by Liza Mitchell
Traditional, classic, lively and contemporary could all be used to describe the heart of our vibrant downtown core. From May 23-26, these adjectives embody the true essence of the 2013 Jacksonville Jazz Festival. “The Jazz Festival is a signature event for our city and a reason for each of us to be proud,” says Mayor Alvin Brown. “It’s an opportunity for friends and family to get together and see our Downtown at its best. [We] are proud to present a lineup of world-class entertainment.”
The Number of Jazz Festivals Held Since Inception
The inaugural JJF was founded by former Mayor Jake Godbold and his aide Mike Tolbert in 1979. It started as a single-day event in the quaint Mayport Fishing Village. They hoped that one day of free, live music would draw a couple hundred people to help boost the struggling area. The festival quickly outgrew the site and was relocated to the newly-opened Metropolitan Park in 1982. Control of the fest changed hands throughout the years as funding and attendance waned. Loss of key sponsorship and funding resulted in no festival in 2001 and 2002.
The Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition is held at 7 pm, Thursday, May 23 and will feature five talented jazz pianists who will compete for the opportunity to perform during the closing day of the festival. This competition has been a tradition for more than 20 years. Chosen by a selection committee through blind judging, these five finalists will compete for the honor of this award plus a cash prize. Tickets are $10 (plus applicable charges). Tickets may be purchased at the Florida Theatre Box Office or at www.ticketmaster.com. The Florida Theatre Box Office is open daily from 9 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday.
The JJF “Off Jazz” Concert kicks off the festival weekend with the soulful sounds of R&B artists Brian McKnight and Avant on Friday, May 24 at the Florida Theatre. Tickets are $38.50 and available at the theater box office or www.ticketmaster.com
The Youth Jazz Talent Showcase is a live talent competition open to young jazz singers and musicians. The winner receives a savings bond to be used expressly for the purpose of furthering his or her musical education. The savings bond may be used toward school tuition or private lessons, specifically in the field of performing arts. Finalists will perform at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival on Saturday, May 25. Winners will be selected by a panel of music adjudicators who specialize in the art forms of traditional and contemporary jazz and blues. Trophies will be awarded to 1st-3rd place winners. Applicants must be between the ages of 7 and 21.
Art in the Heart of Downtown Art Show & Sale features the work of talented artists and master craftspeople from around the country. Festival patrons can enjoy the sounds of live jazz and browse the works of talented artists. Mediums include Clay, Digital, Drawing, Fiber, Glass, Jewelry, Mixed Media, Painting, Sculpture and Wood.
The Sunday Jazz Brunch is a tasty way to close a weekend of music in a vibrant festival setting. The Omni Jacksonville Hotel is the Official Co-Host Hotel of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival and offers the softer sounds of jazz while you indulge in a delicious brunch. Seating is between 10 am-2 pm. Cost is $32 per person. The menu features a variety of breakfast items including an omelette station, lunch options, a mix of salads, a carving station and a rich choice of desserts. Call 791-4987 to make a reservation.
Jazz After Dark is a new element that will keep the party going long after the festival stages grow dark. Following the last act of the festival lineup each night, May 24-26, enjoy even more live Jazz from 10 pm till 2 am. Participating bars and clubs are located within a couple of blocks from the Jazz Fest stages and admission is free! Participating locations include 1904 Music Hall, Burro Bar and Underbelly.
There are several notable members in the Jacksonville Jazz Hall of Fame who have made a positive impact to the jazz in the community. Among them are festival founders Mayor Jake Godbold and his aide Mike Tolbert (1999), former executive director of the festival Dan Kossoff (1999), distinguished educator Rich Matteson (2000), winner of the first Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition Marcus Roberts (2003), former WJCT vice president of Community Support Vic DiGenti (2004), the late great trumpeter Teddy Washington (2006), renowned jazz musician and festival supporter Von Barlow (2007) the late U.S. Congressman the Honorable Bill Chapell Jr. (2011), performer and educator Bunky Green (2011) and last year’s honorees, the late jazz pianist Bernard “Womack” Howard and festival veteran Gary Starling.
General Admission is the way to go for those who want to take advantage of three days of free jazz in a premier downtown location.
Preferred Seating Day Passes are available for each day of the Jazz Fest. Rates vary per day and limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Daily passes can be purchased from 8 am to 5 pm at the City of Jacksonville Office of Special Events, 117 W. Duval Street, online at jaxjazzfestival.com and at the Jacksonville Landing.
The “All That Jazz” Package is $175 and is valid all festival days. This package offers exclusive access to an upfront, designated seating area, entry into the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition Thursday, May 23 at the Florida Theatre, a ticket to the Sunday Jazz brunch, a commemorative lanyard, event program and VIP credential, three drink tickets to be redeemed at festival beverage booths and coupons for official Jacksonville Jazz Festival merchandise.
The “Experience Jazz” Package is $240 (plus service charges) and offers exclusive access to an upfront, preferred seating area and the Jazz VIP Lounge during all festival days and a ticket to the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition on Thursday, May 23. This package also includes a ticket to the Friday night “Off Jazz” concert at the Florida Theatre featuring Brian McKnight and a ticket to the Sunday Jazz Brunch. You will also receive a commemorative lanyard and VIP credential, a 2013 commemorative poster, signed and numbered by the artist, six drink tickets to be redeemed at festival beverage booths and a commemorative lapel pin, event program and keepsake bag. Special reserved parking is also available. Coupons for official Jacksonville Jazz Festival merchandise and discounts at participating downtown businesses are also included.