If you were looking for an ideal outdoor jazz festival to attend in September, what would you like most to see?
First, you would want to go to an idyllic setting. How about Lake Tahoe in the early fall? The leaves are just beginning to turn golden, winter has not yet come, and the air is filled with beautiful music.
You want parking close-by and free. You want to sit on a grassy slope on a gentle hillside surrounded by blue spruce, within the legendary Northstar ski resort, just north of the Lake.
In your ideal festival, the artist line-up would be a nice mix of contemporary and straight-ahead; a mix of well-established and well-known performers, and local talent. You might be hearing Bill Hecht, CeCe Gable and Remmel Wilson for the first time. Very cool.
Saturday afternoon, Jeff Kashiwa and his own band's creative smooth jazz, the hot funky guitar of Joyce Cooling, Marilyn Scott's smooth silky vocals (and a preliminary appearance by Bob Mintzer) are all right in the groove. Inspired by an enthusiastic audience and the wonderful venue, Jeff & his band play for over two hours and got the audience involved singing.
The YellowJackets with Bob Mintzer, Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip heat up the night as Saturday evening headliners.
In the short break between sets, all the vast facilities of Northstar are fifty feet away. You have choice of restaurants and stores just steps away, plus an abundance of on-site and nearby lodging. Restrooms are also close-by and clean; no porta-pottys here! You and your friends can ride a ski lift to the top of the mountain, rocket down the hillside on a mountain bike, play tennis or wander the 1-1/2 mile nature trail, and still hear the music. The sound is crisp and clear, like the sky and like the air you breathe.
Sunday would introduce you to an versatile new vocalist, Carol J. Toca and his band, and then delight you with the melodic keyboards and complex arrangements of Keiko and Kazu Matsui, this year featuring Greg Riley as the sax-man. To cap off a glorious weekend, the incomparable mellow piano of David Benoit, ably backed by Andy Suzuki and others, mixes a broad range of his hits with the ever-popular Vince Guaraldi tunes. David wins even more fans and praise by wearing the festival shirt as a "volunteer"!
The performers consistently appear at a signing/meet-and-greet table and are in no hurry; many are staying at Northstar and linger to observe and enjoy other performances as well.
A large and well-orchestrated team of volunteers is working busily behind the scenes to be sure that every aspect of the festivities go exactly according to plan while you sit back and relax.
Can it get any better than this? Yes. Let's do the entire show for a good local cause, the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe.
Too good to be true? No! That was the First Annual Tahoe Jazz Festival, September 29-October 1!
Tahoe Jazz is a newcomer to the festival scene, but this is one of the very best shows we've seen all year. Great venue, great lineup, great facilities, enthusiastic and energetic staff and volunteers, meticulous planning and flawless execution all combined to make an outstanding event, and one with some charming history.
When Ken Yagura, president of the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, contacted Keith Vogt (who is the President of Telis Internet Acess) to discuss sponsorship, he only asked for a donation of an Internet access account. But it turns out that Keith is a big jazz fan! He's been to jazz festivals all over the world and wanted to really get seriously involved. Keith became the chairman of the event and Telis ultimately sponsored the performer's fees. Northstar donated the lodging for the artists and the use of the venue. Thanks to the generous involvement of these and many other local sponsors, over 99% of all ticket sales revenue went straight to the Boys and Girls Club and not to cover festival expenses.
If you love moderate-sized outdoor festivals in off-the-beaten-path locations with a near-perfect venue, creative mixtures of jazz artists and a good value for the money in more ways than one, then next year's Tahoe Jazz 2001 a festival not to be missed! SEPTEMBER 28, 29 30.