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KSBR's 26th Birthday Bash launches a summer of Jazz

Orange County, California knows how to render a perfect combination of teaser food and cool jazz to launch the Summer season. Radio station KSBR (88.5) had its 26th Birthday Bash on Sunday, May 25, with a host of Orange County restaurants presenting a “Taste of the Bash” before the music.

BLZ Burgers was the most popular vendor at the Taste
BLZ Burgers was the most popular vendor at the Taste
Jennifer Oliver O'Connell
One of the entrances for the popular KSBR 88.5 Birthday Bash
Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

Held at Oso Viejo Community Park in Mission Viejo, Saddleback College's (the station’s home) annual fundraiser brings out some of the top names in the Jazz world. From 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (before the concert) Orange County’s finest restaurants were on display in Taste of the Bash, with more than 20 restaurants, breweries, and wineries representing. These included delicious Fondue with fruit from The Melting Pot, a selection of wines from Hamilton Oaks Vineyards, spicy Carnitas Tacos and chips from Casa Ranchero, a refreshing House Salad from Sun-Dried Tomato, and mouth-watering pastries of Baklava, Semolina Sweet Cake Bread, and Buttery Crunch Cookies from Maria’s Mediterranean Food. BLZ Burgers was by far the most popular restaurant, with a line that lasted well into the beginning of the concert at 5:00 p.m.

Every year The Bash announces some of the artists, but due to contractual issues, many of the artists cannot be announced until the day of the concert. This becomes an exciting blend of ad hoc performances and practiced pieces, which brings a spark and magic to the evening—and this year did not disappoint.

Melissa Manchester was the headliner for the concert, and for her very first Bash appearance, she brought her mellow and soulful vocals, along with 40 years of artistry, giving new twists to old standards like “Be My Baby”. She was joined by her producer and guitarist Terry Wollman, and powerful saxophonist Mindi Abair, performing another number from Melissa's 20th album, You Gotta Love The Life.

Vocalist and trombonist Aubrey Logan sang a heart-wrenching rendition of “Solitaire” for the first half of the program, then for the second half, she raised the roof with a rhythmic, rousing version of "Route 66", where, along with her robust trombone, she did a Scat performance that would make Ella Fitzgerald proud.

Kiki Ebsen, daughter of the late actor Buddy Ebsen, tugged at heartstrings with a loving rendition of “Comes Love” from her upcoming album Scarecrow Sessions. This was one of the evening's surprises, as Kiki had not practiced with the band before taking the stage. The song was beautifully rendered, and brought a reverent hush to the audience. The Scarecrow Sessions album is the result of a promise Kiki made to her father to record jazz standards and songs from Ebsen’s storied career of movies and television. The album is scheduled to be released on Father’s Day.

Southern California locals Bill Cantos and Mari Falcone, who are also married to each other, sent up an original tune called “Smoke and Mirrors” and encouraged audience participation on the chorus. Both are premiere keyboardists, and the song spotlighted the incredible dance between these two talented artists.

Tony Guerrero was master of ceremonies for the event, while doing double-time on the horn. Other vocalists and instrumentalists included Najee (saxophone), Dean Grech (vocals/guitar), Greg Vail (saxophone), Slim Man (vocals), Gregg Karukas (keyboards), and Grace Kelly (saxophone).

Live performing artist Thomas Clark beautifully rendered two paintings, using the music as fuel for his creative compositions.

There are a variety of Jazz offerings, from brunches, to concerts in the park, to clubs all across the Los Angeles area. Visit LA Jazz to see all the listings throughout the Summer!

Visit the KSBR website for more information on the station, where to listen, and news about the 2015 Bash.