The Long Beach Jazz Festival returns after a 2-year hiatus • le Hi-lo
That changes next month. Dotted with Grammy-winning performers, the popular festival makes its triumphant return August 12-14.
“It’s such a blessing to be back at work,” Kim Benoit, president and CEO of Rainbow Productions, told The Post. “We were really looking forward to bringing the music back and giving artists and outlets to play.
“It’s just awesome.”
Benoit’s father, Al Williams, founded the Queen Mary Jazz Festival in 1978, the state’s first two-day jazz event. As a jazz drummer himself, the musical event was born out of his love of the genre. He launched the same year that Williams opened the Jazz Safari club near the Queen Mary.
The festival would end and the club would close in the following decade, but Williams worked quickly to keep their spirit alive. He opened Birdland West in 1986 and launched the Long Beach Jazz Festival at Rainbow Lagoon Park in 1987.
After years of hosting jazz events with legends such as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Les McCanns, Birdland West closed for good on July 31, 1994.
The festival and Williams’ music career continued, however. The Long Beach Jazz Festival celebrated its 32nd year in 2019 but was forced to go on hiatus with the arrival of COVID-19.
“It was devastating to say the least,” Benoit said. “We didn’t know when we would be able to work again…or if we could hold out until we could. It was very intimidating.
But Rainbow Productions managed to celebrate, not its 35th annual event, but its 33rd.
The first day of the upcoming festival will feature Grammy Award-winning Robert Glasper headlining alongside Justin-Lee Schultz and more. Grammy Award winner Ledisi will close day two, preceded by Average White Band, Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, BK Jackson and more. Sergio Mendes will wrap up the weekend, headlining day three, with performances from Damion Escobar, Eric Darius, Kandace Springs and more.
Al Williams Jazz Society will also play on Sunday, with a tribute to Barbara Morrison.
The theme for this year’s festival is “A Healthy Taste of Jazz”, and the event will also feature a wellness pavilion, featuring speakers and panels between sets, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, screenings of health, vendors and more.
The Wellness Pavilion predates the pandemic, Benoit said, noting it’s obviously more relevant today.
“The reason we launched it is that there are a lot of consumers who won’t go to the doctor,” Benoit said. “As part of our relaxing, non-threatening environment, we provide them with information through music. It worked for us.
Benoit said any city mandates such as masking that are active at the time of the festival will be enforced, adding that there are no vaccine requirements to enter. Either way, masks will be available for festival-goers who choose to wear one and vaccines will be available in the wellness pavilion, she said.
Tickets are on sale now, ranging in price from $80 to $290 depending on the day and section. Ticket options include general admission standing room, reserved seating, and VIP seating, which is at tables of eight.
According to the website, there are few VIP and reserved seats left for Saturday, but there are still a significant number for Friday and Sunday.
“It’s amazing to be back in the thrill of live music,” Ledisi said in a statement. “The world deserves so much joy after dealing with the physical and emotional devastation of the pandemic. Get ready to party, Long Beach.
Things to do in Long Beach this weekend including… a murder mystery and an ocean sustainability festival