JazzTrax brings smooth culture home to Avalon

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The 28th Annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival kicked off on Thursday, bringing to Avalon a flow of music fans.

Following on the heels of last weekend’s Third Annual Scheyden Catalina Air Show, JazzTrax is expected to give the town an added post-summer season economic boost as it continues through this weekend and the next.

The 28th Annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival kicked off on Thursday, bringing to Avalon a flow of music fans.

Following on the heels of last weekend’s Third Annual Scheyden Catalina Air Show, JazzTrax is expected to give the town an added post-summer season economic boost as it continues through this weekend and the next.

According to JazzTrax’s promoter, Art Good, there are some of the festival’s enthusiasts who have been making the trip to Catalina for nearly three decades, helping to fill the town’s hotels and keep restaurants and retails shops filled and busy.

A key component of the festival is its smooth jazz signature that was carved out by Good’s long-running JazzTrax radio show he started in 1985. Since he founded the festival on Catalina in 1987, many credit the island for being the birthplace of smooth-jazz, just as New Orleans is known for its Dixieland Jazz.

With JazzTrax being the longest running smooth jazz festival in the world many point to the culture and setting of the island and its setting with landmarks like the Casino Building and its long history of big band and jazzy notes creating a perfect fit for the musical form.

Many of the top name performers in the smooth jazz genre have graced the stages of JazzTrax over the years. Some of those include David Sanborn, David Benoit and of course saxophone player Mindi Abair, whose career has taken off ever since she first began to perform in the festival on Catalina.

Abair’s intimate outdoor show at Descanso kicked off the festival Thursday. It was sold out, which was an indication of the festival’s expected success.

Often seen taking a casual stroll around Avalon, Abair has become one of the most recognizable and regular performers in the festival.

She was born in St. Petersburg, Florida. After completing her studies at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, she headed to Los Angeles with her saxophone, her voice and a bagful of dreams.

In this year’s JazzTraz program, Good describes how he came to include and feature her prominently at JazzTrax.

“She and I met on an evening in as jazz club in La Jolla,” he said. “She was waitressing by day in L.A. then running down to gig by night in San Diego. That’s how it begins for musicians.

Through the ’90s she moved solidly into the industry, with John Tesh, The Backstreet Boys, and Mandy Moore.

“She had already first appeared on the island at JazzTrax in 1994 in an All Star session. She later returned to Jazz Trax in ’98 in Jonathan Butler’s band. I booked her for the first time as a headliner, still a virtual unknown, in Oct. of 2002, before she make her CD solo debut early in 2003 and was named JazzTrax Debut Artist of the Year,” he said.

Good said the rest was history as her very first single went to No. 1 for a record breaking eight consecutive weeks.

She was recently seen with Paul Schaffer July 29th on “Late Nite with David Letterman.”

Early reports of this year’s JazzTrax ticket sales said they were going faster than usual.

According to the festival organizers, this was due in part because it was consolidated this year from its three-weekend run to two weekends.

Because of that, more regular festival goers squeezed into what used to be the first two of three available weekends. 

JazzTrax brings smooth culture home to Avalon