Outdoor music festivals are strange places. Regularly available amenities (water, toilets, shade) become highly coveted possessions lusted over by those who don't have the freedom to arrive three hours early. Coupling the limitless outdoors with the policies of a nightclub has always been a strange idea to me, but if you can get past the parking, heatstroke and bag search, the Long Beach Jazz Festival has the potential to entertain any self-proclaimed "jazz" fan from piped-in doctor's office mellowness to cigarette-burned, backroom jams.
The weekend features such highlights as the ageless wildman Gerald Wilson, who once proclaimed that if he wasn't mentioned in a jazz textbook, it wasn't worth buying, a boastful yet reasonable claim that could never be taken away from a man who got his start with Jimmie Lunceford in 1939, worked with Dizzy in the 1950s, and even penned a few country and western hits for Ray Charles. And though he's approaching 90, he's still churning out big-band arrangements with unbridled charisma and molasses-thick harmonies.
Closing out the festival along with congueroPoncho Sanchez and Lalah Hathaway (Donny's daughter and one of the highlights of the recent Hollywood Bowl Stax show) is local treasure Barbara Morrison. A bubbly and confident performer, Morrison has been playing Los Angeles for years. Her presence and style evoke an approachable Sarah Vaughan with more than enough personality and innuendo for two stages.
Celebrate 20 years of the festival with a host of talented locals as well as some who may have taken a bus or two. Just leave me a little room under your umbrella.
Long Beach Jazz Festival at Rainbow Lagoon, Long Beach, (562) 424-0013; www.longbeachjazzfestival.com . Fri., 7-10:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-10:30 p.m. $45-$175. All ages.
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