Jacksonville, FL Jazz Fest!

It’s the morning after The Jacksonville Jazz Festival and I have finally realized what a serious metropolis the city of Jacksonville is. University of North Florida, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Jacksonville University…Reason enough for any kind of music at all, and perhaps especially jazz, to have a home sweet home here. AND I’ve got friends in Jacksonville who will be shaking their finger and fists at me for being so uninformed. I’ve been coming to this festival for many years, maybe in the neighborhood of 15, and in the touring mode of in-and-out and onto the next location, I missed the boat on Jacksonville. AND this is the home to Shannon West, one of the most respected music critics and reporters, and friends of jazz, in the last 15 years. Hi Ms. West, don’t stop!

The new location for the festival is down by the riverfront with walking streets and three beautiful bridges that cross over a river that shows the other side’s beautiful waterfront buildings. The concert grounds hold many thousands of people, with lots of them standing and walking about with a very big VIP section in front of the stage.

This setup is new for me. I did most of my dates at this concert in a mid-city local park. Even then it was sponsored by the City Council and was a free concert, but these days, as Mayor Alvin Brown explained, they have partnered with AARP. That is to say, it is impressively large and multi-formatted, with several stages up and down the same closed-off street. And lots of variety in the jazz!

Without a soundcheck, we hit the stage at 9:30. Without a soundcheck… This is always a challenging venture. But we all bite the bullet and deal with it. Glad to be able to do it at all. So on this night, I struggled through not hearing the band very well. But as a group, we’ve been doing this long enough for me to have a pretty good ‘working sense’ of what it sounds like. And so in that spirit, we all played well. This large audience was happenin’! By the time we went on, they had been there all afternoon and evening. And must have been sonic-ly exhausted, hungry, and thirsty, and tired, and maybe a little tipsy. But they greeted us strongly, stayed all night long, and grooved hard when we hit Roof Garden/Reach For It, the George Duke combination of our shared composition and his own huge R&B/Funk hit.

We all want to congratulate our promoter on the growth of this festival, and its great staff and volunteers, and how well it’s organized and run. Thanks for the introduction, Mayor Brown and DJ Dawn! See you next year… please!

Love, Al

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