Posts Tagged 'Jazz'

Elkhart brings the swing with the 2010 Jazz and Blues festival

A warm summer night at the Elkhart Jazz Festival.

Music lovers attending the 2010 Elkhart Jazz and Blues festival can expect a truly unique musical experience. Since 1988 the annual festival has brought a wide range of musical styles, small town accessibility, and a summer festival environment together in a way that could only happen in Elkhart. The festival, which is held June 25-26th, will feature six stages and host more than 100 performers who will keep things jumping. Audiences experience jazz and blues up close and personal in a variety of laid back and intimate settings. Musical offerings include big band, ragtime, swing, vocal, latin, straight ahead, and smooth jazz, as well as Chicago style blues. Vintage and contemporary sounds bubble up from a street festival atmosphere that includes food and educational exhibits on musical innovations and regional history. It all happens in the charming hassle free environs of downtown Elkhart. “At larger festivals there is no way you can get near the stage, let alone mingle with the performers” says Steve Gruber of Downtown Elkhart, which produces the Festival. “Here you can do both” he says enthusiastically.

Long known as the band instrument capital of the world, Elkhart takes pride in both this high profile event and the city’s contributions to music history. “At one point in time, music instrument manufacturers employed more of the citizens here than any other industry” says Gruber. He adds, “Some of the best expressions of jazz music were produced on instruments made in Elkhart, a lot of the artists know this and love coming here. There is a lot of history here, a lot of innovations happened here, and a lot of skilled musicians revere this as a kind of holy land of band instruments”. He adds, “Jazz is a true American art form and should really be appreciated as such. It was the most innovative form of music on this continent and influenced music all over the world. It was the foundation of swing, boogie, rock, and really all urban music of the 20th century has a jazz backbone of some sort. We want people to come with an open mind and really experience all it has to offer”.

Artists travel from around the country and even beyond to make the festival an international happening. Grammy winners, jazz veterans, up and comers, and local favorites all season the sonic gumbo. A dedicated and diverse crew of community minded volunteers set the table. The unpaid 50-person production crew headed by Sandy Willis is particularly impressive. They build 6 stages, handle sound, security, and other logistics, and work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all happen.

Ticket options range from single event tickets ($10), to passes for the whole event ($65) with variable options in between. Ticketing and other useful information is available at the official website listed below. Shows can fill up quickly so arrive early for must see performances. All indoor shows are air-conditioned. For outdoor shows portable lawn chairs are recommended. Parking is free, and venues are within walking distance of each other. Food is available and vendors will include ethnic cuisines such as sushi and Chinese. Adding to the ambience is the festival’s proximity to Elkhart’s waterfalls, river walks, and beautiful parks. The Elkhart Jazz and Blues Festival is truly a one of a kind event that could only happen right here in Michiana.

And from the side bar:

Big Bands rise again:

Jazz big bands are alive and well at the Elkhart Jazz and Blues Festival. As in years past, the festival gives listeners a chance to see jazz big bands up close and personal. A quick look at the Festival’s web site shows several larger group ensembles and one particularly note worthy big band. Rob Parton’s Big Band with its huge sound and immaculate tightness promises to be one of the Festival’s highlights this year. Parton, well known on the Chicago jazz scene, is a performer/educator/bandleader who has spent more than 20 years keeping the big band tradition alive. The sound of his current ensemble is massive, with dynamic arrangements, intricate harmonic interplay, precise rhythms, and strikingly fluid group cohesion. This much talent and tightness tearing it up on a stage is a rare thing these days.

Bottom line economic realities, the prohibitive costs of putting large bands on the road, under funded and disappearing school band programs, and the ongoing challenges of rehearsing a large ensemble into a tight knit group have made it all but impossible for the big band to survive in today’s climate. When a big band beats the odds and thrives, it’s a sight and sound worth witnessing. Seeing such a band live is a timeless experience you won’t forget.

Make It Funky: The Music That Took Over the World

       This gem of a film is a rich blend of performances and interviews that document the sound, spirit, legacy, and impact of the rich musical and cultural traditions of New Orleans. A key city in the evolution of jazz, funk, rock and roll, zydeco, and R&B, the New Orleans sound is a multi-cultural gumbo of musical traditions that have been slow cooked for flavor and are always served red hot. This film features many of the biggest names in New Orleans music and is a great introduction to the vibrant musical culture of the city. If you have never been to JazzFest in New Orleans then this film is the next best thing.

The Last Of the Blue Devils

       This documentary filmed in the 1970s captures some of the best musicians from one of the most important musical scenes in Jazz history: Kansas City. Artists like Count Basie and Charlie Parker are featured, and the story of the great Kansas city Jazz scene is told through both archival footage as well as intimate jam sessions. The soul, heart, humor, and genius of these artists is captured beautifully in this incredible document of a magical era gone by. A must see for any Jazz lover.