All that Jazz (and more)

In 50 years, we’re going to look back on the 2010s as the decade of the festival. Weekend-long celebrations of music continue to proliferate, filling every available corner of calendar real estate and ticking off every box on the genre checklist. Northeast Florida jazz fans know we’ve got one of the OG real deals right here at home: Jacksonville Jazz Festival, which is coming up on its 40th anniversary of solid crowds, mind-blowing performances and free attendance. Like every year, the performers at this year’s event are all over the map, so we selected five (well, six) of our favorites to help you plan your weekend.

Trombone Shorty

Troy Andres is the living, breathing embodiment of New Orleans’ 300-year-old spirit of now. Raised in the city’s rich brass band tradition, Shorty mastered the trombone at age 4 and was leading his own band by age 12. Since then, he’s incorporated rock, funk, R&B, hip-hop and Latin influences into his genre-bending sound. He’s performed at the Grammys, backing Macklemore and Madonna, headlined the NBA All-Star Game, and visited the White House five times during Obama’s eight years. Shorty has toured with Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Foo Fighters and Hall & Oates, recorded with Dierks Bentley and Zac Brown, and released more than 10 full-length albums, most recently for legendary jazz labels like Verve and Blue Note. In 2016, he even penned a children’s book about his life. All this, mind you, for a man just 32 years old, which means he’s got decades of success still ahead. As he told W Magazine, “We don’t want to be hot, we want to last-because eventually hot gets cooled down.”

Sheila E (and her dad Pete Escovedo)

Indelibly tied to Prince thanks to her decade-long run with (and brief engagement) to the paisley pop revolutionary, Sheila E counts more than just on her résumé. In the 1970s, she played drums with George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Diana Ross before making her solo debut with 1984’s. In the 2000s, she regularly accompanied Ringo Starr on His All-Starr Band tours, collaborated with Beyoncé and Cyndi Lauper, and even won the CMT reality show. In the 2010s, she released a memoir detailing her lifelong relationship with Prince and contributed to the orchestral soundtracks for , and . So why is Sheila E performing at the Jacksonville Jazz Fest? Organizers are famous for stretching the boundaries of programming-and her dad, Pete Escovedo, is performing with his full-fledged orchestra and guests Jimmy Bosch and Chembo Corniel. Our money’s on an E Family Band reunion.

The Bad Plus

How does an acoustic trio with a punk-rock mindset fit in the jazz world? For Minnesota’s The Bad Plus, who started in the late 1990s performing left-field covers of popular rock songs and conceptual original compositions, their arrival felt like a tectonic shift. Call it disruption, call it avant-garde-ism, or call it heresy-The Bad Plus heard it all from skeptical critics and fawning fans alike for 17 years. Last year, pianist Ethan Iverson announced he was leaving the group, jeopardizing the viability of this leader-less group that had never made a personnel substitution. But bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King recruited Orrin Evans, another longtime Minneapolis friend, to fill Iverson’s spot. The newly constituted trio released the electrifying at the beginning of the year, announcing their intentions to the world while maintaining their marathon touring pace and unbridled onstage energy. As Anderson recently told the , “With Orrin, we can see that there are so many paths to explore musically and places to go improvisationally. We’re just at the very threshold of that.” Don’t miss this set for a taste of what’s to come.

Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio

The Bard of the B3. The organ guru. “A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban.” Dr. Lonnie Smith has heard it all over his 60 years in the music business. The Buffalo, New York, native started out in the early ’50s before experiencing an epiphany when a local music store owner encouraged him to learn the Hammond B3 organ. Climbing the New York jazz ranks with George Benson and Lou Donaldson, Smith eventually landed record deals with Columbia and Blue Note. In the ’60s and ’70s, he crossed the line into far-out territory, covering Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, dabbling in cinematic work, and sparking the nascent acid-jazz movement, which prodigiously sampled his spiritual grooves in the ’90s. Proclaiming jazz an “American Classical” movement, Smith has famously called the B3 organ his “sunlight, rain and thunder,” an exaltation that didn’t stop the Doc from receiving the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor in jazz, in 2017.

Grace Kelly

How about a little youth to balance out all this experience? This Boston-born saxophonist wrote her first song at age 7 and released her first album at age 12. Before she was old enough to drive, she’d orchestrated an original composition with the Boston Pops, played at Obama’s inauguration with Dave Brubeck, and scored a 4.5-star review from for her collaboration with Lee Konitz. Fulfilling her role as prodigy, Kelly left high school early to enter the New England Conservatory of Music’s School of Preparatory Education and graduated from Berklee College of Music at age 19. Since then, she’s turned her preternatural talents into wide-ranging success: a regular spot in the house band, recurring work as an actress and film scorer, and endless collaborations with musicians big and small. “It’s fun to express all these different sides of me,” she told AXS last year. “I love to explore and see what feels the most genuine at the moment and who I’m evolving into.”

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