On Top of the Aloha Beat BLOG


1st Annual Red Clay Jazz Festival on Kauai


One of my community involvements here on Kauai has been to participate as a board member of the Kauai Concert Association.
Last evening KCA held its final concert of the '07 & '08 season. It was fondly titled, The 1st Annual Red Clay Jazz Festival. The purpose of the event is to keep great jazz alive on Kauai. The event was a huge success. Everyone had a ball and what a great value to hear three fabulous ensembles for only $45. I imagine the cost could be closer to $100 if held in a mainstream mainland venue. Below is a short article I drafted this morning commemorating the event.



I don't know if it's what Pete had in mind, but, if the late Pete Robinson was watching from somewhere up above last night at the Marriott Luau grounds, I'm sure he would have been smiling and grooving. The Kauai Concert Association hosted the 1st Annual W.S. Pete Robinson Red Clay (named for the Freddie Hubbard tune and our red dirt) Jazz Festival. It's a dream that Pete had for a long time. Now, a new tradition has been established in Pete's namesake. And Pete's wife, Judy Arrigo, was the driving visionary and energetic force to spearhead the creation of this new tradition on Kauai.

I could not imagine a more splendid ambience for listening to live music anywhere on this planet. Picture a large white stage tent at the very end of the beach at Kalapaki Bay. As you look to your right you see and hear the ocean softly breaking on the shore. In the background, the Ha`upu mountains complete the panoramic magic. Being outdoors, everything sounds better. There are no walls to reverberate off of and the sound just massages your being.

The Red Clay festival began with the energetic big band from Kauai High School. The Kauai High Jazz Raiders played through a selection of straight ahead jazz, funk, and Latin big band arrangements. Daryl Miyasato, the band director and the sit-in bass player for the evening, conducted the band as they journeyed through some ambitious arrangements including Chick Corea's Spain, and a beautiful ballad from smooth jazz horn maven, Kenny G. The band featured one of their trombone players, Kyle Furusho, as a fabulous lead vocalist on the great Sinatra classic, "Come Fly With Me".

RED Raiders

During the breaks between the music groups, patrons browsed the grounds which featured yummy Marriott cuisine like chili dogs and chili with rice, and fine beverages. Young marketing execs promoting Steinlager Pure shared complimentary beverage tickets from Steinlager, one of the events' premier sponsors. Other major sponsors of this inaugural event included the Marriott,  the County of Kauai - Office of Economic Development & the  Hawaii Tourism Authority The art exhibit from the Kauai Society of Artists was displayed in the courtyard adjacent to the concert grounds.  And KCA sold CDs of the artists, T-shirts, and shared the mission of KCA with the attendees, several of whom were tourists visiting. I am sure, despite the vog, the visitors could feel the aloha spirit present everywhere around the festival grounds.

The music shifted gears when the Honolulu Jazz Quartet took the stage. Led by bassist John Kolivas, an Oahu native, the quartet serenaded the crowd with a long set of straight ahead and progressive jazz, mostly original compositions. One interesting piece, Heater's On, was a musical depiction of John's first experience of the bizarre sounds of a radiator heating a cold apartment in Manhattan. The radiator, portrayed by drummer Von Baron's fabulous cymbal work, made most unusual sounds and rhythms. Von Baron's cymbal techniques were both innovative and effective. Another piece, a three four rendition of a Keola Beamer tune, Real Old Style, was a sweet variation on a slack key theme. HJQ is a tight ensemble with Chicago native Dan Delnegro and saxophonist Tim Tuskiyama rounding out the ensemble. As emcee Tony Kilbert proposed, each city has its own style of music; NYC, Chicago, Philly are renowned jazz towns. Tony suggested the feeling of the tradewinds was the quality of this Honolulu-based quartet. Though Kona winds made the air still, the slick melodies and rhythms of HJQ blew through the air with a majestic quality all its own.

Highlighting the night was the effervescent and delightful Joyce Cooling. Hailing originally from Newark, NJ, Joyce has been in the Bay area for years. And while here chart topping sounds are affectionately labeled "Smooth Jazz" by the music industry, her superlative rhythm section of writing partner Jay Wagener, Billy Johnson on drums, and Victor Little on bass laid down 90 minutes of solid grooves that integrated funk, fusion, and intricate polyrhythms into a groove that made me want to get up and dance. In fact, I did, and so did others.  Johnson, a Philly Native, and Little, added such a strong funk groove to every melody, it was simply infectious. I could feel the ocean dancing in response to the tight and exciting rhythms.


It may have taken a number of years for Pete Robinson vision to give birth. Perhaps the Red Clay Jazz Festival was being birthed on "Kauai time". Whatever the reason, hopefully the RED CLAY Jazz Festival, presented by the W.S. Pete Robinson Memorial Jazz Fund and KCA, and sponsored by Marriott, Steinlager Pure and others, will have a long extended stay on Kauai. And Pete Robinson can keep smiling and grooving, like hundreds of jazz enthusiasts did last night on the beach at Kalapaki Bay.

Ron Margolis, RA, CDPE, ABR Hawaii Life Real Estate Services 808.346.7095 email: ron@hawaiilife.com

Comment balloon 1 commentRonnie Margolis • May 18 2008 07:37PM


Nicely written review, Ron.  Wish I had been there - but couldn't make it for some reason. HJQ is one of my local favorites!

Posted by Barbara Pendragon almost 10 years ago