Boney James' talent on his saxophone was awe-inspiring. (Harper Smith)
Sundays are usually reserved for boring relaxation. You know – early afternoon brunches, long naps and the dreaded countdown to Monday morning. But last night was different. Last night I experienced excitement under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl’s Smooth Summer Jazz concert.
As I entered the venue and found my way to my seat, the Bowl was brimming with the soothing sounds of jazz and a crowd as eclectic as a bag of Skittles. The energy was bright. Picnic baskets were filled with wines, perfectly paired cheeses, fruits and I even saw some international chocolates. Jazz lovers from all over Southern California could hardly contain their anticipation as they buzzed about the impending show with those who would be their musical neighbors for the next four hours.
Keiko Matsui was the first to take the stage and immediately grabbed the attention of all in attendance. The way her fingers graced the keys of that powerful piano set the tone for the rest of the night. She started off light, easing into her set, but it wasn’t long until the crowd wanted more. It’s not often that the opening act receives a standing ovation, but last night it happened. The crowd was thanked with an encore of one last song.
Spirits were still high from Matsui’s set as the stage turned and smooth jazz classics, BWB, were introduced. Rick Braun on the horn, Kirk Whalum strapped with his saxophone and Norman Brown donning his electric guitar took to the stage. The collaboration between these three artists is so amazing and timeless.
As BWB began to play selections from their first album, which debuted over 10 years ago, as well as from their second album, 2013’s Human Nature, fans of all ages began to dance in their seats. Arms were raising, fingers were snapping and the sun was setting in perfect harmony. The air was so relaxed as the notes danced throughout the night sky, and the stars above began to make their appearance.
Those jazz notes began to jump as the lively Ohio Players launched into their set. With red-sequined shirts, choreographed steps and old-school grooves like “Love Rollercoaster,” this band took us back in time, right down memory lane. Now I must admit, this group was way before my time, but with the energy that they brought to the Hollywood Bowl, it was impossible not to see how they were a fan-favorite of those in attendance.
There could have been no better way to close out the concert than with the legendary Boney James. The saxophone was made for that man. I mean, they literally become one. The music dances, and so does he.
The way James vibes with his band and the band with him is such a sight to see – a real treat for the ears. But the best part of Boney’s set, is when he began to play the title song from his 2011 album, Contact. Armed with only his saxophone, Boney leapt from the stage and into the crowd. He played so sweetly as he jogged through the crowd, stopping to dance with some of his biggest fans. As he passed right in front of me, I was so in the moment, awed at how talented he was and how it seemed as if he was playing every note just to me.
Yes, the Smooth Summer Jazz Concert was amazing indeed. Exciting and titillating, relaxing and refreshing, it was a great time had by all.