to Silk and ask him about his experience at Catalina JazzTrax for the second year. Silk, who was voted debut artist of the year in 2006 by JazzTrax and Smooth Jazz News, said “the designation was a double whammy that was quite unexpected and a privilege that blew me off the ground”. When I asked Silk what did he think contributed to his outstanding performance this year, he replied, “experience and confidence”. “Last year was my first show in the US and since then I’ve been learning what the big guys know from experience, like Peter White… what the audience appreciates. It helps to know what the audience wants. Like the noon crowd [at Catalina], they just had their breakfast and coffee and they want to ease into the music and they want a little humor”, Silk continued. He concluded by saying, “I’ve been in the audience so I know what they want.” Based on Silk’s performance he certainly has not only learned a lot but is also aptly able to demonstrate what he has learned.

Three other exceptional sets were Candy Dulfur’s high energy, funky, and fun performance; Michael Lington’s soulful, feel-good, up tempo set, and Jazz Attack’s (Rick Braun, Richard Elliott, and Peter White) groove-till-you-can’t-move closing night concert Sunday night.

The line-up for this third and final week is:
• Friday, Oct. 19 – 7:30 p.m. - Lao Tizer, Tim Bowman
• Saturday, Oct. 20 – Noon - Jackiem Joyner, Pieces of A Dream,
• Saturday, Oct. 20 – 7:00 pm - Greg Karukas, Kirk Whalum
• Sunday, Oct. 21 – Noon - U-Nam, Paul Jackson, Jr.
• Sunday Oct. 21 – 7:00 pm - Jesse Jay, Norman Brown’s Summer Storm (Norman Brown, Jeff Lorber, Marion Meadows, Peabo Bryson)

Although I’m predicting fabulous performances from all the artists again this week, I am particularly excited to see performances by Tim Bowman and the popular and nearly legendary East coast Band, Pieces of A Dream. Although Bowman was scheduled to appear at Catalina last year, his performance was cancelled due to an unexpected illness by one of his family members. And even though we got to see a glimpse of Bowman when he toured this year with Guitars and Saxes, along with Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Jeff Golub , this will be a rare opportunity to see Bowman take center stage with his own show.

Another performance to look forward to is Pieces of A Dream, (Pieces) whose band is comprised of James Lloyd (keyboard), Curtis Harmon (drums), and Eddie Baccus (saxophone). Co-founders Lloyd and Harmon have been performing together in the greater Philadelphia area for over three decades under the names Classic Touch, A Touch of Class and Galaxy before renaming their group in 1979 to Pieces Of A Dream after the Stanley Turrentine hit song of the same name. “Pieces” was discovered by the late, great Grover Washington Jr. who produced their first three recordings, Pieces of a Dream, We Are One and Imagine This.Pieces” high-energy style and natural flair for over-the-top entertainment is sure to win the musical hearts of many on the West Coast that may not have seen them perform live before.

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: Another great reason to hop over to the island this weekend is to see and purchase the artwork by fine artist Bettie Grace Minor. Minor has an awesome array of fine art of nearly every major smooth jazz artist. To see a preview, visit http://www.minerworksofart.com/

Posted by JazzGypsy at October 18, 2007 6:47 PM