Centered in Sonoma County, in the city of Guerneville, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Jazz lovers came from as far as Las Vegas to enjoy the 27th year of the Russian River Jazz at Johnson's Beach.
On Friday evening the campgrounds, resorts restaurant, shops and galleries were starting to look like the beginning of summer vacation for both old and young. The crowds were upbeat in anticipation of the great legends of Jazz as well as the performances of classic Cuban dance music.
Saturday morning starting as early as 6:00 A.M., the crowds came by the thousands carrying lawn chairs, ice chest, water bottles, beach blankets, umbrellas, hats, and oiling down with sun screen.
Saturday morning, EMCEE KBLX Program Director, Kevin Brown amused the audience in preparation for the day's events, he advised "while enjoying the show, use plenty of sun screen, and drink plenty of water between the Bud, and wine." This years program was dedicated to Sally Holloway, a long time director of the festival who passed away last month."
Saturday's line up: Stanley Clark, Ledisi, George Benson, Bobby Hutcherson, Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.
Award winner, song writer-singer, Ledisi, honored with the 2003 California Music award for most outsanding album of the year, thrilled the audience and brought them to their feet by scatting from her new album Feelin' Orange but Sometimes Blue. Ledisi rocked the song, engaging her audiance with t"Get Out of My Kitchen' Telling Me How to Cook," "Ain't Nobody's Business," "So Right for Me," "Yesterdays," Chaka Khan's "Gota Get Into You." It was exhilarating.
Legendary R&B soul and contemporary Jazz interpretor, George Benson, serenaded the audiance playing tunes as "Turn Your Love Around," "Give me the Night,""Breezing," "This Masquerade." The audiance rocked to the songs "Give Me the Night," "The Ghetto," and "Broadway." He was a big hit at this festival.
Sunday's Grand Finale
Brian Culbertson, looking young and fresh and totally energized, rocked the grounds introducing his father Jim Culbertson, who has been teaching music for the past thirty-two years, now plays in his son's band. Brian made love to his keyboard, made us laugh and cry, incorporated stories of how his music and sounds all came about. We were entertained.
Singer, song-writer, guitarist Joyce Cooling, rocked the stage playing tunes from her CDs Third Wish and Keeping Cool. The audience were on their feet rocking and rolling throughout her whole performance. Joyce combines her flair for African rhythms and Brazilian music which makes an unique combination that is smoothing to the soul. Joyce was named best new talent in Jazziz Magazine Reader's poll. Her's is a performance you must see.
Al Jarreau received a standing ovation upon his arrival, and appeared to look as if he had not suffered one day of his reported back pain. Al serenaded us with "Mr. Shoeshine Man," "Secrets of Love," "After All," and "Random Act of Love." After thirty minutes of scatting, Al started praising God for getting him up out of that bed of recovery. Al was referring to his emergency back surgery which forced him to cancel many appearances last year.
Al shared with his audience how he had to work real hard, on his relationship with god. It was enlightening and moving listening to him praise God. He asked his audience "Did you go to church this morning? Go ahead and leave now if you want to because I'm going to preach." Al has a lot to be thankful for and demonstrated his God-given talents.
I can hardly wait until next year for the 28th celebration of Jazz on the River.
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