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Sultry Latin Jazz Syndicate heats up the crowd at Laguna Beach Live! Summer Jazz Series

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On Tuesday evening, the Woman’s Club was transformed into an intimate cabaret for the sold out Laguna Beach Live! concert featuring Latin Jazz Syndicate. Showcasing trumpeter Bijon Watson and vocalist Norrell Thompson, The Latin Jazz Syndicate introduces a fusion of Latin and World rhythms through famous jazz standards.

The Laguna Beach Live! Summer 2019 Jazz International series takes place every other Tuesday night from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Woman’s Club. On this evening, attendees dined on hamburgers from The Cut food truck and sipped on wine and cocktails from the Wine Gallery. 

Outside it was cool and overcast, but inside, the high-octane jazz mastery of Latin Jazz Syndicate’s talented musicians kept audience members swaying to the sizzling beat. Add to that Thompson’s torrid vocals, and you get the idea.

Sultry Latin Bijon closeup

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Trumpeter Bijon Watson

Formed in 2005 and led by versatile trumpeter Watson, The Latin Jazz Syndicate is a group of All-Star musicians that have performed and recorded with many well-known artists such as Arturo Sandoval, Poncho Sanchez, Jose Rizo’s Jazz On The Latin Side All Stars, and Luis Miguel. 

The group pays homage to America’s indigenous music, Jazz, while maintaining the rhythmic and harmonic authenticity required of a variety of ethnic styles. Their unique sonic flavors, the mixture of Afro Cuban, Latin Soul, and World Rhythms – as well as the ensembles’ dedication to performing with unsurpassed passion and energy – combine to create an unforgettable musical experience. 

Sultry Latin crowd

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Sold-out crowd enjoys socializing before the concert

Watson’s career as a musician and educator spans more than 25 years and has taken him around the globe to perform for audiences worldwide. Born in Boston, Mass., he began playing the trumpet at the age of eight. He attended the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory School and the University of Southern California, and was a member of the 1994 Disney All-American College Band and 1995 Disney/Grammy All-American College Jazz Band.

The band brings together multi-talented musicians to create this force of nature: Will Brahm, guitar, Carlos Ordiano, keyboard, Euro Zambrano, drums, Joey Deleon, percussion, and Norrell Thompson, vocals. 

Sultry Latin band

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Latin Jazz Syndicate 

Will Brahm is a Los Angeles-based guitarist and composer. He received his bachelor’s degree in music in Jazz Guitar Studies at California State University Long Beach, where he was a five-time consecutive recipient of the “K-jazz” scholarship. 

Euro Zambrano is a Venezuelan drummer, music producer, and educator who resides in Los Angeles. He has also toured and performed with several artists in America and Europe and has recorded hundreds of productions.

In addition to playing the keyboard, Carlos Ordiano is a composer. 

Classically and street-trained percussionist Joey De Leon, Jr., has held the bongo chair for Grammy Award-winner Poncho Sanchez for the last five years. 

Put all these talented entertainers on one stage, and audiences can’t help but experience a memorable evening of sights and sounds.

Sultry Latin Norrell

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Norrell Thompson wows crowd

Laguna Beach Live!, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, not only presents great talent at intimate venues with accessible prices, the group also provides education programs. Annually, Laguna Beach Live! presents more than 30 concerts and additional free education programs for kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and the Laguna schools, and for seniors at the Susi Q Center. This is made possible by partial funding from members, the lodging establishments, City of Laguna Beach, and sponsors. 

Stay tuned for more concerts: coming up on the Laguna Beach Live! schedule this summer – July 30 is French Gypsy Jazz presented by Hot Club of Los Angeles and August 13 is Cuban Jazz.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, with food and beverages for purchase. For tickets and more information, go to www.lagunabeachlive.org or call (949) 715-9713.

The Woman’s Club is located at 286 St Ann’s.

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see the slideshow below


Laguna Dance Festival presents two free dance performances this Sunday at Festival of Arts

This Sunday, July 21, Laguna Dance Festival will present two free shows by Los Angeles-based Versa-Style Dance Company, at 1 p.m. and again at 2 p.m. on the stage at the Festival of Arts grounds. 

Versa-Style was founded in 2005 by Jackie Lopez, a.k.a. “Miss Funk,” and Leigh “Breeze-lee” Foaad to reflect the vast versatility within street dance and to break color lines by creating a forum where people come together in a common passion and joy. 

As a reaction to media misrepresentation of the dance forms it offers – hip-hop, house, popping, locking, whacking and boogaloo, and Afro-Latin styles such as salsa, merengue, cumbia, and Afro-Cuban – Versa-Style specifically aims to perform for the youth of Los Angeles in order to foster knowledge of the roots, history, and social and political issues surrounding the art of its generation.

Festival of Arts visitors are invited to enjoy two consecutive shows that will have them on their feet, grooving to the irresistible hip-hop beat. 

Laguna Dance jump

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Photo by George Simian

Through its art, Versa-Style emphasizes freedom of expression, individuality, discipline, and dedication to the form

To view a Versa-Style dance video showing off their energetic dance chops, click here.

For more information on Versa-Style, visit www.versastyledance.com

For its 15th season, from September 27-29, Laguna Dance Festival will present a trio of performances by the Parsons Dance Company from New York City, RUBBERBANDance Group from Montreal, and Ballet West from Salt Lake City, hosted by the 750-seat Irvine Barclay Theatre. 

The 2019 Laguna Dance Festival schedule (as of July 16) includes:

--July 21 – Festival of Arts Summer Sunday Performances – free outdoor public dance performances by Versa-Style Dance Company at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

--Thursday, Sept 5 – First Thursdays Art Walk at Laguna Art Museum

--Friday, Sept 27 at 7:30 p.m. – New York-based Parsons Dance Company at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Pre-show talk at 6:30 p.m. 

--Saturday, Sept 28 – Educational dance workshop by Parsons Dance Company, Laguna Beach High School 

--Saturday, Sept 28 at 7:30 p.m. – Parsons Dance Company, RUBBERBANDance Group, and Ballet West at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Combined program of excerpts from respective repertoires. 

--Sunday, Sept 29 at 10 a.m. – Master class with RUBBERBANDance founder Victor Quijada onstage at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

--Sunday, Sept 29 at 2 p.m. – RUBBERBANDance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Pre-show talk at 1 p.m. Master class by the company at 10 a.m. 

--October – date TBA – Master class 

--Sunday, Nov 3 – Merce Cunningham Centennial Celebration at Laguna Art Museum

--Sunday, Nov 10 – Lecture demonstration by Black Grace from New Zealand, drawing on Maori and Pacific Islander dance, modern, and hip-hop. Neighborhood Congregational Church, 340 St. Ann’s Drive, Laguna Beach 

Tickets are on sale now at www.lagunadancefestival.org

Laguna Dance Festival, celebrating its 15th season, is one of Orange County’s major annual cultural events and continues to be an important showcase for new and established dance companies and artists. 

Its mission is to present world-class dance performance, increase public appreciation for the art, and provide quality dance education.   

The Festival of Arts is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd.


2019 Music in the Park continues with Grateful Dead tribute band on Sunday

Music in the Park, Laguna Beach’s local summer concert series, continues this Sunday, July 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Bluebird Park, with Cubensis, a Grateful Dead tribute band.

The city advises concert goers to not set up blankets or chairs before 3 p.m. so that children can play and enjoy the park following a large number complaints from parents on Sunday that their children could not enjoy the park because concert goers took over the park earlier than advised.

“This is a free event and enjoyed by many and as a courtesy we request that respect be shown to all who use the park and to arrive after 3 p.m. to save a spot,” said City Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl.

2019 Music crowd

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Last week’s Music in the Park, featuring 80’s Daze, was a blast

The City also asks that concert goers please note the following rules when attending the concerts: Low-back chairs only (tall chairs will be asked to move to the sides and back of the seating area); vendor or merchant tables allowed in the park; umbrellas must come down at the start of the concert; no dogs allowed in the park – Municipal Code 6.16.020 (a); no smoking or vaping allowed in or around the park – Municipal Code 7.40.030; alcohol allowed for adults (21+) with a full meal only and may not be taken out of the park – Municipal Code 8.04.010.

The remaining concert lineup includes: 

--7/21: Cubensis (Grateful Dead Tribute) 

--7/28: Hollywood Blondie (Blondie Tribute) 

--8/4: Bill Magee (Blues) 

--8/11: Upstream (Reggae/Calypso) 

--8/18: Boys of Summer (Eagles Tribute) 

--8/25: LA Sound Machine (Gloria Estefan Tribute) 

2019 Music kids

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Have fun on Sunday, Laguna, but please don’t set up earlier than 3 p.m. in order to allow children to play in the park before the concert begins

City staff will be present on site with an available First-Aid kit. 

The series is a function of by the Laguna Beach Arts Commission and is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Bluebird Park is located at Bluebird Canyon Drive/Cress Street. Free trolley service is available to the park.


The Artists Fund at Festival of Arts recognizes outstanding artists at Art-To-Go Best-in-Show

The Artists Fund at Festival of Arts presented the Art-To-Go Best-in-Show awards to seven artists recently. The fundraising sale, themed “Full Circle,” features original works donated by Festival exhibitors to support the hardship fund for artists. Works are available daily through August 25 on the Festival grounds.

The Artists group

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Courtesy of The Artists Fund at FOA

(L-R) Mary Platt, Wendy Wirth, Judith Cameron, Dennis Carrie, Yuri Kuznetsov, Anthony Salvo, Mitch Ridder, Bree Poort, Mark Jacobucci, and Lansing Molzen

  The awards juror was Mary Platt, Director of The Hilbert Museum in Orange. “Art-To-Go shows the diversity of talent we have here in Orange County. I’m always excited to discover new artists, and Festival of Arts has so many great ones,” she said.

Platt’s picks were Judith Cameron – first place, Dennis Carrie – second place, and Yuri Kuznetsov – third place. Honorable mentions went to Mitch Ridder and Anthony Salvo. 

Painter Mark Jacobucci won both People’s Choice City Hall and Best-in-Theme categories for his landscape “Plant Rings of Anza Borrego.”

The Artists painting

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Courtesy of The Artists Fund at FOA

Jacobucci, Ridder Among Winners at Art-To-Go

The People’s Choice Festival Grounds award went to newcomer Bree Port. 

President Wendy Wirth handed certificates and gifts to winners. Lansing Molzen was recognized for her mother, the late Anne England, who founded the organization. 

  All Art-To-Go buyers qualify to win a two-night stay at The Tides Inn. 

To view the collection, visit www.theartistsfund-foa.org or call (949) 612-1949. 

Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, 650 Laguna Canyon Rd. 


coastal eddy a gallery presents “dystopian arrangement” on July 20

On Saturday, July 20 from 6 - 9 p.m., coastal eddy a gallery presents the Opening Reception for “dystopian arrangement,” a collaborative, mixed media installation by Robin Lee Riddell and Norma Jean Vance. Join together for an evening of provocative art, music, food, and fun.

All throughout history, past civilizations have left us clues as to who they were. Artifacts and ceramics primarily tell their stories. The installation supposes...What if tomorrow, we were gone? What would be left to tell our story, and how could it be told artistically?

The “arrangements” will take on the theme of making order out of chaos, contrasting beauty with the dystopian nature of what has occurred. 

The show runs July 20 - September 1. 

coastal eddy a gallery, the only ceramic art gallery in Laguna Beach, is located at 1417 S. Coast Highway, in the HIP district of Laguna.

RSVP to (949) 715-4113 or at www.coastaleddyagallery.com.


The Latin Jazz Syndicate kicks off Jazz Summer International series tonight

World-renowned trumpeter and Artistic Director of Jazz for Laguna Beach Live! Bijon Watson leads the commencing concert of the 2019 Laguna Beach Live! Jazz Summer International series tonight, Tuesday, July 16. 

The Latin Jazz Syndicate introduces a fusion of Latin and World rhythms through famous jazz standards. These all-star musicians pay homage to America’s indigenous music, Jazz, while maintaining the rhythmic and harmonic authenticity required of a variety of ethnic styles.

The Latin Jazz Syndicate

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Submitted photo

The Latin Jazz Syndicate performs tonight at the Woman’s Club

Jazz Summer International takes place every two weeks on Tuesday evenings, from July 16 to August 27, at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach. Concerts are from 6 - 8 p.m., with doors opening at 5 for food, drinks, and social hour. 

This year Laguna Beach Live! is teaming up with Wine Gallery Laguna, who will be serving a selection of wine, beer, and soft drinks. Mixologist Tyler will also be crafting a unique signature cocktail for each concert. This week’s creation is The Laguna Daiquiri. Food is being served by The Cut food truck.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, or $100 for the full season. Seating is assigned according to date of purchase, season ticket holders, and Laguna Beach Live! membership. Reservations are accepted until noon on the day of concert or until sold out.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.lagunabeachlive.org or call (949) 715-9713.

The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach is located at 286 St Ann’s Dr. 


LePeTiT CiRqUe returns to enchant visitors during Family Art Day at Festival of Arts 

By DIANNE RUSSELL

On any given day or night during the summer, the Festival of Arts (FOA) is a rarified place filled with splendid and imaginative art, and the genius creativity of the Pageant of the Masters.

To add to its already rich allure, this past Sunday during Family Art Day, the FOA grounds were again alive with the sights and sounds of merriment, music, and the mesmerizing artistry of Le PeTiT CiRqUe (LPC).

During the day’s festivities, kids of all ages donned elaborate balloon hats, sported temporary tattoos, participated in crafts and scavenger hunts, and mingled with the technicolor-costumed sprites that make up LPC. And again a capacity audience was captivated by the extraordinary skills of this all-children cirque company.

Does the fascination lessen with familiarity? In this case, the answer is a resounding “no.” The bewitching nature of the troupe is still in full force as evidenced by the “oohs” and “aahs” coming from the spellbound crowd. 

LePeTiT CiRqUe group

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

LePeTiT CiRqUe troupe in front of Jeff Rovner’s booth at FOA

However, this year’s appearance – LBC’s third at Family Art Day – had a nostalgic element to it.

As readers might remember, LPC’s original connection to the Festival is through Haley Rovner, the troupe’s hula hoop master, whose father just happens to be Jeff Rovner, a fine art photographer exhibiting at the FOA for the third year. 

Sadly, Sunday’s performances were Haley’s last with the troupe and will end her five year run with LPC. She’ll be heading off to college in August to start a next chapter of her life which no doubt will include more studying than hooping. But, during her time with LPC, oh, the places she’s gone and the people she’s met – a highlight being the appearance of LPC at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway in 2017. 

LePeTiT CiRqUe Haley

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Haley Rovner

Haley says, “These last five years have given me the experiences of a lifetime and leaving is really bittersweet. However, I couldn’t have picked a better show to end it on. Performing for some of my closest friends and family at such an intimate show made it really special. I’m going to miss my fellow performers but can’t wait to see where they go in the next few years and how the troupe grows.”

What this company has already accomplished is awe-inspiring. LPC is the only all-kid humanitarian professional cirque company in the world. The troupe consists of kids from 5-16 years of age, who perform as cirque artists, acrobats, karate masters, musicians, singers, hula hoop masters, and dancers. 

LePeTiT CiRqUe box

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Unbelievable feats on stage

They have performed all over the U.S., Canada and Dubai, and for world leaders including the Dalai Lama, and the Sultan of Brunei. LPC has raised over five million dollars since its launch seven years ago.

Le PeTiT CirRqUe started with a vision that Nathalie Gaulthier, the founder and creator of LPC, had as a seven-year-old girl. “I grew up in Iqualuit, Nunavut, right below Greenland, with Inuits, Eskimos. I was a minority. I grew up with igloos around me and knew there was a bigger world out there. I wrote my first play at age seven, directed it, and it was presented at my school in half English and half Inuit.”

But, it’s one thing to have a vision, it’s another to make it happen.

LePeTiT CiRqUe hoops

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Haley’s last performances with LPC

And that’s just what Gaulthier did. “I launched my full company at age 14 in Montreal, Canada and it grew! We added the circus in 2007 and Le PeTiT CiRqUe was born in 2012.”

Gaulthier says of this experience, “The biggest takeaway for our team was to dream big and believe in their potential to make a difference in the world.”

Although the show is magic, it’s not magically conjured up, and ultimately appears on stage only after a tremendous amount of hard work, perseverance, and creativity by everyone concerned. All the elements, the performers, costumes, music, choreography, and staging, come together to generate the mystique. 

Watching a show by LPC is like being part of fairytale that one never wants to end. We won’t soon forget Haley and the hypnotic wizardry of her hooping. 

For more information on LPC, go to www.lestudiola.com/le-petit-cirque.


Bugsy Malone opens this weekend at No Square Theatre

Bugsy Malone, starring Laguna’s next generation of creative visionaries, hits the stage at No Square Theatre this weekend.

Set in New York City, Bugsy Malone is a gangster movie spoof based on the book by Alan Parker, with music by Paul Williams. The guns are fake, but the fun is real.

The story loosely draws from people and events in the Prohibition era, including characters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran. It parodies the style of old-time gangster movies, but with an all-child cast.

Bugsy Malone is directed by No Square Youth Education Director Ella Wyatt, with music direction by Susan Thoren. Rebecca Butkivich and Rylee Bullington are the choreographers.

Bugsy Malone Lula Buckle

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Submitted photo

Lula Buckle will star in No Square Theatre’s “Bugsy Malone,” opening this weekend

The talented young cast is headed up by Will Briggs, Lula Buckle, Nico Camacho, Grace Gilchrist, and Jonah Goldstein. Supporting cast includes Chase Benson, Tatum Brennan, Rylee Bullington, Story Bullington, Quinn Butler, Elisa Camacho, Laird Garcia, Lila Goldstein, Ravelle Haddy, Kate Hennessy, Adeline Hlava, Hadley Hunt, Piper Hunt, Jamison Jones, Lauren Kimball, Jude Lifeset, Maris Morgan, Karina Pitz, Nathan Ryan, Elise Schultz, Lauren Trautenberg, Leah Turner, and Joely Wyatt.

Performances are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – July 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. and Sundays are at 2 p.m. 

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door for children, and $25 in advance or $35 at the door for adults.

Seating is extremely limited, and the theatre has enjoyed a long run of sold-out events, so tickets must be purchased in advance. Drinks and refreshments are available for purchase.

Get your tickets online at www.nosquare.org.

No Square Theatre is located in the Historic Legion Hall at 384 Legion St.


The Latin Jazz Syndicate kicks off Jazz Summer International series on July 16

World-renowned trumpeter and Artistic Director of Jazz for Laguna Beach Live! Bijon Watson leads the commencing concert of the 2019 Laguna Beach Live! Jazz Summer International series on Tuesday, July 16. 

The Latin Jazz Syndicate introduces a fusion of Latin and World rhythms through famous jazz standards. These all-star musicians pay homage to America’s indigenous music, Jazz, while maintaining the rhythmic and harmonic authenticity required of a variety of ethnic styles.

The Latin Jazz Syndicate

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Latin Jazz Syndicate performs on July 16 at the Woman’s Club

Jazz Summer International takes place every two weeks on Tuesday evenings, from July 16 to August 27, at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach. Concerts are from 6 - 8 p.m., with doors opening at 5 for food, drinks, and social hour. 

This year Laguna Beach Live! is teaming up with Wine Gallery Laguna, who will be serving a selection of wine, beer, and soft drinks. Mixologist Tyler will also be crafting a unique signature cocktail for each concert. This week’s creation is The Laguna Daiquiri. Food is being served by The Cut food truck.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, or $100 for the full season. Seating is assigned according to date of purchase, season ticket holders, and Laguna Beach Live! membership. Reservations are accepted until noon on the day the of concert or until sold out.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.lagunabeachlive.org or call (949) 715-9713.

The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach is located at 286 St Ann’s Dr.


The Latin Jazz Syndicate kicks off Jazz Summer International series on July 16

World-renowned trumpeter and Artistic Director of Jazz for Laguna Beach Live! Bijon Watson leads the commencing concert of the 2019 Laguna Beach Live! Jazz Summer International series on Tuesday, July 16. 

The Latin Jazz Syndicate introduces a fusion of Latin and World rhythms through famous jazz standards. These all-star musicians pay homage to America’s indigenous music, Jazz, while maintaining the rhythmic and harmonic authenticity required of a variety of ethnic styles.

Jazz Summer group

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Latin Jazz Syndicate performs on July 16  at the Woman’s Club

Jazz Summer International takes place every two weeks on Tuesday evenings, from July 16 to August 27, at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach. Concerts are from 6 - 8 p.m., with doors opening at 5 for food, drinks, and social hour. 

This year Laguna Beach Live! is teaming up with Wine Gallery Laguna, who will be serving a selection of wine, beer, and soft drinks. Mixologist Tyler will also be crafting a unique signature cocktail for each concert. This week’s creation is The Laguna Daiquiri. Food is being served by The Cut food truck.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, or $100 for the full season. Seating is assigned according to date of purchase, season ticket holders, and Laguna Beach Live! membership. Reservations are accepted until noon on the day the of concert or until sold out.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.lagunabeachlive.org or call (949) 715-9713.

The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach is located at 286 St Ann’s Dr.

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