The 2001 version of this event just ended and in this writers opinion it was a huge success. This is based primarily on the very positive fan reaction, enthusiasm generated by the performers, and my own humble opinion based on the mission of the founders of this event, more information on these views are explained at http://kmjazz.com/bg.htm. I have been to the Jazz Trax Catalina festival eight times and would recommend it to anyone, but considering that Kettle Moraine is a benefit and was started as an idea to raise a few bucks for the community activities of West Bend Wisconsin, trust me, it is awesome. It is very difficult to compete with the beauty of a place like Catalina California, but the farm community of West Bend offers a bit of natural beauty as well, and by the way Art Good of Jazz Trax showed up to check it out last year (As any of you followers of Jazz Trax know, Art is a huge baseball fan and came back this year to among other things, see Miller Park and his Padres vs. the Brewers.)
Performers at the festival are world class, but the atmosphere is laid back and very midwestern .I should know I live here. By the way, we have cool stuff too you know. A food court and art galleries encircle the stage area tent. The sound system is very adequate for the performers. As you all know some smooth jazz is quite intensely loud and dynamic .while very smooth, as are the very cool people that enjoy this music. This crowd is quite civilized. General seating is first come first serve. Early arrival at the gate insures an awesome seat. Others respect the claim that you've staked on your seat throughout the day as you visit other on site locations to mingle, acquire food, beverages, or art.
This year the inclement weather was barely noticed as greats Daryl Stuermer and Peter White played around the rainstorm while the crowd-sought shelter under the tent. The entertainment this year included the great artists listed above plus Jesse Cook, Ramsey Lewis, Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, and awesome entertainer and closing showman Rick Braun. More information on these artists can be found at http://kmjazz.com/enter.htm.
Very good talent from local Midwest groups Lake Effect and Christopher's Project helped to complete the show.
Lake Effect has been together with this group of musicians for about a year and they are currently in the process of recording a CD. Their original music titles "Jet Set," "Mister Groove," and "Urban Dance" to name a couple were well thought out and very enjoyable sounds. The group also played some covers with a lot of class. Their sound seems to modeled after the Yellow Jackets and a former Milwaukee group called Oceans. (Note: Lake Effect will be performing at a Milwaukee venue called Astor Street on September 21.)
Christopher's Project a very good Milwaukee-based group played with a lot of enthusiasm and force. They have been nominated for the Wisconsin WAMI's, in the categories of rhythm and blues and contemporary jazz. They have released a couple of CD's and play at numerous venues in the Milwaukee area.
But I must admit ..although most of the people at Kettle Moraine this year were awesome and are personal favorites of mine, it really blew me away that the Ramsey Lewis Trio was on stage 45 minutes North of Milwaukee in a little town called West Bend. Wow, I really enjoyed their performance.
Ramsey Lewis has had three Grammy awards and five gold records. He discussed the basis for his music and said that certainly jazz, but also classical and gospel played a very heavy influence in his music. He and his group were able to make such wonderful music with minimal amplification. His adept piano playing is very enjoyable to listen to. One shouldn't be too surprised; Ramsey began playing at four and has played professionally throughout the country for over forty years. What a wonderful performer and what a wonderful performance.
Ivory pyramid is the name of his recording studio and production company. His 1999 Narada Records release "APPASSIONATA" reflects the three musical influences mentioned above. He not only hosts a weekday morning drive time show in Chicago on WNUA-FM, but hosts a syndicated weekly program, "Legends of Jazz," and "Jazz Central" on BET (Black Entertainment Television).