The desert skies were alive with first night of the Fall Arizona Jazz festival in Phoenix at the posh Arizona Grand Resort and Spa on October 24, 2014. Fall festival season is here and the Arizona Jazz Festival is BTW Concert’s star-studded offering. There was nothing sedate about the Friday night performances.
The afternoon started with the smooth soprano saxophone of Dee Lucas. Mr. Lucas gave the crowd his fresh, honest approach to contemporary jazz. His first album release was ten years ago and he has release is fifth album, “The Smooth Factor.” His forty-minute set allowed for the crowd to get their groove on before Boney James brought in his soulful sax.
Boney James burst on the stage ready to entertain the crowd with his rowdy saxophone styling that left no one in their seat. Mr. James cruised through the crowd while playing his instrument to make sure everyone was up and dancing. This was not just a front row jaunt. He covered the whole depth of the venue. This crowd pleaser is a four-time Grammy nominee and BET award winner. He is a true soul artist and the saxophone is his voice. He worked the stage from all angles and kept the momentum throughout his 75-minute set.
Jaheim was a flawless, perfectionistic performer who seemed to sing effortlessly. His smooth RnB vocals had the women in the audience in swoon mode from the start. Jaheim started as a rap artist fifteen years ago and he transition over to RnB. His vocals have the timbre and style of Luther Vandross and last night one could close his/her eyes and imagine Luther at times. During the set he invited one of the women in the audience on stage for an intimate moment. She left the stage with long-stemmed red roses and heart palpitations at the end of the song.
Philly’s finest, Boyz II Men finished the night’s festivities with their classic RnB ballads and a cappella-harmonies in grand style. Earlier in their career they were a four-member group, but over the last ten years they have been three: Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockton. For an unknown reason, during this set the sound became uncomfortably loud. Prior to this, the sound had been perfect. Regardless, they covered their extensive songbook of Grammy winning hit songs to an adoring crowd.
Tomorrow promises to be a full day of stellar entertainment with the likes of Brian McKnight, Fantasia, and “Uncle” Charlie Wilson. I will recap the highlights in my next article.