‘Palm trees and jazz’

Kauai jazz fans are no strangers to the local group, Swing Shift.

“There’s been an incarnation of this band going on for 20 years, but on and off,” said frontman Dennis McGraw. 

On Saturday, however, Swing Shift will pack an extra punch during its performance at the annual Red Clay Jazz Festival. McGraw has invited two longtime Mainland buddies and fellow musicians — bassist Jim Yorgan and drummer Mark Pulice — to sit in.

Straight ahead jazz, with plenty of horns, is what McGraw says Swing Shift brings to the table.

The three musicians said they are thrilled to join forces on stage after decades apart. And they have promised a fantastic show, complete with heavy drum and bass, a three-man horn section to get the feet moving, and a tribute to American jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver, who died June 18.

“Palm trees and jazz … What more could you ask for?” McGraw said.

The Red Clay Jazz Festival’s main outdoor event is from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Kauai Lagoons, featuring Grammy Award-winning vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur, nationally acclaimed Chicago-based blues band Mississippi Heat and, of course, Swing Shift.

Jason Blake, president of the Kauai Concert Association, said Mississippi Heat marks the first time the festival has included blues, and that Diane Schuur is nothing short of an icon. 

“Not only is she a legendary singer and piano player, she is also legally blind and has perfect pitch,” he wrote in an email. “She is currently one of the longest-performing and most internationally recognized jazz superstars in the world.”

Tickets cost $40 in advance, $50 at the event. A key feature of Saturday’s concert is a host of food and beverage booths providing a mix of locally grown organic and specialty foods, along with beer, wine and Koloa Rum drinks. Tent seating is available or attendees may bring beach chairs. Coolers (outside food and beverage) are restricted.

“The Red Clay Jazz Festival has become a premier national jazz festival hosted right here on Kauai,” Blake said.

The festival kicked off Wednesday with smaller performances around the island, and continues today at 7 p.m. at Kauai Beach Resort with performances by Jimmy Borges and “First Lady of Jazz” Betty Loo Taylor, Berkeley, Calif.,-native Will Bernard and Bay Area-born, Hawaiian island-bred guitarist Ken Emerson.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://redclayjazz.org or call 822-3148.

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