28th Long Beach Jazz Festival promises to take music fans to new heights

Long Beach Jazz Festival
26th Long Beach Jazz Festival (Photo by Ramona Canakie for Steed Media Service)

“We are in our 28th year. The Long Beach Jazz Festival is one of the first major festivals outside of Playboy Jazz Festival. We are here nestled in the beautiful Long Beach, California,” shares Long Beach Jazz Festival producer Kimberly Benoit.

“Expect a little neo soul, a little R&B but mainly jazz. This year, we have Babyface, Stephanie Mills and a very new and special artist, Mara Hruby,” Benoit enlightens.

From Aug. 7-9, Rainbow Lagoon Park will transform into a musical utopia complete with harmonious and melodic sounds performed by international jazz artists. Produced by Rainbow Promotions, the Long Beach Jazz Festival has been a sonic staple for over 27 years.

“I attribute our staying power to our loyal fan base. We have patrons who have been proposed to at the Festival. We have people who have been coming year after year who enjoy coming to the festival,” she says. “My dad was the founder and I have been working alongside of him since the inception.”

Benoit goes on to explain how the family business connects to the community. “We are a full-service entertainment company and we have our own signature events throughout the year and we produce events for companies and municipalities. We are a year-round events service company.

“My dad [Al Williams] retired in 2013. He works with us as a consultant. My husband [Ozzie] is the vice president. Our kids are involved and have been since they were very young — son and daughter, Christen, 30, and Blaire, 26.”

Every year guests are awed by the performances and the 2015 Long Beach Jazz Festival promises to be no different.

“Come and have a very enjoyable experience. From the time the patrons walk in, I want them to have a wonderful time. A couple years back, we incorporated a health and wellness pavilion where we will have some top guest speakers who will talk about health related issues as well as additional talent on our second stage. The whole concept is to bring the information to them for their health and well-being,” she says.

A fan favorite is the pavilion, which offers upscale merchandise and tasty cuisine. This year, the tradition continues. Festivalgoers will experience delectable delicacies, unique couture and “A Healthy Taste of Jazz” at the Jazz, Health & Wellness Pavilion where mind, body and soul will be nourished.

“We have three levels of seating: VIP which includes a three-course meal, a bottle of wine, access to private restroom and partial backstage access; box seating, 10 seats to a box and general seating on the lawn. Bring a low-back chair and blankets and pick your spot on the grass,” she closes.

The three-day performance extravaganza includes:
Day 1 – Friday, August 7, 2015: The legendary Stanley Clarke Band, smooth jazz guitarist and composer Earl Klugh and Jeff Bradshaw, Philadelphia’s influential neo-soul trombone perfectionist, Grammy Award-winning artist Chrisette Michele and soul singer-keyboardist Frank McComb.

Day 2 – Saturday, August 8, 2015: Grammy Award-winning producer and bass player Andrew Gouche, Jazz All Stars featuring Marc Antoine, Spain’s’ jazz fusion guitarist extraordinaire; Brian Simpson, inspired keyboardist, composer, prolific studio musician-producer; and Jackiem Joyner, known as “Lil Man Soul” saxophonist and flute player. Jazz-funk-soul band Down to the Bone; contemporary jazz saxophonist and composer Eric Darius; Cape Town, South Africa acoustic guitar great Jonathan Butler and R&B singer and stage performer who appeared in the original production of “The Wiz,” Stephanie Mills and headlining the evening is contemporary jazz-R&B-funk multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson.

Day 3 – Sunday, August 9, 2015: Jazz keyboardist Marcus Johnson then the sultry vocals of Mara Hruby. Always a crowd pleaser and performing is the founder of LBJF Al Williams and the Al Williams Jazz Society. Internationally acclaimed Japanese smooth jazz, jazz-fusion and new age keyboardist and composer Keiko Matsui is always a favorite. Gerald Albright, R&B, contemporary and straight-ahead jazz great known at as a “musician’s musician” will show off his extraordinary saxophone artistry. Next, Grammy Award-winner Poncho Sanchez, legendary conguero and Latin jazz band leader with Afro-Cuban flair. Last but not least, the headliner, none other than 11-time Grammy-winning Kenny “BabyFace” Edmonds.

The 28th annual Long Beach Jazz Festival takes place Aug. 7-9, 2015, at Rainbow Lagoon Park on E. Shoreline Dr. in Long Beach, California.

Ticket prices range from $55-$200 and are available through Rainbow Promotions LLC at (562) 424-0013 or online at http://longbeachjazzfestival.com/.

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