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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Source: Long Beach Post

‘Get ready to party’: Long Beach Jazz Festival returns after 2-year hiatus (August 12-14)


Brandon RichardsonJuly 14, 2022

For one weekend a year over more than three decades, the melodious, oft soothing and sometimes chaotic sounds of jazz filled Downtown. But for the last two years, the Long Beach Jazz Festival has been on an indefinite hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That changes next month. Studded with Grammy Award-winning performers, the popular festival is making its triumphant return Aug. 12-14.

“It’s such a blessing to be back at work,” Kim Benoit, president and CEO of Rainbow Productions, told the Post. “We’ve been really looking forward to bringing music back and giving artists and outlet to play.

“It’s just awesome.”

Benoit’s father, Al Williams, founded the Queen Mary Jazz Festival 1978, the state’s first two-day jazz event. As a jazz drummer himself, the music event spawned from his love of the genre. It launched the same year that Williams opened the club Jazz Safari near the Queen Mary.

The festival would end and the club closed within the following decade, but Williams worked quickly to keep their spirit alive. He opened Birdland West in 1986 and kicked off the Long Beach Jazz Festival at Rainbow Lagoon Park in 1987.

After years of hosting jazz events with legends such Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Les McCann, Birdland West was permanently shuttered on July 31, 1994.

The festival, and Williams’ musical career, however, carried on. The Long Beach Jazz Festival celebrated its 32rd year in 2019 but was forced into hiatus with the arrival of COVID-19.

“It was devastating to say the least,” Benoit said. “We didn’t know when we would be able to work again … or if we could sustain until we could. It was very daunting.”

But Rainbow Productions made it through to celebrate—not its 35th annual event, but its 33rd.

Day One of the forthcoming festival will feature Grammy Award-winner Robert Glasper as the headliner, along with Justin-Lee Schultz and more. Grammy Award-winner Ledisi will close out Day Two, preceded by Average White Band, Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, BK Jackson and more. Sergio Mendes will round out the weekend, headlining Day Three, with performances by Damion Escobar, Eric Darius, Kandace Springs and more.

Al Williams Jazz Society also will play Sunday, featuring a salute to Barbara Morrison.

The theme of this year’s festival is “A Healthy Taste of Jazz,” and the event also will feature a wellness pavilion, including speakers and panels between sets, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, health screenings, vendors and more.

The wellness pavilion pre-dates the pandemic, Benoit said, noting that it is obviously more relevant today.

“The whole reason we started it is because there are a lot of consumers that will not go to the doctor,” Benoit said. “As part of our relaxing, non-threatening environment, we bring information to them by way of music. It’s been working for us.”

Benoit said that any city mandates such as masking that are active at the time of the festival will be enforced, adding that there is no vaccine requirement to enter. Regardless, masks will be available to festival-goers who choose to wear one and vaccines will be available in the wellness pavilion, she said.

Tickets are on sale now, ranging in price from $80 to $290 depending on the day and section. Ticket options include general admission standing room, reserved seating and VIP seats, which are at tables of eight.

Few VIP and reserved seats remain for Saturday, according to the website, but a sizable number of each remain for Friday and Sunday.

“It feels amazing to be back in the thrill of live music,” Ledisi said in a statement. “The world deserves so much joy after managing the pandemic’s physical and emotional devastation. Get ready to party, Long Beach.”


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