The UCLA Jazz and Reggae Festival celebrated its 26th year this weekend, yet I have never been before.
Now I plan to make it an annual adventure because it has everything you hope for in this kind of event – mind blowing performances and collaborations, diverse crowd, easy to park (that’s important in LA!), and big enough that you could wander but small enough that it still felt cozy.
Held on the intramural field at UCLA, it really is the perfect size for a music festival. KCRW Anthony Valadez was spinning in between performances (as well as Jason Bentley) and he sums it up perfectly: “So many different flavors of people all together enjoying incredible sounds on a great day in LA.
Sunday was dubbed Jam Day, but I walked in to the sounds on Thundercat and immediately recognized that his music is an updated version of jazz for a digital, beat loving generation. A virtuoso bass player, he impressed with his musicianship in a groovy set of tunes (and it should be noted that his dad played drums with Diana Ross and the Temptations, among others, and his brother is a Grammy-Winning drummer who has played alongside a bunch of jazz heavies). Though we all questioned his sanity for wearing a big jacket with the SoCal sun beating down on us!
Next up was Gary Clark Jr. For Anthony, and many others, he stole the show.
KCRW has been all over this artist and the name “Jimi Hendrix” came up a bunch of times as soon as he hit the stage. He doesn’t speak much to the audience and it’s that mystical allure that sucks you in deeper into the magic he is brewing on stage. He is a phenomenal guitarist – he blew out the speakers twice and at one point played his guitar like he was scratching a record on a turntable. I have never seen anything like it. And on top of that, he’s got this incredible soulful voice. I could watch him shred for hours.
When I think of jazz, I think of improvisation. And that spirit was alive as well. At the end of a set of classic songs from Memphis R&B legend Booker T Jones (including my personal favorite “Green Onions”, which he wrote when he was in high school!), Questlove from The Roots joined the band for a cover of Lauryn Hills’ “Everything is Everything”.
Headliners The Roots kicked off their set with a mash up dedicated to the Beastie Boys and Chuck Brown (the “godfather of go-go) before launching into a wild set that include a cover of Guns n Roses!
A HUGE thank you to DJ Anthony Valadez for the pics. The fun continues out on the field today for Reggae day!