Jazzin’ It Up

The Hawaii International Jazz Festival swings into the Hawaii Theatre this weekend with world-renowned and home-grown artists – and that’s no jive, daddy-o

Susan Sunderland
Friday - July 29, 2005
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Guitarist extraordinaire Larry Coryell takes
the stage in Friday’s ‘Piano Titans and
Hawaiian Strings’ and Saturday’s ‘Tributes
and Latin Soul’

“To jazz or not to jazz, there is no question.” — Louis Armstrong.

Non-jazz fans will love this weekend’s Hawaii International Jazz Festival. That’s right, daddy-o, you don’t have to groove to jazz to enjoy this show. There’s something for everyone.

Music magic happens when international and local artists meet on the Hawaii Theatre stage on Friday and Saturday night, July 29-30, 7 p.m. Jazz festival director Abe Weinstein calls it “synergy.” In the performing arts, that’s sexy.

Consider the all-star talent lined up for the 12th annual jazz tribute. On Friday night, “Piano Titans and Hawaiian Strings” presents Grammy nominees Don Grusin and Makoto Ozone, guitarist extraordinaire Larry Coryell, Hoku winner Owana Salazar, Grammy winner Jeff Peterson, ukulele virtuoso Abe Lagrimas Jr., and trumpet soloist DeShannon Higa.

On Saturday night, “Tributes and Latin Soul” salutes legends Ray Charles, Artie Shaw and Martin Denny. Artists include Ginai, Keahi Conjugacion, Rea Fox, Kelly Covington, Waitiki, and the HIJF All-Star Big Band with Gabe Baltazar. Scott Martin and Larry Coryell command the spotlight for the Latin jazz segment.

For three hours each night, the house will be swinging with the coolest sounds in town. Tickets at $25, $40 and $50 are available from the Hawaii Theatre at 528- 0506 or its web site www.hawaiitheatre.com

Founded in 1993, Hawaii International Jazz Festival is considered one of the top productions in the country. The event is a personal mission of Weinstein’s to weave jazz into the cultural fabric of our community. Weinstein, who plays saxophone and clarinet, has traveled the world extensively and believes the caliber of music talent here is equal to the great performing centers on the Mainland and elsewhere.

“For many years, we’ve had this diminished attitude about ourselves. We’re just not as good as the Big City, and we have to go to the Mainland to see a good show. Not true,” Weinstein says. “One of my goals is to replicate the high quality of experience that people have at jazz festivals in major cities.

“I started the jazz festival amidst conjecture that it wouldn’t last. People told me I was crazy,” he recalls. Today, HIJF is a thriving enterprise with a global fan base. “As you build friendships, there’s an amalgamation of people involved.

“We’ve exploded to three festivals a year,” Weinstein says proudly. The spring program in April was collaboration with the Hawaii Arts Season. There will be a fall jazz concert in Kapolei Nov. 6.

More than 46 shows have been produced by Weinstein, who is HIJF’s executive director. “It takes about $500,000 a year to produce a jazz festival,” according to Weinstein, who works at it seven days a week. About 25 volunteers are involved with guest hosting duties and logistical support. Over $1.5 million of inkind donations have come from corporate and community supporters, such as KHON2-TV’s $20,000 worth of broadcast time to promote the event.

For all the effort and commitment that goes into an event like this, we wondered how audiences can show their appreciation and get into the groove. So In the spirit of David Letterman, we present a countdown to the concert and Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Hawaii International Jazz Festival.

10) The Art.

Live performances give music artists a chance to work and to ply their trade. Without an audience, music would be a museum piece. “Applause is our food,” jazz festival producer Weinstein says. Show your aloha to artists.

9) The Music.

Jazz is America’s music and among its greatest cultural achievements. Jazz originated in New Orleans circa 1900, characterized by improvisation, distinctive tones and syncopated rhythm.

At HIJF, you’ll hear its diversity and incredible range. There’s cool jazz and swing by Japan pianist Ozone, and the hot

strings of Owana Salazar on slack key and steel guitar. Maui’s Jeff Peterson gives a sampling of his Grammy Award-winning slack key artistry.

Jazz with a Latin accent is delivered by saxophonist-flautist Scott Martin, who played for 12 years with Poncho Sanchez. Selections are from his latest Menundo & Grits CD include the title tune and Funky Flute.

Acoustic guitarist Larry Coryell is known for his incredible interpretations of Stravinsky and Ravel classics. But the virtuoso from Texas also blasts rock fusion.

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