JVC Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl sets a new standard for entertainment!

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

Sunday, August 19, 2007, 6:00 pm � 10:15 pm, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA

At precisely 6:00 pm on a typical 81� warm and sunny Sunday California afternoon, 94.7 the Wave�s morning host, and beloved radio personality, Pat Prescott, opened the 24th annual JVC Jazz Festival at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl, as it is commonly referred to, sits facing a lovely backdrop of the beautiful Hollywood Hills and offers patrons choices to enjoy picnicking on the lovely lush grounds before the concert or during the concert in garden or terrace box seating, super seats and benches in a sprawling amphitheatre setting. The Bowl was bustling with over 14,000 picnic basket wielding patrons who arrived early to enjoy edible delicacies of all sorts presented on custom table-scapes accompanied by crisp linens, fresh flowers, candles, wine and other beverages. The Bowl is always a place filled with light chatter, laughter, and waves and hugs between old and new friends who make this outing a group affair.

The JVC Jazz Festival is a world-wide, 7-series production that includes the North Sea Jazz Festival, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; and the JVC Jazz Festivals in Chicago, IL; Newport, RI; Concord, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Paris France; and Warsaw, Poland. Produced by George Wein and sponsored by technology innovators, JVC, the highly popular JVC Los Angeles festival is the last JVC concert in the states for the year.

The three main acts were:

  • Summer Romance starring Jim Brickman and Michael Lington
    Jim Brickman, piano and vocals; Michael Lington, saxophone; Ricky Lawson, drums; Roberto Vally, bass; Kim Hansen, keyboards.
  • Earl Klugh and His Little Big Band
    Earl Klugh, guitar; Al Turner, bass; Ron Otis, drums; David Lee, keyboards; Al Duncan, keyboards, flugelhorn; Lenny Price, alto saxophone, wind synthesizer; Josie James, lead and background vocals; Lamont VanHook, Valerie Pinkston, background vocals; Dr. Jeff Jarvis, trumpet and Director of Jazz Studies at Cal State Univ. Long Beach; Dan Kaneyuki, tenor saxophone and student Cal State Long Beach; Mike Briones, trombone and student Cal State Long Beach.
  • Dave Koz and Friends At The Movies Summer Tour 2007 With Special Guests David Benoit, Phil Perry and introducing Kelly Sweet
    Dave Koz, saxophones; David Benoit, piano; Phil Perry, vocals; Kelly Sweet, vocals; Brian Simpson, Musical Director, keyboards; Steve Theard, drums, vocals; Bill Sharpe, bass, vocals; Randy Jacobs, guitar, vocals.

Composer, recording artist, radio personality and concert headliner Jim Brickman opened the show with the title song from his 2006 CD, Escape. The richly romantic piano instrumental had light Mediterranean overtones which on the CD are performed by smooth jazz guitarist Marc Antoine. Turning to his 2002 BMG/Windham Hills Recording, Valentine, Brickman performed the title song, �Valentine� and �Simple Things�, accompanied by saxophonist Michael Lington with Brickman adding soothing vocals.

Next, Denmark born, Michael Lington, took center stage with a passionate version of �All in Love is Fair� from his 2006 CD, A Song For You released by Rendezvous Records. Lington�s has the perfect combination of a rich saxophone sound and genuinely warm personality that allows him to make a seemingly effortless and instant bond with the audience. His three-song set included two top10 hits, �Pacifica� and the gotta clap, snap or shake tune, �Show Me�, both from his 2004 CD, Stay With Me. Rounding out the set, Brickman and Lington invited audience participation to accompany their combined rendition of Brickman�s �Partners In Crime�.

At 6:55 pm, while the weather was still holding above 75� and the sunset was still in the distance, Earl Klugh took the stage to a hearty round of applause. The Grammy winning acoustic guitar player began his nine-song, hour-long set with the instantly likeable up tempo �Move�, from his 1994 CD of the same title. Reaching even further back, 27 years earlier, which is older than at least a quarter of the of the fans in the audience, Klugh performed �Take it From the Top� which was originally released in 1983 on vinyl for Capital Records. Next, Josie James joined Klugh to deliver sultry vocals on �Now and Again� which Klugh recorded with Roberta Flack in 1999 on his Peculiar Situation CD. �Living Inside Your Love�, evoked an automatic, soft, sing-along response from the audience and ushered in an ultra mellow vibe. The switch to �Mobimeitos Del Alma� (Rhythms of the Soul) �, a deeply rhythmic jazz samba, was a foot tapping refreshing change in tempo. Returning to more classic Klugh, with� This Time�, Lamont Van Hook flawlessly carried the vocals for this tune that which was originally released as an instrumental and later recorded with lyrics written and sung by Al Jarreau. The set continued with a full-throttle opening of �Twinkle� which garnered the most applause, especially after a searing alto sax solo by Lenny Price, who strutted, trotted, skipped, fell to his knees and bent over backwards without missing a beat. Keeping the tempo on hyper, Klugh plunged into a hot and saucy tune titled �Dr Macumba� from his 1977 CD titled Finger Painting. This eleven-minute arrangement featured solos by Al Duncan on trombone; Ron Otis on drums and Al Turner on bass who slapped the guitar like it had stolen something. The final song, �Back in Central Park� was from Klugh�s 1983 Low Ride CD, chosen by Klugh as a reminder of his early years of playing in New York�s Central Park. The set included a diverse selection of numbers that all conveyed the very distinctly rich sound that has made Klugh a legend worth hearing whenever he�s in a nearby town. Klugh�s next US performances will be on 9/9/07 at the Liberty Jazz Festival in New Jersey City, New Jersey and on 10/27/07 at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Cerritos, CA where he will be performing with Brenda Russell.

Arriving on the stage about a half-hour past sunset at 8:09 pm, was the headlining act, Dave Koz and Friends At The Movies Summer Tour 2007 With Special Guests David Benoit, Phil Perry and introducing Kelly Sweet. The two-hour set featured 20 songs, showcasing the superb talents of each performer, including the �killer band� comprised of Brian Simpson, Musical Director, keyboards; Steve Theard, drums, vocals; Bill Sharpe, bass, vocals; and Randy Jacobs, guitar, vocals.

The opening number, �Give It Up� from Koz� 2003 Saxophonic CD showed the choreographed footwork of Koz, Jacobs and Sharpe which ignited applause and whistles from the audience even before Koz jumped on the piano stool while both he and Benoit continued playing at a feverish pace. Other songs in the first hour included:

  • �Honey Dipped� (Koz, Saxophonic, 2003)

  • �Tender is the Night�, featured vocals by multi-octave vocalist, Phil Perry, who garnered the first standing ovation of the last set. The pairing of Koz and Perry on this summer tour reunited the two musicians after 17 years. The two last appeared on tour together when Koz was on his first tour promoting his Lucky Man CD on Capital Records in 1990.

  • �Beat Street� (David Benoit, 2006, Full Circle CD, Peak Records), featuring solos by Theard and Simpson and ended with Benoit and Simpson on dueling keys.

  • Dave Brubeck�s �Blue Rondo� brought Klugh back to the stage to perform a very swinging, traditional, bluesy jazz standard with Koz, Benoit , Sharpe and Theard taking alternate solos.

  • Next up was newcomer, 19-year old Kelly Sweet who has already performed over 500 concerts in the US, including gigs for Paul Simon, Kenny Loggings and Anita Baker. Sweet performed two songs, �Raincoat�: and �We Are One� from her acclaimed 2007 debut We Are One CD. This is Sweet�s first national tour. Her crisp, clean voice carries the sound of �experienced innocence�.

  • Phil Perry returned to not only sing Christopher Cross� hit, �Ride Like the Wind� but he also showed his sense of humor and acting ability as he moved mockingly like he was riding in the wind. Perry clad in all white including a white straw hat, took turns matching his vocal scats with Jacobs� scats on bass.

  • �Silverlining� ended the first hour.

The last hour of the show in the darkness of the night simulated the feel of being at the drive in as it began with a brief video clip introducing Dave Koz� latest concept CD, At the Movies. On the CD Koz collaborates with guests India. Arie, Anita Baker, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Donna Summer and Vanessa Williams and features eleven songs that were Oscar winners and four of them appear in the Top 10 of the American Film Institute�s list of 100 Top Movie Songs. Nearly each song was accompanied by props and/or background dancers who were perfectly costumed for each movie theme and never distracted from the well-delivered musical performances.

The final hour brought these musical performances:

  • �Time Goes By� from the movie Casablanca where Koz walked the perimeter of the stage clad in a in trench coat and hat playing a sax solo.

  • �Moon River� from the film Breakfast at Tiffany�s featured Perry and included another scatting competition between Perry and Jacobs on bass.

  • The Pink Panther from the movie of the same title.

  • Koz played an emotionally charged version of �Over the Rainbow� from The Wizard of Oz, dedicated by to his mother, Audrey, who passed away two years ago right before the inaugural sailing of Koz� first Dave Koz and Friends at Sea 7-day smooth jazz cruise. The stage lighting also carried the theme and was lit in five bright rainbow colors on the inside shell of the Bowl.

  • Benoit, who was presented with a white jacket, dark shades and a mock martini, by a �Bond-ese girl� was joined by Koz to perform the James Bond theme song, �Shaken Not Stirred�, which is also the title song of Benoit�s 1994 CD.

  • Next, Koz returned to the stage dressed like Austin Powers, accompanied by two dancers dressed in psychedelic print tops and boots. Staying completely in character, Koz asked the crowd, �Do I make you horny?� and the crowd erupted in laughter and cheers as Koz performed the �Austin Powers� theme song.

  • Bill Sharpe, dressed in a black, maxi leather coat, dark shades and a black beret took center stage to sing and perform Shaft to the sheer delight of the audience who in perfect unison performed the background vocals and chorus amidst smiles and shouts.

  • The classic �It Must Be You� made famous by the movie Tootsie starring Dustin Hoffman was performed by Perry to a spellbound audience. Perry�s commanding yet tender rendition was nothing short of mystical, spiritual and luminous. His evocative voice sent chills up and down my spine and brought the audience to their feet for the second standing ovation and was accompanied by wild screams and feverish applause.

  • �Car Wash� from the movie of the same name kept the audience on their feet but now they were dancing, smiling, singing and obviously reminiscing while the dancers on stage were clad in short-shorts, bikini tops and carried buckets and towels as they simulated washing down the set. Sweet, who returned to the stage, performed vocals and joined the fun with Koz doing �the bump�, an 80�s dance step.

When Koz, his special guests and the band left the stage after Car Wash, I felt it was the perfect ending to an unbelievably well executed concert. But, Koz proved me wrong and returned to the stage with his band to perform �I�ll Be There� made famous by the Jackson Five and recorded by Koz on his 1999 CD, The Dance. Koz, who was clearly emotional, thanked the crowd for their support and promised to �be there� for them and then turned to Simpson, Sharpe, Jacobs and Theard and had each play solos indicating their commitment to �be there� as well.

The audience, who was also full of emotion, was pushed over the top as Jacobs became possessed by his bass guitar and began rapidly spinning, swirling, falling to the ground collapsing backwards then jumping up and down doing air splits, followed by him playing the guitar between his knees in a very Jimmy Hendrix kind of fervor. And, if that wasn�t enough, Theard, the drummer who had been holding down the beat and quietly providing background vocals the entire concert, belted out a high pitch chorus that nearly made the audience run up on stage and grab him. It was a wild, pleasant and surprising ending that will be as memorable as the entire 4-hour concert.

My final thought is that Dave Koz is considered one of the smartest businessmen in the music industry because he never loses sight of the importance of the show side of show business.