Ready to swing and groove? Jazz Fest returns after pandemic hiatus


JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The first Jacksonville Jazz Fest since 2019 begins Friday.

Last year was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the 40th anniversary of the festival and it is celebrated in style with 27 concerts.

There will be two stages: The “Swingin ‘” stage is at Riverfront Plaza, where The Landing once stood. The “Groovin ‘” scene is in Ford On Bay, a few blocks away.

The organizers say they are delighted to be back and recognize the impact of jazz on Jacksonville.

The comeback is special for Paola Lorenzo, who is part of the sports and entertainment division of the city of Jacksonville.

“Being able to offer an event where anyone can go out and listen to the music in person live is something that really didn’t exist last year due to the pandemic is really exciting,” she said. .

Organizers are excited to celebrate the start of the festival’s fourth decade, but the genre has been a part of Jacksonville for much longer than that.

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“There is even debate that some of the blues and jazz actually have their roots here,” said Adonnica Toler, administrator of the Ritz Theater and Museum.

The museum showcases Jacksonville-born talent like the Johnson brothers, James Weldon and John Rosamond.

James wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” a revered song that was originally a poem. John was the person who put the music there.

“My Rainey and Jelly Roll Morton made their debut here in Jacksonville as part of ‘Rabbit’s Foot,’ said Toler.“ It was a minstrel show started by someone named Pat Chapelle, who is a resident of [historic] LaVilla neighborhood.

Many artists were born in Jacksonville or have spent part of their lives in River City. These included members of the jazz quartet “The Ravens” and Marie Buggs, who was a popular blues and jazz singer. She worked at the Apollo Theater in New York and toured with Joséphine Baker in Paris.

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Billy Daniels was a well-known musician, singer, actor, and one of the first African American men to have his own TV show. He has a Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame.

“Despite the challenges of race, segregation, discrimination, sexism and all of that stuff, they went on and on,” Toler said of these icons. “For this reason, we enjoy jazz today.”

They paved the way for the well-known names that headline this year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival: Lalah Hathaway, Sheila E., Stanley Clarke and Babyface.

“The importance of the history of jazz as a musical genre for our city is very important and we will be celebrating with a bang,” said Lorenzo.

The Jazz Festival is free.

The schedule is:

  • Friday: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

  • Saturday: 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Fireworks following the performance of Sheila E.)

  • Sunday: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

For a complete program of performances and a map of the places, Click here.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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