Jazz Fest West Returns & Music News Roundup

The lineup is finally up. 

When I originally wrote about the JFW cancellation in 2014, I did a lot of talking about the lineup. The tickets, back then, just plain didn’t sell. And I’m sorry, but if you’re a jazz fest and your headliner at the time is Robin Thicke, there’s a problem.

Here’s the thing: however much I can rail against diluting jazz lineups with R&B without sequestering the genres or admitting to genre dilution in advertising – and I do a lot of railing about that – I can’t say that the current lineup surprises me too much. But for a fest that’s been forced into going on hiatus and is now coming back? This is not bad at. all.

No, it’s not an ideal lineup. But again: could be a lot worse.

Believe me, I could go on about Charlie Wilson and Mint Condition being on there, but the inclusion of Eric Darius and Robert Glasper – the latter only now making the rounds of the jazz fest circuit – is still pretty good as far as straying away from the usual suspects is concerned. Chaka Khan and Patti LaBelle will pack the seats, for sure. And again: this is the comeback event. You’re going to want to come out swinging and pack in the place.

And you know something – it’s a move that will ultimately work to keep the fest around. Because the word of mouth will be “This is where Patti and Chaka performed on the same weekend!” – you and I both know that this is going to do a lot in terms of cementing repeat customers, especially if, like with a lot of events, tix go on sale before the lineup is unrolled.

Also: Omega Events is now the promoter on duty for Newport Beach Jazz Fest, and while that lineup is slanted in the favor of the usual suspects, it’s back to what it was when I last attended: a majority-jazz event. And you know something? Big, huge brownie points for that. I would still like to see the flavor of that fest giving some new blood the stage room, and seeing as the lineup is as yet In Progress, I may yet get my wish. Toss Gregory Porter and Kamasi Washington in the mix, and boom.

And besides: if you guys think back to past events in the Southern Cali/Southwest area, there was a noted trend of having a nearly 85-90% R&B fest with one or two jazz artists brought on to justify the “jazz fest” part of the event name. I would like to think that JFW’s comeback is still miles better than what we’ve seen before.

In other music roundup news: Berks is kicking off within days. It’s tax season, and much as I’d love to attend, I also like having this thing known as my job, so until the five-year happy fluke of the fest falling outside of tax season will strike again, I will have to sit it out. Pity! because the lineup is glorious, with a lot of new and up-and-comers gracing the stage! Which is exactly what I, and other jazz lovers, want to see out of a fest. Give the new people some room, and you never know: they just might headline in their own right in a few years. We’ve seen Vincent Ingala go from the new-artist stage of Newport Beach Jazz 2011 to being Dave Koz’s featured artist on cruises.

Smooth Jazz New York’s lineup has not yet gotten rolled out, but this is one of my favorite gigs to shoot, and I’m waiting to see who will be on stage this time.


Capital Jazz Fest. Same production as my beloved favorite cruise, but also the fest in MD that draws global crowds.

There has been a lot of consternation from a lot of people on two accounts: 1. the cruise itinerary change and 2. the fest being R&B-heavy this year.

Point 1 I’ve already elaborated on. Even in non-chartered sailings, cruise lines can change itineraries at any time, for a huge number of reasons. A port of call not being ready for operation is a damned good reason, as far as rerouting goes.

Let’s not forget that for two years in a row, CapJazz Cruise had to be rerouted to avoid hurricanes. Trust me that this itinerary change doesn’t differ from the situation by much. The biggest difference is we’re told in advance, and the reason is still outside our control.

Point 2: Please consider that Capital Jazz is one of four events happening at the exact same time.

And artists, as such, just may not be available!

Consider this, guys: Newport Beach Jazz Fest (Newport Beach, CA), Music City Jazz Fest in Nashville, Steel City Jazz fest in Birmingham, AL, and Capital Jazz Fest, all take place on the exact same weekend. This makes for some insane logistics for the artists traveling between these fests, and it also makes for an extremely limited lineup availability for events. Like it as not, but between four events and limited hours in the day, something has to give.

Yes, I know that Cap could pull out the up-and-comers – and they nearly always do. chances are, that’s exactly what they will do, if I know them right. The lineup that they unrolled thus far is preliminary. The “Catch a Rising Star” showcase is yet to be announced, just like the “Getdown Club” lineup for the cruise. So again, like with the cruise itinerary change, I urge people to step back, rethink it from their POV, and exercise patience. It’s yet to come together.

Musically and photographically yours,