A beautiful sunny day in Southern California was the perfect atmosphere for the seventh annual Mercedes - Benz Wave Fest given at the L.A. Tennis Center on the campus of UCLA. Eager as ever the throngs of jazz enthusiast waited patiently for the gates to open and the concert to begin, that they may enjoy some high energy and exhilarating smooth jazz. However, before the main event began there was much to keep the jazz fans engaged. There were a variety of merchants’ booths to satisfy every need from massages to magazines and cars to CDs. Also, great food, cold drinks and plenty of live music to keep everyone happy until the stellar line-up begins. 94.7 The Wave has successfully produced their seventh station concert-this is The Wave’s largest and most prestigious smooth jazz event of the year. There were many Wave radio personalities-Dave Koz, Pat Prescott, Talaya Trigueros, Don Burns and Keri Tombazian who warmly introduced themselves on stage and interacted with the audience in the most delightful way throughout the concert.
The Wave Fest swung into high gear with the opening act Praful, who is a German born Saxophonist, with a very fascinating style of play. Praful’s love of music was affected by many methods of musical expression worldwide. Trumpeter, Chris Botti soon followed with his smooth flowing style of music, in spite of Botti short performance his set was sweet and straightforward.
As a very energetic and multi-talented individual Brian Culbertson, produces, writes and arranges his own musical compositions. Culbertson is also a very artistic performer with a gift for playing many instruments, however, he is best known for his keyboard and trombone playing. Culbertson involved the audience from the beginning and kept them transfixed with his intoxicating level of energy. As Culbertson’s performance continued with him alternating between keyboards and trombone, as he bounced around the stage Culbertson was soon joined by his father on stage blowing a very soulful trumpet. While son and father artistically executed the smooth sounds of jazz the audience rose to their feet with pure excitement clapping, cheering and beaming with sheer satisfaction.
Elegant and classy falls short of describing Natalie Cole’s and her performance; however, she was absolutely wonderful and fashionable as well, with a two-piece sequin pants suit and gown. Cole began with "Route-66" a song that her father Nat King Cole recorded years earlier, yet, she was just warming up, and you could hear the audience stirring with anticipation. Cole briefly spoke about how she listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington as a young child. Cole then lunched herself into a soft delicate rendition of Ella’s "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" that was immediately followed with "What A Difference A Day Makes" a song made famous by the late Diva, Dinah Washington, Cole sang beautifully.
"Ask A Woman Who Knows" a CD released last fall by Cole, she sang the title cut, a far cry from the songs that Cole has sung and the many hits that she has had over the years. "Tell Me All About It" another song from the CD, also, did very little to excite the crowed. Nevertheless, when Cole began to sing her Grammy Award winning song "Unforgettable" a song that she sang as a duet with her late father, she once again sparked the audience and sent them into a finger-popping, toe tapping frenzy with her medley of old compositions, songs that were great hits of the passed. Songs like "Mr. Melody," "I got Love On My Mind," "This Will Be" and "Our Love," it was like magic, and many were charmed by Cole’s diverse ability to blend jazz and pop so naturally. Cole was simply amazing once again she leaves the stage with the audience wanting more!
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better-but the best was yet to come! It’s seldom that you find a person that is skillful musician, wonderful vocalist and a great entertainer but George Benson does it all so effortlessly. From the moment Benson step out onto the stage, you couldn’t help but notice that there were plenty of fans that knew what great talent he was capable of displaying. Benson was true to form as he captivated his audience and did not disappoint as he unleashed many of his biggest hit which, won him many of his eights Grammy Awards.
Bensons' Blending of jazz, pop and R&B Compositions such as "This Masquerade," "On Broadway," "Give Me The Night" and his Instrumental "Breezin" and "Being With You" were just a few of the many songs that he performed to intrigue his audience. In addition Benson is a master at improvisation, which gives him the versatility to flow so easily between different classifications of music and creative something unique, without missing a beat, rhythm or stroke. And so it’s said, that many in the world of jazz are aware that this is one of the many artistic qualities that Benson possesses, which sets him apart from others in the business. George Benson is simply one of the best entertainers in the world.