12th Annual Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz Festival

12th Annual Las Vegas
City of Lights Festival

by Gene Thompson

On April 28, 2005 I turned 41 years old. Unfortunately for me I spent the entire day driving 1400 miles from L.A. to Dallas. But Hold on, don’t feel too sorry for me just yet. Five days prior, on Saturday April 23,2005 , I celebrated the birthday early by attending the “12th Annual City of Lights Jazz Festival” in Las Vegas.

The event took place at the outdoor Amphitheatre at Summerlin Hills Park. Super promoter Michael Schivo has, once again, pulled off one of the most successful music festivals to date. The 2-day event kicked off Friday night (April 22nd) with an old school R&B party featuring a strong funk lineup featuring The Dazz Band, Con Funk Shun, Lakeside and the SOS Band.

On Saturday the 10 hour event featured hometown favorite Paul Taylor along with Paul Jackson Jr., Ronnie Jordan, Down to the Bone and the grand master George Duke. The atmosphere was superb, people dressed in shorts carrying their lawn chairs and picnic baskets, everyone well prepared for the long evening ahead. The skies were ominous and cloudy throughout the event, but not one single drop of rain fell on the enthusiastic crowd of nearly 10,000.

The show opened with Paul Taylor, shortly followed by Paul Jackson Jr. who took immediate control of the crowd with his flamingly-yet-smooth guitar stylings. Dressed in a short sleeve unbuttoned shirt with a tank top underneath, blue jeans and plain sneakers, the man got down to business rather straight out of the gate and never looked back. Paul mesmerized the crowd with his rendition of ” People Make the World Go Round” (a classic Stylistics hit), before taking them through a medley of 70’s old school jams. He closed with several songs from his new CD “Still Small Voice” including the hit single “It’s A Shame”

From one great guitarist to another to another, Ronnie Jordan took center stage next, fresh from touring overseas. Just like Jackson Jr., he came prepared for the weather clad in a tan leather ballcap, black jeans and sneakers. Jordan opened with some ballads, including Al B. Sure’s 1988 hit “Night and Day”. He also played a little Acid Jazz that got the crowd on their feet, many doing the electric slide to the sounds of his guitar. He ended his set with some music from his latest “At Last” CD, and a big hit from 1994 (and my favorite) “After Hours”.

It wasn’t long before they introduced saxophonist Kim Waters. His band jumped right in with some hot tunes, it was right in the middle of one his songs before he put the sax down, looked at the crowd and said, “hello, I’m a saxophonist, and my name is Kim Waters.” You could hear the sound of his sax being played for miles throughout the desert community. Kim Waters slowed things down with a slammin version of Marvin Gaye’s ” What’s Going On” as the crowd fell into a zone… me included.

Jazz musicians Down to the Bone took us into the evening and George Duke closed out the event with renditions of Duke penned and performed tracks lake no others. It certainly appeared by the response of the crowd that this event was a major success and talks are already underway for the “13th Annual City of Lights Jazz Festival”.

Will you be there? We sure will.