Long Beach has the cure for the post-summer blues: four days of free jazz. The Long Beach Jazz Festival, held in the public library’s auditorium, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with A-list players who perform at popular concert halls around the world.
“Every year the priority is creativity. I always want to get the highest level of musicians possible,” says festival chair and Long Beach resident Steve Adelson, himself a famous Chapman Stick player performing Friday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. “I can promise that it’s always interesting.”
Here are day-by-day highlights of whom to catch:
DON’T MISS Charlie Hunter Trio
SET TIME 7 p.m.
Charlie Hunter is known for playing the seven-string guitar, which has dual bass and guitar capability.
“It’s turned into its own thing,” says Hunter, who has worked with D’Angelo, Norah Jones, Frank Ocean and John Mayer. “It occupies a different spot on the music than just the bass or guitar.”
Hunter grew up taking lessons from guitar hero Joe Satriani and busking on the streets of Paris.
“Playing on the street 12 hours a day in Europe was my music school,” says Hunter, 50. “I’m proud of it because you really learn how to play for people.”
DON’T MISS Jeff Berlin and Friends
SET TIME 8 p.m.
Jeff Berlin is a world-renowned bassist who brought this background instrument to the forefront. This is his Long Beach Jazz Festival debut.
“I’ve taken my instrument and put it where a guitar player or trumpet player would be,” says Berlin, who grew up in Great Neck and West Hempstead. “It’s rare for a bass player to inhabit that area because they don’t usually play with that melodic freedom.”
Berlin, 64, will be holding a 3 p.m. bass clinic Friday, Sept. 15, followed by a performance in a trio.
“I want people to be part of an improvised spontaneous experience,” says Berlin, who has played with k.d. lang, Allan Holdsworth as well as Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. “Much of what I do is barely thought of before I do it.”
DON’T MISS The World of Oz featuring Omar Hakim and Rachel Z
SET TIME 2:30 p.m.
Drummer Omar Hakim has been a favorite fixture at the jazz festival, playing with his wife and musical partner, pianist Rachel Z.
“With us, the conversation continues musically,” says Hakim, who currently serves as chairman of the percussion department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “It’s awesome that we have this outlet. It continues the honeymoon.”
His résumé is vast, having played with Michael Jackson, Daft Punk, Céline Dion, Dire Straits, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Frampton, Mick Jagger, Sting, Journey, David Bowie, Miles Davis and Madonna.
“I made a decision as a young professional that I did not want to be typecast as a musician,” says Hakim, 58. “I wanted people to be able to call me and know that I would make a contribution that was the right thing for their music.”
DON’T MISS Bakithi Kumalo Group
SET TIME 2:30 p.m.
Bassist Bakithi Kumalo has been a regular at the jazz festival for the past five years. This time around, he is bringing a new ensemble.
“This group is kind of like the United Nations — we have a Japanese pianist, guitar player from Uruguay, Brazilian drummer, Cuban percussionist and me, a South African bass player,” says Kumalo. “We have all these flavors going on. I don’t know what we are going to do, but it’s going to be surprising.”
Kumalo gained fame playing with Paul Simon on the 1986 Grammy Award-winning “Graceland” album and has been with him ever since. But this week, jazz remains his focus.
“If you want to play an instrument and go the distance, you’ve got to visit jazz,” says Kumalo, 61. “You can do things in jazz that you can’t do normally with pop music.”
LONG BEACH JAZZ FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, 3 p.m. bass clinic and 7 p.m. concert Friday, Sept. 15; noon Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17 in the Long Beach Public Library Auditorium, 111 W. Park Ave., Long Beach and other participating locations. Seating is first come, first served.