Attendance at this year's North Carolina Jazz Festival, held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at the Wilmington Hilton in Wilmington, North Carolina, totaled about 1300 plus. "Not bad," said an obviously pleased Sandy Evans, who heads the festival committee for this well regarded event, now planning its 29th annual festival. The festival is presented in partnership with the Cape Fear Jazz Society and is sponsored by Morgan Stanley. Evans, a past president of the society, emceed the proceedings.
According to Evans, jazz fans came from Canada, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, New York, Georgia, Texas, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to enjoy the music provided by 15 top-notch musicians. She said, "There also was a very nice contingent from New Jersey, and, of course, North Carolina and South Carolina always have a good showing here, too." Evans added, "There was one table of family members having a reunion -- they came from several states!"
The festival committee tried some new tactics this year. Said Evans, "We used e-tix for the first time and that was a winner! At last people could use their credit card to buy their tickets online. Our website at www.capefearjazz.com was a great help getting the word out -- as was your paper [the online RAG] and other festivals which were so agreeable about having our promo fliers on their 'jazz tables.' The Internet is an excellent tool for finding jazz."
When asked about highlights of the festival, Evans said, "It was a pleasure presenting the UNC-Wilmington Big Band doing 30 minutes of Swing to open our festival. We will do that again in 2009. They will play the opening set on Thursday night and will have a guest artist playing with them.
"I love showing off the newest generation of jazz musicians! That, of course, leads to [young jazz violinist] Jonathan Russell, who wowed the audience, especially with his musical conversations/quips with Bucky Pizzarelli and Ken Peplowski! John Cocuzzi went from vibes to piano, then added vocals. Fantastic!
"For me, highlights had to include our trip with a group of the musicians to a local middle school where they gave a concert/workshop on Friday morning. Then in the afternoon we took other musicians, along with some of our very talented locals, to New Hanover High School for a workshop. We need to keep introducing and re-introducing this original American art form to all generations!"
Once again, the festival's patrons' brunch was a winner for the patrons, all-stars and the audience. At the brunch, patrons who are musically adept sit in with the pros. "They all really enjoy it," said Evans.
Next year's event, scheduled for Feb. 5-7, has a special feature planned for opening night -- a tribute to Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo and Bunny Berigan. The band will include cornetist Ed Polcer, drummer Joe Ascione, vibist/pianist John Cocuzzi, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, saxophonist Houston Person, bassist Frank Tate, vocalist Judy Kurtz, and others to be announced.
The festival committee is open to featuring fresh lineups each year and plans to bring in bassist Nicki Parrott, pianist Rossano Sportiello, drummer Butch Miles, clarinetist Anat Cohen, trumpeter/trombonist Randy Reinhart and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli to perform at the 2009 event.
Further information on the North Carolina Jazz Festival is available at www.capefearjazz.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.