|April 25, 2005
Doug DAvis, 661/664-22293
Bakersfield Jazz Festival May 6 and 7 at CSUB
The Bakersfield Jazz Festival has become a two-day celebration that has been called Bakersfield's "Rite of Spring." The 19th annual festival is scheduled Friday and Saturday, May 6 and 7, at the California State University, Bakersfield Amphitheater. This year’s festival introduces the first “title sponsor,” BMW of Bakersfield, whose five-year commitment will give the festival yet another boost.
The festival begins Friday at 7 p.m. with CSUB student Ron Christian who last year was selected the top collegiate jazz trombonist in California. For this year's festival he performs his compositions with many of the top musicians in Bakersfield.
Next will be the excitement of this year's winner of the New Artist of the Year, Eric Darius. This 22 year-old saxophonist has created quite a stir with his scintillating, high-energy performances.
The evening concludes with the five-time Grammy nominee and Bakersfield-born pianist David Benoit. His career includes being selected the Best Smooth Jazz Keyboardist, winning Best Score of 1996 by Film Score Magazine, writing music for 10 years for Charles Schulz's “Peanuts” specials, and numerous No. 1 hits on the Billboard Jazz Charts, including "Snap," from his recent CD "Fuzzy Logic."
The music begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday with gates opening an hour before the music starts. For those that are new to the Jazz Festival, there are a variety of food vendors serving everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to deep-pit barbeque and Cajun delights. There will be plenty to satisfy your sweet tooth as well. Beer and wine are available at the festival, but the state Alcohol Beverage Control forbids individuals bringing alcoholic beverages into a licensed site. However, many will bring coolers with food and soft drinks onto the festival grounds and spread their blankets and lay claim to their turf for a day of jazz on the green.
Also, don’t forget your sunscreen. Who can predict the weather, but be prepared. Also, know that all children under 12 are free, and the kids seem to love the wide-open (but fenced) spaces. Check out the jewelry, painting, ceramics, and photography in the artist's tent in the pavilion area. Remember all proceeds from this event go toward student scholarships. Last year more than $22,000 was awarded to 28 deserving students in seven academic disciplines in addition to music. Over the years the festival has created a scholarship endowment of more than $60,000 from the proceeds. So enjoy yourself, check out the pavilion area, and know you are helping the cause.
Besides the fun and food, how about the music? Saturday begins with the Kern County Honor Jazz Band, which contains the best high school players from the area. These young musicians were selected by audition and have been diligently rehearsing for their festival performance.
Next will be Luis Lenzi, with his artful compositions that feature his soulful saxophone and gospel piano roots.
Winner of Jazz Times’ “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” as well as Los Angeles Weekly’s 1999 “Best Jazz Musician” award, Vinny Golia brings the sounds of his many woodwind instruments with his new group, “Jazz for Models.” Golia’s long career of innovative music and support for other adventurous composers has led to his selection by Jazziz Magazine as one of the 100 people who influenced the course of jazz in the 20th century.
Next, the festival presents Sandip Burman who plays the tabla drums of his native India. Burman was a guest artist on Bela Fleck's recent Grammy winning album "Outbound," and has toured with the all-star group that featured Randy Brecker and Victor Bailey. Sandip Burman will bring a completely new sound to the Bakersfield Jazz Festival.
Saturday's evening groups will start with the unique, eclectic soul vocalist Amanda Dumas who is at the beginning of what most believe will be a mega-successful career. She is an acoustic soul songwriter who is now being produced by Marcus Miller and is poised to be the next diva of her generation.
Christian McBride – a phenom out of Philadelphia – is not only the winner of numerous polls that consider him the best bass player in jazz, but he is also a gifted composer and band leader, with every CD receiving critical acclaim and being among the top sellers in jazz. By the time he reached Julliard in New York as an 18-year-old, many jazz greats already wanted his talents. McBride began touring with Freddie Hubbard, then Pat Metheny, and another young lion, Joshua Redman. The still young McBride has been the man on bass for more than 100 albums by artists from Kathleen Battle to Quincy Jones and Sting as well as emerging as one of the leading creators of contemporary jazz.
Closing the 19th annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival will be the two-time winner of Gavin's Artist of the Year award, Rich Braun. After studying at Eastman Conservatory, Braun toured with War and Sade as a sideman, and had a big initial success as a songwriter for REO Speedwagon with "Here with Me." From the mid-90's, he began to release his solo albums, and in 1995 "Beat Street" became the No. 1 smooth jazz album of the year with Braun winning Gavin's Artist of the Year. Every album since has been a chart-topping success with Braun winning "Best Brass Player" at the Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards.
Friday advance tickets are $21 for students and $30 for general admission. Saturday advance tickets are $23 for students and $33 for general admission. Tickets are available at all Vallitix outlets, Stockdale Music, California Keyboards, Russo's at the Marketplace, and Front Porch Music. Save when you buy two-day festival tickets, which are $34 for students and $49 for general admission. For reserved tables of six, sold only for both days of the festival, please call (661) 322-5200. The tables have servers to provide beverages plus free snacks both days of the festival. For general information also call 322-5200 and check out www.bakersfieldjazz.com. A Yamaha seven-foot grand piano is the festival’s official piano and is provided by California Keyboards.