Jazz Artist and Entrepreneur Al Williams to be Honored by Living Legend Foundation
2012-04-25 · By Melina Paris
Al Williams and the Long Beach Jazz scene are synonymous. Yet, that is an understatement. Mr. Williams has been performing his talents for scores of fans for over 30 years and has brought a rich history of artistry to Long Beach through both the Long Beach Jazz Festival and his two jazz clubs; The Jazz Safari and Birdland West respectively. He is a devoted artist, successful business-man and a Jazz Living Legend.
Mr. Williams will be honored by the Living Legend Foundation for The Living Legend Jazz Series on April 26th at Regency West in Leimert Park.
What is a legend? Somebody admired for a skill or talent, a story that is passed down for generations and unlikely to be true. The unlikeliness of Mr. Williams’ story to succeed in his jazz festival was indeed foreshadowed because of the sheer enormousness of it; annually the event entertains approximately 30,000 people. Without any model for him to follow he figured it out along the way. Al is a gifted communicator knows which artist’s fans want to hear and see and he has the life experience to know what moves an audience. He has been producing jazz since 1974. All key ingredients that make a jazz club and major jazz festival thrive. As Mr. Williams describes it he’s been blessed to be able to do what he loves. What more does one need to manifest such a rich and fruitful jazz legacy?
The size and popularity of the jazz festival is testament to his success as a producer and in discovering the ways to make it work every year for 24 years. Each festival hold’s new challenges and promise and Al’s positive attitude shows wisdom, as he says “When it’s over, it’s over”. In the mean-time he will be working hard, steadily building this main event, uniting his ability to harmoniously connect to all variety of people with his unique exactitude in rhythmic timing AND everlasting humor to the whole operation.
As a working musician, composer, band leader, business owner, mentor and producer of 5 annual celebrated Long Beach music and cultural events; including the beloved Bayou Festival, Al Williams wear’s many hats! He says; ”It’s fun exposing talented artist’s to thousands of people, the type of thing that doesn’t occur every day”. A special occasion if you will, one of Al’s goals with his events is to make it a very special gathering for all.
Noteworthy about Al, he is a skilled craftsman who possesses an affinity for details, likely developed from his talent in designing and manufacturing furniture for close to 15 years. As owner of his own factory, he produced a variety of wood furniture specializing in high end waterbeds, which pulled in up to $1500 back in the 1970’s and 80’s.
A multi- faceted craftsman and musician, Al has the innate talent to be both the creator and promoter, visionary and producer, artist and businessman.
He has gathered many successes along his path because he loves Jazz and promotes the music in a manner which makes it constantly accessible for everyone – both today and going forward. In his efforts to cultivate the bop, swing, jive, and inspiration into the future he reaches out to nurture young students of jazz at local high schools as well as up and coming artists. He supports them through both his Jazz Search and The Next great Drummer contests. Winners of each event perform at the LBJF. Al says he feels good doing this and without the support he received during his start, at Hermosa Beach’s Lighthouse Café in 1961, he would not be where he is today.
As an old friend who admires and respects Al Williams – where he is today is on a vibrant path to the future. He expands jazz into tomorrow by encouraging new talent, showcasing current talent, continuously exposing newcomers and devotee’s alike to heavy hitters of jazz, and positively getting into the mix himself. Not wanting to miss a beat he fosters the fertile soil to fulfill the legacy of jazz to flourish straight ahead as it’s intended to.
More personally, regarding being a Living Legend of diverse talents he says he’s just Al Williams, trying to play drums, find new challenges and experiment. Explaining his full – fledged business days are on the back burner, he desires now to play more music and do more sailing. Al continues to touch people in a most positive way connecting us to jazz, through memorable events that become a part of our lives, improvising, testing and defying the odds all to deliver this sweet music that enraptures us so.