Jaz­zFest re­turns

Fes­ti­val seeks to cap­ti­vate young peo­ple, adds day to schedule

The Sentinel-Record - - ARTS, ETC. - MAX BRYAN

it has for the past quar­ter cen­tury, Hot Springs Jaz­zFest aims to ed­u­cate and en­ter­tain lo­cals and visi­tors alike with Amer­ica’s orig­i­nal art form.

Jaz­zFest, now in its 26th year, be­gins tonight and lasts un­til Sept. 4 in lo­ca­tions around the Spa City. As it does each year, the fes­ti­val fea­tures lo­cal, state and na­tional acts that will per­form a va­ri­ety of jazz styles in nu­mer­ous venues.

Gretchen Tay­lor, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Hot Springs Jazz So­ci­ety, said that the fes­ti­val specif­i­cally aims to bring the mu­sic genre to a younger gen­er­a­tion.

“We’re con­tin­u­ing the fo­cus ev­ery year, try­ing to im­prove upon it,” she said.

Tay­lor said that some of the ways that this year’s Jaz­zFest looks to ful­fill this goal is by fea­tur­ing col­lege jazz bands, as it did in 2016, in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Arkansas’ jazz band, which will per­form Satur­day dur­ing Jazz in the Streets on Broad­way Street be­neath the Re­gions sky­bridge.

Tay­lor also said that the fes­ti­val is an op­por­tu­nity for such bands to sim­ply en­joy per­form­ing, as op­posed to most of their other per­for­mances, which are usu­ally com­pet­i­tive.

“Not only are they ex­cel­lent per­form­ers and mu­si­cians, but they also bring their class­mates and their friends, and they see why jazz is such an amaz­ing mu­si­cal genre,” Tay­lor said.

The Jazz So­ci­ety also aims to draw youths through the New Breed Brass Band, which is set to play a two-hour set to close out Jazz In The Streets on Satur­day. Tay­lor said that the act fuses New Or­leans-style Jazz with other mod­ern gen­res, which makes for an up­beat, in­fec­tious sound.

“They’re funk, they’re rock, they’re jazz, they’re hip-hop,” she said. “They’re just a ‘get up and move like no­body’s watch­ing’ kind of band.”

Jaz­zFest also fea­tures per­for­mances from more sea­soned, tra­di­tional per­form­ers, as well. Its kick­off show is a spe­cial ren­di­tion of Jazz Night at the Ohio Club this evening, in which the Clyde Pound Trio, which per­forms at the club each week, will be joined by Cal­i­for­nia sax­o­phon­ist and flutist Allen Won.

Won is the fes­ti­val’s largest head­liner, with three per­for­mances through­out the fes­ti­val’s five days. The two fol­low­ing Jazz Night at the Ohio Club are a per­for­mance with the Arkansas Brass Quin­tet and the Any­thing That Moves Jazz Combo at the Five Star Din­ner The­atre Fri­day night and another per­for­mance with Any­thing That Moves Satur­day af­ter­noon dur­ing Jazz in the Streets.

“When he comes in and he per­forms, he just lifts the room,” Tay­lor said. “He’s a won­der­ful, gra­cious, life-lov­ing per­former.”

One tweak that has been made to the fes­ti­val from years past is its ex­ten­sion from four days of mu­si­cal per­for­mances to five. The fifth day of per­for­mances will be on La­bor Day, with Grammy Award-win­ning jazz gui­tarist and singer Jonathan But­ler giv­ing mati­nee and evening per­for­mances for the grand open­ing of Le­go­ria’s Rhythm & Rocks Jazz Bistro.

Other than this ad­di­tion, Tay­lor said that Jaz­zFest is stick­ing to the for­mula it has used in years past.

“There’s not a lot of tweaks. We’re not do­ing any­thing specif­i­cally dif­fer­ent in what con­certs that we’re pre­sent­ing,” she said. “It’s the artists that we’re pre­sent­ing dur­ing the con­certs.”

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