PICTURED: Louie Cruz Beltran and his Latin orchestra will headline the 2019 Oxnard Jazz Festival.
There are hundreds of ways to say it. Get your groove on. Bring your dancing shoes. Party all night along. But what festival promoter Chuck Dennis would like most is for you to come and have a great time. We’re talking the fourth annual Oxnard Jazz Festival held every year at Oxnard State Beach. Yes, it’s that time of year. Time to get it on during the last big festival of the summer season.
“We want to keep them dancing on our floor,” said Dennis, “and every artist on our bill will keep you moving.”
There you go. Sounds like a promise to me.
For Dennis, having that vibe is important, almost as important as being a jazz artist. It’s why he includes Latin and R&B as part of the show: “I look for artists in which the type of jazz and type of songs they have are really upbeat and something that people can
groove to, your up-tempo jazz, a touch between soul and funk, but it’s still jazz.”
This year’s lineup includes both local and international talent, including DW3, Peter White, Richard Elliot, Jeff Ryan, Jeff Lorber, Paul Jackson Jr., Rose Royce, Everette Harp and Keiko Matsui.
To open the festival, students from Oxnard Musical Youth (O’My) Theater will be singing a jazz medley. Led by Cheryl Kewley, O’My has been providing theatrical training and performance experience to young people since 2012.
This is their first experience performing jazz but, as Kewley noted, “When Chuck gave us the opportunity, our kids were thrilled. I think they were secret closet jazz lovers.”
You wouldn’t think Switzerland would be a jazz hotbed, but don’t tell that to Swiss-American keyboardist Greg Manning. Manning grew up listening to his parents’ jazz,
but over the years, he has grown to appreciate music as . . . well, just music.
“When I grew up, I kind of had blinders on and I just listened to mostly jazz and R&B,” he admitted. “But nowadays, I basically listen to everything. I’m a big fan of Justin Bieber. I love John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny. I just listen to all different kinds of music.”
It shows in Manning’s wide range of compositions and production skills that extend far into the commercial realm. Radio. TV. The studio. Film. And, of course, as a performer. He has worked with such luminaries as Brian McKnight, Jonathan Butler and Deniece Williams.
From the L.A. scene, percussionist and singer Louie Cruz Beltran brings his Afro-Cuban-Latin history and experience to the jazz festival stage.
Beltran’s influences come from gospel, R&B, jazz, Latin jazz, Mexican and Caribbean folk tune and salsa, as well as what he terms “the great American songbook.” His decades of collaboration include work with Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Santana, and many others.
Though his music is tied directly to the history of percussion and jazz, he strives to
make that music strong enough to appeal to a modern audience.
“I think what sets me apart is that I bring songs that are familiar with our society of listeners and dancers and I try to bring the ability for people to listen and to dance,” he explained. “I’m trying to connect a modern audience to old music with a new approach, upbeat stylings and American music.”
In fact, he would like people to know that Latinos, particularly in California, have broad tastes that include the big band and pop rhythms that most Americans find familiar.
“I have found that for Latino American citizens in California, we grew up with Tommy Dorsey in our kitchens along with the cultural music, so we’re not strangers to the influences of our environment,” he said. “Those who are born here and have cultivated a history throughout the years love jazz and love mambos and love rock and roll and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.”
The Oxnard Jazz Festival will be held on Saturday, September 14, at Oxnard Beach Park, 1601 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard. Doors open at 10 a.m.; event ends at 7 p.m. For tickets, full schedule, associated events and more information, visit www.oxnardjazzfestival.com.