[../../../_private/magazine_tmp.htm]KiFM Throws Jazzy 18th Birthday Bash














   When KiFM reached the ripe old age of 18 - for radio, that is - the celebration lasted the whole Memorial Day weekend. Super saxophonist and KiFM admirer Dave Koz emceed the three-day event, which featured 47 big-name artists who donated their talent. The "lite jazz" station staffers volunteered all the labor. The audience filled nearly all 1,000 seats. The Magic Johnson Foundation also received a gift of the entire ticket sales receipts. Hyatt Regency La Jolla Aventine, the venue for the opening-night gala May 28, also showed its generosity by not charging KiFM.
   The 1993 honorary chairs of opening night were: KiFM president /general manager Bruce Walton, TV actor Mark Harmon and Emmy award-winning composer John Tesh, who co-hosts TV's "Entertainment Tonight." Percussionist Andy Narrell performed some Caribbean numbers. The steel drummer and marimba player, who held four sticks at once, reminded the audience that the marimba should not be confused with a xylophone or a telephone.
   "This is heavy metal and heavy woodwind," Narrel said jokingly of his selected pieces. Another popular name with KiFM listeners, Gregg Karukas, was the first band of the evening. Koz accompanied on sax. Karukas, who performed at last year's bash, has three albums: Key Witness, Sound of Emotion, and a new album coming out. "I never felt this kind of support in any part of the country," Karukas exclaimed. Famous for his "Miami Vice" theme - a cut from his "Escape from Television" album - Jan Hammer wore and played an around-the-neck synthesizer. The veteran musician wrote the soundtrack for an animated virtual reality film, "Beyond the Mind's Eye," which evolved into a video available to the public. "He and Billy Ray Cyrus are neck to neck," Koz quipped. Hammer's sound moved south with songs reminiscent of Peruvian flute music. Next Koz brought out Najee, a sax and flute player with an urban that aren't recorded." He selected a John Coltrane classic, "Moment's Notice," which he said "might be recorded in the future" and another piece he described as "appropriate" for the purpose of the Magic Johnson Foundation benefit: "What's Goin' On?"
   The audience received touring Yanni - whom some female fans regard as a Greek god- with spirited whistling and applause. Besides his performances with the San Diego Symphony and other major orchestras, he has a gold album, "Reflections of Passion," a collection of love songs. Yanni described his new CD as his "most orchestrated piece of music."
After the intermission, Koz stirred the audience with a sensual sax rendition of "Misty," the lead cut from "Lucky Man," his latest CD.
   The sexy but scratchy voice of the next artist surprised some of the audience. Laryngitis failed to keep Beth Nielsen Chapman from her scheduled debut. Chapman described her voice that evening as "Sade on a bad day." "I have to call KiFM to ask them to play this song," she squeaked. However, her optimistic spirit carried her through her performance. "Every cloud has a silver lining," she said. "I found a really great guitar player: Billy Joe Walker." During the setup for the next artists, Koz took the stage again, armed with some KiFM tidbits.
   "There's a rumor that KiFM office moved into the Mormon Temple," the M.C. joked. "Not true." (The station is located near the famous church.) Koz announced that KiFM's anniversary celebrations began at a club in Pacific Beach 15 years ago. "Look what we're doing now," Koz said. "KiFM does this for its listeners. They are some of the most dedicated listeners; they don't turn it off."
   Acoustic guitarist Peter White and his fancy flamenco finger work were next on the musical menu. In his British accent, White introduced his partner, Al Stewart. The duo performed an old Al Stewart song, "On the Border." "I came in 1975 and met Al Stewart, and my life has never been the same," White said. Koz, who has frequently joined morning announcer Susan DeVincent on the air, returned to the stage. "Back to KiFM trivia," he said. "KiFM gave the first jazz concert to be closed down by the cops."
"Nouveau flamenco" guitarist Ottmar Liebert inspired the audience with his strumming and drumming on his instrument, magically creating both a drumbeat and a castanet effect on the wood of his guitar.
   After pianist/composer David Benoit and guitarist Russ Freeman acknowledged KiFM program director Bob O'Connor for inviting them, the duo launched into the familiar Charlie Brown piece and ended with a song that they co-wrote. As soon as longtime KiFM announcer Larry Himmel walked on stage, he fired off a set of jokes. "Art Good [KiFM announcer] married Sade so they could whisper to each other," Himmel quipped. The comedian also joked about issues closer to home, such as his baby entering his life at age 46. "I have a son: Miles Davis Himmel," he said. "He will not do requests, and he was born with his back to the audience." But the comedian became serious when talking about KiFM's clout. "Major artists break their CDs [on KiFM]," Himmel said. "When you don't like him, he's out of there."
   Another major artist, Richard Elliot, opened with a rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" that would have brought tears to Judy Garland's eyes. In introducing Bobby Caldwell, Dave Koz credited the musician for giving him his start. "He gave a college kid a shot in his band," Koz said. "I'm forever indebted to this guy." The audience shouted their request for Caldwell: "Stuck on You." "In three years, it will be 20 years since I sang 'Only the Lonely' " Caldwell said. While sinking to the floor, Caldwell belted out a guttural interpretation of "A Man Loves a Woman."
   About 30 years ago, Frank Sinatra crooned "Don't Worry About Me" and Caldwell sang this classic that night. Despite the audience's plea for another song, Caldwell refused but advised them to catch him at Humphrey's Oct. 1. The second night of the festival assumed a more informal ambiance. Held at the San Diego Convention Center's open-air theatre on a spring-like breezy evening, the concertgoers dressed more casually than the evening before; some even wore jeans. Of the 7,733 seats, at least 75 percent were full.
   Pocket Change played on the giant terrace overlooking the bay before the concert began, while people nibbled on hot hors d'oeuvres. Lead musician Dave Patt proudly announced and played the title track of his new record, "Mediterranean Affair."
   Morning disc jockey Greg Faulkner happily announced that the station's anniversary coincided with the birthdays of both his sister and Lynda Smith, a 12-year KiFM veteran. Norman Brown, the first artist on the Mojazz label, played "Too High." He recalled the "pleasure of playing" with Stevie Wonder. Along with a five-piece band, Brown performed a number by Earth, Wind and Fire, "Love's Holiday" in addition to two tracks from his new album: "Just Between" and "Here to Stay." Although strep throat precluded Chaka Khan's appearance, vocalist Randy Crawford took her place with flair. She and reggae vocalist Maxi Priest roused the audience with "Street Life." About 10 years ago, after the Crusaders invited her to sing this international hit, she was dubbed Queen of '80s Soul.
   KiFM party organizers packed four concerts into the final day of the festival, which took place at the Hyatt Regency San Diego and was sponsored by Bud Light. Guitarist Peter White opened the concert in the Manchester Ballroom with a piece called "Drive by Night," which had a western cowboy flavor. "You hear a lot of old songs redone." White said.
Sax man Ronnie Laws' appearance marked his first performance in this town since 1978. "So nice to be back here in San Diego," Laws said adoringly of America's finest city.
   As if playing one instrument masterfully were insufficient, Laws employed two at once: baritone and soprano sax. Hollis Gentry, another masterful saxophonist and native San Diegan, returned for another KiFM birthday armed with his alto saxophone.
   Meanwhile, in the Regency Ballroom, Canadian guitarist Brian Hughes, Special EFX, David Benoit and Ottmar Liebert inspired another huge audience. Born in Germany, Liebert is of German, Chinese and Hungarian extraction. One female contemporary jazz fan described Special EFX's style as a "get-up-and-dance" sound.
   Back in the other ballroom, KiFM personality Jeff Prentice and his wife, Jan, came on stage to introduce popular keyboardist Benoit, one of the KiFM fans' favorites. "This is the largest jazz festival we've ever had," Prentice said. "The last time my wife, Jan, was in front of an audience she was 8. She had four words, and she practiced all week." However, her stage fright never was cured. Although she had about the same number of words to introduce Benoit, she asked her husband to refresh her memory.
Benoit announced he would "put Linus and Lucy to rest." When the audience belted out a collective disappointed "ahhhh," the pianist responded to the collective outcry: "Just for a minute." The composer interspersed his ivory-tickling with some keyboard, which was perched on his piano. The crowd gave the star a standing ovation and an Arsenio whoop.
   "Art Good always has a good audience," Benoit said." Art's been a good friend to jazz - promoting jazz in San Diego and everywhere else."

Back To Magazine