A quarter century of JazzTrax

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As the annual JazzTrax music festival celebrates a quarter century of bringing music and tourists to Catalina, its founder Art Good says he can look at the event like a proud parent.

Good, a pioneer of bringing widespread radio exposure to smooth jazz before he started the festival, said this year’s has been one of the best in some ways.

As the annual JazzTrax music festival celebrates a quarter century of bringing music and tourists to Catalina, its founder Art Good says he can look at the event like a proud parent.

Good, a pioneer of bringing widespread radio exposure to smooth jazz before he started the festival, said this year’s has been one of the best in some ways.

“I’d never want to say that any one year is better than another, but this year’s lineup of musicians is definitely one of the better ones we’ve had,” Good said. “There is a lot of diversity. Having Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was a new twist on the music. We had never done anything like it and the fans just loved them.”

Good said one of his main pleasures of presenting the concerts is the opportunity to debut new and upcoming acts.

“We’ve always done that as well as trying to have some of the best, well-known players,” he said. “Some we don’t know how they will do until they get on stage. This year, we had this 19-year-old keyboardist Nicholas Cole who was just amazing. His performance blew everyone away. ”

Another new face at the festival was 27-year-old Kansas City bass player Julian Vaughn.

“He had a recording hit number one in the charts just as he was arriving on the Island,” Good said.

The warm weather has also been a boom to the festival this year.

“We had a little rain before the first Thursday’s “unplugged” concert at Descanso Beach Club, but it cleared up in time for the concert that night,” Good said. “Other than that it has been beautiful.”

Good said it was so nice that sultry, blond saxophonist Mindi Abair performed most of her show at Descanso Beach barefoot.

Abair has been a mainstay for the JazzTrax festival for many years. She is one of the musical artists that debuted at JazzTrax as a relatively unknown talent and has gone on to major success and stardom.

Good said this year’s festival also has a balance of established and bigger acts.

“We ended the first weekend with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and that weekend wrapped up perfectly,” Good said.

Organizing and promoting the JazzTrax and other festivals keep Good busy most of the year. The first three weeks of October are some of his busiest as he oversees the Catalina festival.

Now heading into its third and final weekend, Good said he was glad to catch a few moments to relax on Wednesday, after speaking before the Avalon Rotary Club.

“I told them there are the three things that make this festival special,” Good said. “The first is the magic of the Island. The second is Avalon’s Casino Ballroom and the third is the smooth jazz music and being able to bring it to so many people.”

The JazzTrax festival has also been good for Catalina’s tourist-based economy. Avalon may appear like Mardi Gras during the summer months, but come Labor Day the Island turns quiet and the local economy slows down. Good’s long-running festival, occurring as it does after the summer season has helped pump life and bring people and their money to the Island. It has also paved the way for other off-season events that also improve the economic outlook.

Good said adding the Thursday night unplugged shows, formerly at El Rancho Escondido and now at Descanso Beach, have helped expand the tourist base.

“The first weekend we had 450 people for the Thursday night show,” Good said “We also had just under 1,000 in the ballroom that weekend. Half that audience came a day early and that extra night meant renting a hotel room and buying dinner and breakfast.”

Good said JazzTrax is holding its own as far as its ability to draw people to the Island and attend the festival.

“We are all subject to some extent to the recession,” he said. “Our record year was 2006,” he said. “In 2007 we stayed a about the same level, but by 2009 we were hit just like everyone else by the recession. What we need is for the economy to improve a little bit, just enough to give people the confidence to spend the money to come here. We are slowly growing back.”

Good said that as usual, the first weekend this year was light, the second one picked up a bit and he expects this coming third weekend to see a big surge in attendance at the festival.

 “Our (core) audience has aged,” he said. “But many of them are retiring now and they have the money to come to the Island and enjoy the festival. We have also been drawing people from all over the country and further to come to Catalina for the festival. I just met some folks from Guam that came here just for the festival.”

Now with 25 years of setting the JazzTrax tradition, Good said he still hasn’t tired of producing the event and helping it grow.

“What I really enjoy now, and it’s been more than ever this year, are the many people who come up to me and smile and say ‘We love this festival. Please keep on doing it.’ It’s been so many now that I can’t even answer them all. I just smile and say ‘thank you.’”

A quarter century of JazzTrax