Q&A: Long Beach Jazz Festival Organizer

When The Queens Cartoonists take the stage on Thursday, Sept. 17, the Long Beach Jazz Festival will celebrate its 13th year of bringing jazz to Long Beach. The musicians make the money, the people attend for free and through consistent offerings, an intimate performance space and musician word of mouth, the festival has evolved into a showcase of some of the best jazz in the world. Not bad for a four-day event that started off as an idea from a jazz fan. Some of this year’s offerings include the Mino Cinelu World Ensemble and the Trio Of Oz featuring Omar Hakim and Rachel Z.

I checked in with festival co-founder and multi-talented guitar and stick master Steve Adelson.

Long Island Pulse: How did the Long Beach Jazz Festival originally come about?
Steve Adelson: It’s funny. A friend of mine named Bruce Snyder had this idea to start a jazz festival. He was a fan not a player. David Baram had joined as artistic director and I said, yes, let’s try it. Then Bruce moved to Florida and it was mine and it was a joy. It was very successful and we kept it going.

Pulse: What do you attribute to that success and the growth over the years?
SA: Just the quality. The people love it, the musicians love it. It takes place in a very intimate space that holds only about 200 people and the musicians like that. The musicians are having fun, they’re smiling and the audience is having a great time.

Pulse: What’s one of the best parts for you?
SA: The gratifying part is we’re not living in a jazz community but I’ve exposed the community to this music and people who didn’t know they like jazz walk out saying I didn’t even know that I like that and then end up endorsing and promoting it. 

Pulse: How did you manage to make and keep it free?
SA: I’m doing it as a community service and since it takes place in the library it has to be free. We raise money to pay the musicians but the motive is not to make money.

image: the trio of oz

image: the trio of oz

Pulse: What should people expect this year?
SA: The highlights are returnees Chieli Minucci and Special EFX. Dean Brown and his band are also returning. Omar Hakim and Rachel Z are coming off tour and will be here. Frank Vignola and Vinnie Raniola duo, Bakithi Kumalo Band with the bassist from Paul Simon.

Pulse: Who should go?
SA: Everybody! I’ve seen school kids and people in their 80s come and enjoy it. Come out and you’ll have a good time and if people have a good time they’re going to come back. It’s good music. It’s creative music, but it’s music you can enjoy.