The Sixth Jazz88 Ocean Beach Music and Art Festival was celebrated Saturday, September 10th.
Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach was transformed for one day into the Big Easy’s Bourbon Street with an array of Jazz, Afro-Cuban, Blues, Gospel, and Western Swing performers.
According to an unofficial estimate, there were over 30,000 music lovers jammed at multiple venues, with nine stages, listening to 23 bands with over 80 performers.
There was also an art row on the 4900 block of Newport that featured 34 fine visual artists. There were two-dozen food tents provided by Ocean Beach restaurants, and a craft beer and wine garden next to the main stage. Also, several unique craft vendors at the foot of Newport by the community stage.
The promoters of the festival scored high points with the crowd this year as they scheduled most of the performers twice at different venues, so that if you missed a performance of one, there would be a second set performed at another.
Also, on the main stage was legendary Hammond B-3 organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith, decked-out in white and sporting an orange turban. The doctor gave the crowd some outstanding spacey grooves as he blended a mix of soul jazz with his trio.
Local San Diego legend Gene “Negro” Perry and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra was a real winner, as he closed out the free community stage at the foot of Newport Ave. The crowds danced to some “auténtico” Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms on the lawn.
In another venue on Newport Ave., the Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown trio built frenzy, with hard-swinging Western Swing reminiscent of Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys. Legendary harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite had the crowd jumping and hollering with some hard-core blues. Not to be denied, Steph Johnson, winner of the 2010 Jazz Music Award for the Best Jazz Album, had a robust emotional soulful presence blending the Blues with Jazz and RB.
The promoters also presented another great hit as they featured the Martin Luther King Community Choir, and the outstanding young talent from the San Diego School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
The festival also had a VIP venue inside the courtyard of the OB Hotel presenting the mellow sounds of jazz guitar master Mundell Lowe, and vibes master Charlie Shoemaker and his Quintet featuring the music of George Shearing.
According to several in the crowd, the best performers of the festival were the San Francisco based Wayne Wallace and his Latin Jazz Quintet, New Orleans-based Plunge, a free-jazz trio ensemble, and also from Nola the Donald Harrison Quartet with some outstanding funky jazz grooves.
As the sun was setting behind the OB pier, and the crowds danced to the spellbound sounds of Dr. John and the Lower 911, folks were already talking of next year, as the festival keeps getting better and better.