Summer might technically be over, but the music festival season continues on. This September, Oxnard gets in the groove with the debut of the first (hopefully annual) Oxnard Jazz Festival, coming to Oxnard Beach Park on Saturday, Sept. 10. Organizers hope this will be the first of many such events in years to come.
The festival will include a large lineup of well-known jazz artists, including Grammy Award-winning musician Poncho Sanchez, Isaiah Venegas, house band Coso and Tom & Milo, plus Jade Hendrix, Quattrosound and the Oxnard High School Band. It will be DJ’d by radio personality Greg Mack from the smooth jazz radio station 94.7 The Wave.
Chuck Dennis, the show’s producer, is a well-known jazz promoter who has lived in Oxnard for 32 years. He thinks jazz is a style that still has untapped possibilities here in Ventura County.
“I was born in the community with this type of music,” he said. “When we decided to produce this show, we looked at all the different festivals and asked: What could we do to be different?”
The answer to that question, according to Dennis, was to “feature true jazz with a little bit of rhythm and blues, black and soul.”
Dennis knows the challenge he faces launching this type of festival. “I think the problem we’re running up against is the genre of music,” he observed. “Most festivals that are jazz are really rhythm and blues, but so far, the response to bringing jazz to Oxnard has been awesome, and I think our second year will be even better.”
He picked Oxnard Beach because of its size and convenient location. “It’s a new venue,” he stated, “and it hasn’t been touched in terms of a festival. It’s a prime location for people coming from either Santa Barbara or Los Angeles.”
One local artist who will be featured as part of the lineup is Ventura County’s very own Jade Hendrix. Born in Oxnard, she grew up backstage in the arenas and stadiums of the world while her mother, Sharon Hendrix, performed with the likes of Tom Jones, Natalie Cole and Barry Manilow. Daughter Jade, for her part, has been influenced in her vocal styles by jazz artists such as Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and Kurt Elling.
Locally, she has performed at venues like Grapes and Hops, the Watermark on Main, and Café Fiore in Ventura, and will be headlining this year’s Bowlful of Blues at Libbey Bowl in Ojai later this month. As an invitee of producer Dennis, she is excited to be featured in such a high-profile festival. “It’s quite an honor,” she said. “Jazz is my first love, and to be a part of a jazz festival, especially in my hometown, is the stuff of dreams.”
The festival culminates with a dynamic performance by Poncho Sanchez and his Grammy Award-winning Latin Jazz Band.
The renowned conguero, Latin jazz bandleader, and salsa singer was born in Laredo, Texas, but Sanchez grew up in a suburb of L.A., where he was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds that included rock, straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz and American soul.
“To me, Latin jazz is the world’s greatest music,” said Sanchez. “It has the melodic and harmonic sophistication of jazz and American standards, and the flavor and energy of Latin American music. What I’m most proud of is that this music — while it may sound exotic at times — is from America.”
The Oxnard Jazz Festival will be on Saturday, Sept. 10, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., at Oxnard Beach Park, 1601 Harbor Blvd. For full lineup, tickets and more information, visit www.oxnardjazzfestival.com.