Review: Ocean Beach Jazz Fest turns 4

Manny Lopez

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The annual Jazz 88 Ocean Beach Jazz Festival has always been inextricably associated with gorgeous weather, great people, excellent scenery and good music. This year’s event was certainly no exception. Held at the foot of Newport Avenue on Sept. 7, the fourth annual event, “Was the biggest and best ever,” said KSDS 88.3 Station Manager, Mark DeBoskey.

An audience of over 1000 attended the one day “pure Jazz” festival, which featured a rich line-up of internationally renowned artists. Long time KSDS Disk Jockey, Ron Dhanifu pointed out that the annual festival gives Jazz 88 greater visibility and helps to improve the stations image within the community. “We’ve been on the air for 35 years and people still don’t realize that there’s a jazz station in San Diego,” said Dhanifu. “The festival also brings Jazz musicians to San Diego that many people don’t usually get a chance to hear.”

Leading off was San Diego based “station ambassadors,” The Jazz 88 All-Stars. “They rocked the house,” said Chris Springer of 88.3’s Latin Grooves. “They got the crowd going and set the mood for the rest of the festival.”

Next up was Brasilia, lead by flutist Holly Hofmann, the 2008 San Diego Music Awards winner in the Best Jazz category along with husband Mike Woffard, staff pianist on such live TV series as “The Bill Cosby Show” and pianist and musical director for both Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Brasilia had the crowd on their feet and dancing with their distinctive mix of rhythmically oriented Afro-Cuban jazz and Brazilian music.

Dubbed “leaders of the Nu Jazz Movement,” piano trio The Bad Plus, appeared to shred the rules with their eclectic brand of indie-rock infused acoustic jazz. Playing original compositions and cover songs by David Bowie, Rush and Tears for Fears, the bands improvisational style had purists off balance and the vanguard asking for more.

After a brief intermission and with the sun beginning to set, acclaimed baritone Kevin Mahogany paid tribute to Big Joe Turner with his “Kansas City Review.” Mahogany brought the energy level up a few notches with his distinctive “Kansas City sound,” and set the stage for what was to become the perfect ending to a perfect day.

The biggest hit of the festival no doubt was the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Currently one of the hottest big bands in the world, with one of the best arrangers (John Clayton) and one of the best big band drummers (Jeff Hamilton), along with some of the best improvisationalists in the business. On hand was 89 year old “Snooky” Young of the original Duke Ellington band along with local heavyweight Gilbert Catellanos. Their dazzling performance clearly justified their reputation and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

“The thing that I loved the most about the festival this year was that the musicianship was at such a high level,” said Holly Hoffman. “I haven’t heard this quality of musicianship at a Jazz festival in a long time. There was something for everyone.”

Carol Ravago, museum manager of the Mingei International Museum in Escondido and long time KSDS supporter pointed out the Jazz 88 festival has become a tradition for many jazz lovers. “It’s so nice because it’s not too crowded and you don’t feel pressured in any way,” she said. “You can move around and talk to people or you can just sit in one place and enjoy the great music.”

Abdul Atallah, owner of the Bar-B-Que House on Newport Ave. reported that business at his restaurant was brisk on the day of the concert. “Every year the jazz festival brings a lot of customers and is very good for business,” he said. “It draws a great crowd of people and everyone always seems to be having a wonderful time.”

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