The Jazz Club of Sarasota is taking a great leap forward with its 39th Annual Sarasota Jazz Festival, set for a full week from March 3-9, at Sarasota’s Hyatt Regency Hotel and 13 other Sarasota venues.
“Jazz is America’s original musical art form, and next year we’ll share that legacy by bringing more jazz to more places,” said Jazz Club president Ed Linehan. Besides the Hyatt, other festival locations in Sarasota include Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 S. Tamiami Trail; Burns Court Cinema, 506 Burns Lane; Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 N. Orange Ave. and 10 area clubs participating in the pub crawl.
The Jazz Club is expanding its festival from seven events to an astounding 48 free and ticketed activities in 2019.
Even more astounding is the fact that the club pulls off its nationally recognized festival every year with a staff consisting almost entirely of volunteers.
“We have a long, proud history and we’re pleased to build on it,” Linehan said, noting that tickets have already begun to sell. “We especially encourage people to consider the benefits of the Hyatt Regency Hotel package. It’s ideal for people ready for wall-to-wall jazz but it’s a limited-time offer.”
“The core of our festivals, starting with the first in 1980, has been a series of high-quality concerts with acclaimed musicians from around the world,” Linehan said. Accordingly, the Club has signed Ken Peplowski — “arguably the greatest living jazz clarinetist” (BBC2) — for a return engagement as music director. Peplowski has assembled nationally and internationally prominent musicians for “Generations of Jazz,” the theme of the 2019 Sarasota Jazz Festival. He will pair established performers with rising stars: Dick Hyman, Bill Charlap, Shelly Berg (piano); Randy Brecker, Randy Sandke, James Suggs (trumpet); Houston Person, Roxy Coss, Aaron Johnson (saxophone); John Lamb (bass); and Mary Stallings and Charles Turner (vocals). The University of Miami Frost Concert Jazz Band will also perform and La Lucha, the festival house band, will back up the concerts with its trio: Alejandro Arenas, (bass), Mark Feinman (drums) and John O’Leary (piano). “Jazz fans don’t want to miss any of these shows,” Peplowski said. “There’ll be lots of fun, surprises and some mind-blowing music! I’ll also be interviewing these generations of great musicians throughout the shows, asking them about their influences, who they look up to in the music world, etc.”
Along with the concerts the Jazz Club has drawn on its experience to present audience favorite events including Jazz in the Park, started over 30 years ago; the Satchmo Award, the 32nd annual presentation of the Jazz Club’s highest honor; the Jazz Pub Crawl by Trolley, now in its 22nd year; and Jazz Goes to the Movies, a jazz film with a live music introduction. In addition, for the 39th Sarasota Jazz Festival the Club has:
• Moved its major venue from traditional auditoriums to Sarasota’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.
• Added four jazz-themed stages where four bands play concurrently, allowing festival-goers to move between them. “A lot of Jazz Club patrons are accustomed to what we call straight-ahead jazz,” Linehan said. “Now we’re presenting other styles as well to reach additional jazz fans.” Each stage features masters in the specific genres: Blues Stage, Selwyn Birchwood, Lauren Mitchell, Betty Fox; Contemporary Stage, Jeremy Carter, Hiram Hazley, Marlon Boone; Classic Stage, Allan Vache, Katt Hefner, Gene Bertoncini; Latin Stage, Joe Delaney, Tom Carabasi, Frankie Pineiro.
• Added a theatrical event, a workshop production of Lil & Louis, a new play with music by Jo Morello about Lil and Louis Armstrong, known in the 1920s and 1930s as the first couple of jazz.
• Initiated a high school band contest, scheduled for Jan. 2019. Professional, working musicians will choose a first-, second- and third-place winner. The prizes are noteworthy. Each of the three winning bands will be the opening act for the acclaimed musicians performing on the mainstage at separate concerts. In addition, the young performers will meet the renowned musicians after the concerts.
· Established VIP and discounted combination tickets, most notably VIP hotel packages, with rooms at the Hyatt Regency for patrons eager to hear the Festival’s wall-to-wall jazz.
Admission to Sarasota Jazz Festival events ranges from free to a peak of $55 for single tickets, with discounts for Jazz Club members and buyers of combination tickets. Packages including hotel and other VIP offers provide admission to private musician meet-and-greets and preferred seating at some events. The Sarasota Jazz Festival website offers a one-stop approach for information and tickets at https://www.sarasotajazzfestival.org/schedule---tickets.html. For festival information visit sarasotajazzfestival.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Jazz Club office 941-366-1552.