If it Ain�t Broke, Don�t Fix It: The JVC Jazz Festival Produces Another Festival Winner


Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Photographs by Mario

Sunday, August 17, 2008, 6:00 pm
Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA

This year, the JVC Jazz Festival is celebrating its twenty-fifth year of presenting jazz performances in the US and abroad. From its inception, in Bad Segeberg, North Germany, the JVC Jazz Festival has presented extraordinary talent. The line-up from the first festival in 1984 included such legends as Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Freddie Hubbard, Spyro Gyra, Steps Ahead, David Sanborn, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis. Since then, the JVC Jazz Festival has presented nearly 50,000 exceptional artists to over 4 million fans the world over.

The 2008 JVC season began in May in Miami (May 16-17), followed by New York (June 15-28), the North Sea (July 11-13), Chicago, IL (July 18-20), Newport, RI (August 8-10) Concord, CA (August 16), Los Angeles, CA (August 17) and will conclude in Paris, France (October 10-18). This season more than 100 jazz musicians representing a wide-spectrum of music will perform.

I caught up with the festival on a beautifully mild summer night in LA on August 17 at the legendary Hollywood Bowl where the sold-out event was co-sponsored by JVC and The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Beneath the brightly lit dome of the�Bowl�, twenty-four year old New Jersey born saxophonist Eric Darius lit up the stage with a stimulating performance of Al Green�s tune, �Let�s Stay Together�, followed by two more songs from his 2004 cd� �Love TKO� and the title song, �Night on the Town� where Darius left the stage to serenade the appreciative crowd in the garden and terrace box seats. Darius also performed the title song from his new 2008 Blue Note/Capital Records release, �Goin� All Out� and ended his set with �If I Ain�t Got You� and "Slick" from his 2006 cd, Just Getting Started. Darius� high-energy, crowd-pleasing performance was followed by two-time Grammy award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn.

Born on July 30th sixty-three years ago in Tampa Florida, (where Darius currently resides), Sanborn has had a stellar career. At twenty-eight, Sanborn performed at the inaugural JVC Jazz Festival in Germany, and has gone on to play with such musical icons as Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Paul Simon, and James Taylor. With an illustrious career spanning more than four decades, Sanborn has released almost as many cd�s as Darius is old�.twenty-three to date. With a treasure trove of original songs from which to choose, Sanborn delighted the crowd with �The Dream, and songs from his Double Vision cd as well as his latest 2008 release, Here and Gone. Seeing the back-to-back performances of newcomer Darius followed by the legendary Sanborn shows the type of innovation in programming that makes the JVC Jazz Festival a winner, year after year.

Up next, sassy, and soulful New Orleans born (Oakland raised) Verve recording vocalist Ledisi took the stage and captured the ears and hearts of the crowd. Weaving no-nonsense commentary between and even during her songs, Ledisi introduced the sophisticated LA crowd to what she called �funknicity�. The extremely talented neo-soul performer stretched her powerful musical chops from soul to jazz and back again singing a dozen songs from her two-time Grammy nominated cd, Lost and Found, including "Alright", "In The Morning", "My Name is � Leddy�s Theme", "Blues in the Night � We All Love Ella" and �Joy�. Revealing snippets of her personal struggle in and out of the music business, Ledisi comically counseled and inspired the ladies on how to be strong, independent and fierce women of character. Ledisi, which means �to bring forth� in Yoruba, honored her birth name bringing forth the ancestral voices of Ella, and Sarah while maintaining her unique originality and innovation.

The third saxophonist on the bill was saxophonist/songwriter/producer James Oppenheim, a.k.a. Boney James. Born in Massachusetts, raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., and now a resident of Los Angeles, James was clearly a crowd pleaser and warmly received as a �favorite son�. Delivering a smooth, soulful sound, James played instantly recognizable hits from over five of the ten cd�s he has released in the past decade. �Into the Blue�, �All Night Long�, �Stone Groove�, �Let It Go�, �Total Experience�, Aquas De Marco�, �Grazin in the Grass� and a medley which rounded out his set. With the crowd on their feet, swaying, and singing, the boundary between performer and audience seemed to disappear. The magic that only music can deliver made the crowd of over 18,000 people seem like an intimate gathering of friends and set the tone for the closing headliner, James Ingram.

IngramJVC.jpgWith a voice that�s as smooth as silk in 2008 as it was nearly four decades ago, Ingram seamlessly picked up the emotionally elevated crowd and took them even higher as he brought them down memory lane. With a string of hit songs, including �One Hundred Ways, �Just Once�, �How Do You Keep The Music Playing?�, Baby Come to Me�, �Pretty Young Thing�, �I Don�t Have The Heart�, and �Secret Garden�, Ingram kept the crowd on their feet �till the very last note. And, unlike other large events, there was no early mass exodus to the parking lots and shuttle busses. Rather, fans lingered taking time to savor the many memorable moments from another very successful festival. To Executive Producer, George Wein and co-sponsors JVC and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, we are glad that you recognize that you have a winning formula and understand that �.If it Ain�t Broke, Don�t Fix It!

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: When attending events at the �Bowl�, save gas, and stress by taking the affordable and convenient shuttle. However, you should definitely purchase your shuttle ticket ahead of time so that you have priority and guaranteed seating.