Smitty: Well, once again I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming back to JazzMonthly.com an old friend and a great promoter. For 43 years he has mastered his craft and for the past 16 years he has put on a magnificent jazz festival in beautiful Las Vegas. It is a very cool experience. You must experience this before you leave this earth because it is a beautiful arrangement out there in Hills Park at Summerlin. Please welcome the incredible Mr. Michael Schivo. Michael, how are you, my friend?
Michael Schivo (MS): It’s good to be back, Smitty. Thanks so much. Always a pleasure talking to you.
Smitty: Yes indeed, it’s always a lotta fun, it’s great to talk with you. Man, can you imagine 16 years? This is your 16th year now in Vegas doing the City of Lights Jazz and R&B Festival. Wow!
MS: For 16 years, doing this festival has been a true pleasure. I gotta be honest. It also makes you tired.
Smitty: Yeah, of course.
MS: But you garnish your energy by entertaining people and continuing to try to outdo yourself year by year and, of course, what better place to do that in than Las Vegas as a backdrop?
Smitty: I totally second that.
MS: Because what makes this festival so unique is that we have a 24-hour town that awaits you. This is unlike going to other festivals where you have to look at each other, of course, and ask “What do you wanna do now? It’s 10 p.m.?”
Smitty: Yeah, well, you’re so right because after the festival we know where we’re going, you know, it’s out to The Strip and other great locations around Las Vegas. There’s always something to do. It is just a wonderful weekend and there’s no time to sleep.
MS: This festival, for those that haven’t been to our Web site, which we can mention in a little bit, has been moved to more convenient days of the week from a Friday/Saturday historically to a Saturday/Sunday. With that said, certainly allows us a longer running festival in terms of more talent, day and night experiences each night, Saturday and Sunday, and the festival ends on a Sunday at 8 p.m. so that if you are driving back to, say, Arizona or California, you could actually make it back to your own bed, and if you had to go to work the following Monday, you could do that.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I enjoy—and, by the way, I get up for this festival every year and love it—but one of the things I really enjoy is watching all the fans come in, they’re excited, they’ve got their coolers, they’ve got their lawn chairs, I mean, they’ve got the kitchen sink and ready to have a good time and just rock out with the great bands that you bring in every year.
MS: That’s really the crux of the festival. One of the reasons that makes it so different, besides the backdrop of Las Vegas, is I believe this is the only Smooth Jazz festival in existence where you can bring in your own picnic baskets full of your own food, your own libations, your own liquids, if you will, and you can also take part in our jazz village, which every year we expand with really tasty and unusual ethnic cuisine, but you’re allowed to bring into the festival things that will make your day comfortable.
Smitty: Yeah, and we just love the entertainment. You know, Michael, you have year in and year out, we know we’re gonna get some great entertainment and I think that’s the hallmark of this festival where you have just really brought some stellar entertainment in, and you’ve been around this business long enough to know what the fans want, and you’ve mastered that and been able to do that year in and year out. But talk about how much work goes into that and making sure that you’re doing the things that will bring people back every year.
MS: It takes about a full pad of paper to get to the bottom lineup.
MS: Seriously. We start making a list of potential artists and basically what we start with we never end up with, so we’re always turning that page and starting again and putting together, of course, our budget, which every good producer has to have one, so that our ticket prices won’t go up and we don’t want them to go up, and to stay on budget and yet give the fans something new and refreshing every single year.
I have to say that while for many years I made these choices myself, I have a really wonderful board that I can go to that I seek advice from, that we really work through it and make sure that what we are doing is not repetitive and to make sure that everybody’s on the same page as to furthering the unique experience of the Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz and R&B Festival.
Smitty: Yeah. That’s a nice segue. Talk about the lineup for this year.
MS: Well, we haven’t seen Norman Brown at the festival in years. We played Norman when he was a baby act for a couple years running. He absolutely just stormed the show back in maybe the second or third year of the festival. I think I nicknamed Norman “Stormin’ Norman” and it stuck throughout the United States and, of course, Norman decided that a few years back he would put together interchangeable packages of wonderful charismatic talent called Norman Brown’s Summer Storm.
MS: And this year with Norman, he has really gone and picked some incredibly refreshing faces in Alex Bugnon and Paul Taylor and Chante Moore. It’s really going to give the festivalgoer a new slant on Summer Storm and I think that Norman’s guitar playing really speaks for itself. I believe that he is the only Grammy Award winner on the festival, but they don’t come easy to get a Grammy.
Smitty: So true, my friend.
MS: And Norman has received that honor and Norman absolutely is the quintessential guitar player. He’s got the groove and he keeps people on their feet and he stirs emotion, and the rest of his crew—Alex Bugnon, who we know is a very gifted musician and composer via France, will be there, and his groove is also incredible. Chante Moore has a long history as a female R&B vocalist who really keeps it on the edge. And, of course, Paul Taylor has come so far since we started him in Las Vegas years ago. He had an incredible year last year with Top 10 singles and Paul is always a crowd pleaser.