By Gustavo Reveles
The 31st annual Bakersfield Jazz Festival welcomed the entire community at CSU Bakersfield campus for a spring night filled with eccentric music, dance, food, drink and lots of jazz.
The Jazz Festival has been a spring tradition since 1987.
Each year the festival features internationally acclaimed musicians bringing jazz artists and enthusiasts together for a special two-day weekend celebration.
Besides celebrating the jazz world, the festival has also celebrated student talent and has raised and awarded over $20,000 in scholarships annually to students across campus.
Bakersfield local and parent Carlos Jimenez revered the festival’s tradition of supporting and honoring music students and said that his first impressions of the festival were positive.
“The music is relaxing. I’m loving the music and the atmosphere,” said Jimenez.
CSUB students Norma Hernandez, 19, Jazmin Duff, 21 and Anette Almazan, 21 also admired and enjoyed the night’s musical performances.
“It’s a relaxing atmosphere. We always try to find something new for my first time [attending]. It’s relaxing. I am enjoying myself,” said Hernandez.
Opening night on April 28 featured jazz musician group Soulajar, who infused the evening with their enticing ‘70s soul-inspired jazz.
Ghost-Note then filled the stage with their dynamic, jazzy instrumental percussions. Their first record, “Fortified”, topped the iTunes Jazz charts back in 2015.
First-time attendee and jazz enthusiast Yvonne Torres, 27, attended Friday’s festivities and was mind-blown by the jam-packed talent in the jazz community.
“It’s exhilarating to be here,” said Torres. “I am loving the food, the refreshments, the wonderful staff, the relaxing festive vibes. All the bands are spectacular. They each have an impressive identity.”
Saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who featured on David Bowie’s “Blackstar” album, took the spotlight with his band to complement Friday’s festivities with a truly electric, jolting performance.
McCaslin is no stranger to Bakersfield’s Jazz Festival. His first major gig involved playing in the festival’s early years with Gary Burton’s Quintet in 1989. A California native from Santa Cruz, McCaslin said that he enjoys playing in Bakersfield.
“There’s just something about being in California that feels very comforting to me,” said McCaslin. “I was very happy to be here, and it’s nice to play in this venue and play outdoors.”
McCaslin’s music and focus veers into an electric direction. Electronica artists have influenced his musical aesthetic.
“One way I describe it is that it’s the exploration of the intersection of improvisation of electronica music,” said McCaslin.
The quartet’s stunning futuristic synthetic sounds, along with McCaslin’s virtuosic saxophone improvisations, sets them apart. Futuristic tracks like “Fast Future” transport listeners into a new realm of electrifying jazz.
McCaslin and his band are on tour to promote their October 2016 release of “Beyond Now”, a project that was recorded three months after David Bowie’s death.
The passion behind “Beyond Now” was profoundly influenced by the band’s experience collaborating with legend David Bowie.
“It was a tremendous life-changing experience,” said McCaslin. “One of the overriding feelings I have about him [Bowie] is the generosity of his spirit. He was a wonderful person and very present. When he walked into the room, you felt his presence taking everything in.”
McCaslin and his band will play for numerous jazz festivals both internationally and nationally in the coming months for their 2017 tour.
“One thing that is interesting about festivals is the opportunity to hear other bands, to see other musicians and friends,” said McCaslin. “I enjoy the community aspect of playing in festivals.”
McCaslin is in the process of writing new songs and experimenting with new sound for future projects.
Listeners can anticipate more of McCaslin’s exhilarating tenor playing and stunning jazz-electric sounds in the future.