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20th Annual Jazz Fest May 12-13
  March 21, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138,

The Bakersfield Jazz Festival has become a two-day celebration for the community that has been called Bakersfield's "Rite of Spring." The 20th annual festival is scheduled Friday and Saturday, May 12-13, at the California State University, Bakersfield Amphitheater. This year's festival will feature headliner David Sanborn and a fireworks display to close the show.

Gates open at 6 p.m. on Friday and music starts at 7 p.m. The festival begins with the legendary saxophonist Pete Christlieb and trumpeter Carl Saunders. Christlieb and Saunders are universally recognized as improvisatory giants of the Los Angeles jazz scene. Guitarist Joyce Cooling returns with the finest of contemporary grooves that has lifted her to the top of the charts. The evening concludes with the Grammy-winning Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band. This 18-piece group is sure to set the night ablaze with its outstanding soloists Eric Marienthal and Wayne Bergeron and its groove-based, big band style.

The music begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday with gates opening at 1 p.m. For those that are new to the jazz festival, there are a variety of food vendors from hamburgers and hot dogs to deep pit barbecue 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 the bringing of alcohol into a licensed site. However, many will bring their coolers filled 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, furniture, ceramics, and photography in our artist's tent in our pavilion area. Remember all proceeds from this event go for student scholarships. Last year more than $22,000 was awarded to 28 deserving students in seven academic disciplines in addition to music, and over the years the festival has created a scholarship endowment of more than $60,000 from the proceeds.

Besides fun and food, how about the music? Saturday begins with the Kern County Honor Jazz Band, which contains the best high school players from our area. These young musicians were selected by audition and have been diligently rehearsing for their festival performance. Next will be the return of many local festival composers, as they take to the stage to give us a musical overview of the talent and musicianship right from our own community. Many are returning to Bakersfield to represent and play with the composers and players who have appeared on our own festival stage during the past 19 years. Also, this year, the CSUB Vocal Jazz Ensemble will be blending their voices for all to enjoy. This amazing group sings with the jazz vocal style that competes with professionally recorded groups.

Saturday's evening groups begin with the Estrada Brothers Latin Jazz Group. This family with its vibraphone/sax front line will bring its unique slant on the Latin tradition. Clairdee, singer extraordinaire, will treat us to her great sound and soulful delivery. Closing the 20th annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival will be the three-time Grammy-winning saxophonist, David Sanborn. His intense performance style has been a transforming, chart-topping force on the jazz scene since 1980. With fireworks blazing the sky, Sanborn's infectious grooves will undoubtedly bring the audience to their feet to close the festival.

Friday advance tickets are $23 for students and $32 for general admission. Saturday advance tickets are $25 for students and $35 for general admission. Tickets are available at all Valltix outlets, Stockdale Music, California Keyboards, Russo's at the Marketplace, and Front Porch Music. Save when you buy two-day festival tickets, which are $35 for students and $55 for general admission. For reserved tables of six, sold only for both days of the festival, call (661) 322-5200. The tables have servers to provide beverages plus free snacks both days of the festival.

For general information call (661) 322-5200 or log onto A Yamaha 7-foot grand piano is the festival's official piano and is provided by California Keyboards.