By Community Affairs reporter, Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Jazz Appreciation month may have ended April 30th, but the Center City Jazz Festival is bringing a few Shoo-Bee-Doo-Bees into the month of May.
In its second year, the Center City Jazz Festival has expanded to two days and includes more venues, more stages and more artists, says trombonist Ernest Stuart, who founded the festival.
“It’s bigger, it’s better, it’s beautiful,” says Stuart. “Last year, altogether there were 17 bands. This year there are 22.”
Venues include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Arts Bank, Chris’ Jazz Cafe and more. Jazz Pianist Orrin Evans as Headliner, Venissa Santi, Mike Boone and the Martha Graham Cabaret are in the lineup, among others. Stuart says he’s hoping the performances attract a young, hip audience that will fall in love with fresh flavors of jazz music.
“It’s not supposed to sound like 1950s bop, or 40s bop or 60s hard bop,” he says. “It’s supposed to sound like 2013,” says Stuart.
But the festival is more than just music. It’s a grass roots movement that began on the heels of the cancellation of the West Oak Lane Jazz festival, which ended last year. Stuart says there was a void that needed to be filled. So last year, he asked the community to chip in funds in KickStarter campaign and got donations to put on the first annual event. He says his goal is to revive the jazz scene in Philadelphia.
“It’s just not one person saying, I’m going to create this and everyone is going to show up,” he says. “Everyone from the venues, to the musicians, to the attendees have contributed.”
It appears to be gaining traction. Last year, Stuart says roughly 700 people attended the various events, virtually selling out the festival. He says it was so successful that PECO stepped in this year and will sponsor the headline event. The festival also won a $15,000 grant from the 2013 Philly Knight Arts Challenge.
“That money gives us more stability,” says Stuart. “It’ll mean we can announce bands sooner and be able to do more.”
Stuart warns jazz lovers that the Center City Jazz Fest is different from those in the past. You won’t hear standards. Instead, there will be original music that marries the old with the new.
“You’re going to get edge at most of the performances,” he says. “I want to keep an open mind of where we are headed. It does not have to be as one dimensional as it has been in the past. We can grow.”
The Festival runs May 10th and 11th. For more info, go to ccjazzfest.com.