Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson
August 27th was described as a beautiful and gorgeous day depending on where you were in Southern California. The Mayor of Gardena, Paul K. Tanaka and his fellow council members couldn't have asked for a better day to host the 4th Annual Gardena Jazz Festival at the tree-lined Rowley Park.
Thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Steven C. Bradford, Chairman of Gardena Jazz Festival, The City of Gardena provided a safe and relaxed place for the community, elective officials from the surrounding cities, and visitors to the city joining together to enjoy a day of music, make new friends, hang out with neighbors in keeping with the mission statement of the City of Gardena's Recreation and Human Services Department - "To provide high quality, low cost recreation, leisure and human services programs that meet the need and interest of a diverse and growing community".
I'm still kicking myself for not being able to attend the other three festivals in the past. Rest assured I'll be attending all future festivals.
The festival got under way with the beautiful and lovely talented saxophonist Jeanette Harris. This is the third time that I have had the fortunate pleasure of seeing Ms. Harris. The audience and I were thrilled with her soulful sounds on the following tunes "Gotta Go", "Just The Way It Is", "Take Me There", and "Never Too Much".
Keyboardist Lao Tizer took the crowd on an inspiring musical journey. I'm glad that I had the chance to see this performance of Mr. Tizer, who is fast becoming a rising star in the contemporary smooth jazz genre. He performed material from his previous CD's - As The Eagle Soars, Arabian Dusk, Praeludium, Golden Soul and Diversify - his latest project. His eclectic set of music performed was "A Night In The City", "Olivas Adobe", "What It Is", Her Poetry", "Improvisation (solo), "St. Stephens Green", "Diversify", and "Uptown". You will be hearing a lot about and from this talented young man in the future.
Keyboardist Marcus Coleman played a set of danceable tunes that brought the party people out of their seats and unto the dance floor. You could see people doing the electric slide throughout the park while listening to "Love and Happiness" and "Funking For Jamaica".
Violinist Karen Briggs mesmerized the crowd by playing some electrifying and beautiful music during her set. I had to get a closer look to make sure that there wasn't any sparks flying off of her violin. Ms. Briggs were aided and abetted by Brandon Coleman (brother of keyboardist in the previous band), Cornelius Mimms on bass and Cedric Anderson on drums. The highlights of her set were "Loving You" by the late great Minnie Rippleton, and "Gangster Paradise". Ms. Briggs received a well deserved standing ovation at the conclusion of her set.
Guitarist Ray "The Weeper" Fuller took the crowd down memory lane while playing a set of R&B and soul classics by artists that he worked with in the past. He begin his crowd pleasing set with "I'll Take You There (The Staple Singers), "Sweet Love" (Anita Baker), "I'll Always Love You" (Whitney Houston), and brought up Peter Michael Escovedo to add some fiery hot percussion to spiced up his closing tune "Spanish Flyer".
The audience and I were in for a special treat with the surprise appearance of Vesta. She held the crowds undivided attention by performing a remixed version of "Use Me" by Bill Withers. This song will be featured on an upcoming CD entitled Vesta Williams Does Classic Soul. This CD will be released in January 2007. Ms. Williams concluded her short set with one of big hits from the past "Congratulations". She ad lib some additional verses for emphasis that hit home with most in attendance.
Everyone was waiting for the festival debut of actor and current jazz vocalist TC Carson aka Kyle Barker of the TV show Living Single. The audience were treated to a set of straight-ahead jazz that also featured the expert backing of Patrice Rushen on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Ndugu Chancler on drums. Mr. Carson (aka-Kyle Barker) opened his entertaining set with "Afro Blue" and continued with "Cherokee", "Without You", "and "My Favorite Thing". His distinct deep baritone voice coupled with a soulful delivery of jazz standards make him a candidate to be nominated for jazz vocalist of the year, if I were a voting member of the Downbeat Magazine Readers Poll. TC Carson (aka-Kyle Barker) featured material from his debut CD Truth.
DJ Paradise, 100.3 The Beat provided music between each performance. James Janisse served as Master of Ceremonies.