KSBR Birthday Bash celebrates 20 years of smooth jazz
Saddleback College's radio station, at 88.5 FM, has been on the air for 30 years.
Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Updated: Friday, May 29, 2009 16:05
The record-breaking crowd at the 20th annual KSBR Birthday Bash in Mission Viejo enjoyed a four-hour impromptu jam session blending of vocals, guitar, brass, saxophone, keyboard and percussion from more than 40 well-known contemporary jazz artists such as Boney James, Jim Peterik, and Patti Austin, on Sunday, May 24.
"I can tell you that it was the largest audience that we've had in more than 10 years," said KSBR Director of General Programming Terry Wedel of the Oso Viejo Park gathering, "and it was certainly the biggest crowd on stage ever."
"I've been coming for 20 years since it was first held in Dana Point," said Lillian Nieto of Laguna Niguel. "We come every year… we're regulars. This year I brought my fiancé [Brian Wilson of San Clemente]."
General admission ticket holders at the Bash don't take the show lightly. Many had small tables with elaborate gourmet appetizers. Others were content with a blanket and paper plates for their cheese, crackers, and fruit.
VIP tickets provided fans seating at beautifully decorated tables, complimentary food and beverages, and closer access to the stage.
Years of continuous growth and sold-out shows prompted organizers to seek a bigger venue, moving the event to its present location in 2008. Based on the overwhelming success of its first year, the City of Mission Viejo and KSBR entered into an agreement that assures the event will have plenty of room to grow for the next five years.
This is good news for the artists who look forward to the annual get-together. Some have been in the industry for decades while others are the young and upcoming, including 14-year-old flutist Rachel Rodgers and 18-year-old saxophonist Elizabeth Mis.
Most of the artists, some of whom are Grammy winners, know each other. Some only by reputation, but for others the Bash is a reunion with old friends. The backstage ambiance was filled with camaraderie and admiration.
The crisp, funky electric guitar of Nils was the first to bring the crowd to their feet. Thanks to the miracle of wireless, he casually strolled through the crowd, never missing a beat.
Nils likes the relaxed setting offered to the performers.
"It's a fun, loose environment; music is a language and you have to share it," he said. "My first time here, I didn't know what to expect because there's no rehearsal, you're assigned who will be playing with you. But now it's my fourth time here and it's a jam session that is cool to play."
After moving to Los Angeles from his native Germany, he was both a student as well as guitar instructor, moving into the art of studio engineering where he met and worked with George Benson, co-writing Benson's "Keep Rollin'." Along with touring, he is currently the music editor for the cable TV show "Weeds." Jazz enthusiasts know him for his smooth jazz hit "Pacific Coast Highway."
On the keyboards for Nils was Clydene Jackson, a soft-spoken and extremely pleasant musician with an impressive resume that covers a multitude of musical genres including gospel, pop, jazz and R&B. She sings on the soundtrack for the recently released motion pictures "Night at the Museum II," "Star Trek," as well as "The Lion King," and others. She has sung with Patti Austin, Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and more.
"There's a circle of friends here, and we've known each other for over 20 years," Jackson said. "Just to come together to hear us sing, whether one is 2 or 80, is so awesome."
Some showed up to perform as a surprise guest, including guitarist Peter White.
"Being able to play today with Boney [James] is such a treat," said White. "I've known him almost 20 years, but lost touch with him three or four years ago."
White first picked up the acoustic guitar at age eight. It was the late '60s, a time when many today known as some of rock's classics first hit the airwaves. After hearing Jimmy Hendrix's "Purple Haze," he wanted his guitar to make that sound, and he switched to an electric guitar. However, after loosing the electric model in a fire, he returned to his acoustic roots, finding inspiration in Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. After a friend recommended him to Al Stewart he joined the band for their summer 1974 tour. He then went into the studio with Stewart to record "Year of the Cat." In 1990, he decided to go solo and began to record with some of the best jazz musicians around. One of them was saxophonist Boney James who accompanied him, as did Elizabeth Mis.
Mis' mother Diane proudly told her story: At age 12, she heard Kenny G.'s Christmas CD and liked the sound of his soprano saxophone. "I want one of those," she told her father. With no formal music training, she began to mimic G's sound, and could manipulate her computer to produce the digital sounds of her idol, taking out the track of his horn, and playing it for herself. That same year, she studied the sounds of fellow sax player Dave Coz, and eventually pushed backstage at a show to meet him. At that meeting, he gave her reeds made especially for him.
Elizabeth's first gig was at a local bookstore that hired her to perform after they discovered a flier made by her younger sister. She then performed more than 200 times by the age of 14. Her first Birthday Bash was two years ago.