Richmond Jazz Festival at Maymont
Maymont, in Richmond Virginia is a one hundred acre Victorian estate built by James and Sally May Dooley in the late 1800’s is the site for the Richmond Jazz Festival every August. The Dooley’s who had no children bequeathed the estate to the city of Richmond to preserve it for future generations. The estate is well preserved with nature walks, gardens and ponds.
For the last four years it has been the home of the Richmond Jazz Festival where thousands of people gather to listen to some of the top entertainment in music. This year’s headliners were Jill Scott and Michael MacDonald. No they are not Jazz names but how many Jazz Festival do when attend that has pure Jazz besides the Newport Jazz Festival. Jazz being developed in the early 20th century has developed and spread around the world, drawing on many national, regional, local cultures, giving rising to various styles. With that said we can hear the Jazz roots in various music genres.
Richmond’s neighbor to the north Washington musical talents were well represented, the opening act was keyboardist Marcus Johnson, a NAACP Image Award nominee. Marcus a true embodiment of a Renaissance man paid tribute to George Duke in his opening at the Hippodrome Theater(Apollo Theater or Howard Theater equivalent ). I would be remiss not to mention the opening act of the night, giving us visions of a young Lee Morgan or Miles Davis was 20 year old Victor Haskins. He is an alumnus of the renowned Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Residency at the Kennedy Center. Frederic Yonnet a young man born in Normandy France, but presently residing in Washington opened the festival at Maymont. He gave a dance to the music performance on his harmonica. If you have never seen him play I would advise you to google his name with either Erykah Badu or Stevie Wonder, you will be pleasantly surprised. Michael Bowie, who performs on the electric and upright bass he trained with Keter Betts was the Bass player for Dee Dee Bridgewater as she did “Blue Monk” in tribute to Thelonius Monk.
At the beginning of the 21st century there was a CD released “Who is Jill Scott” that question was answered on the opening night of the Richmond Jazz Festival. Looking slim and fit, the three time Grammy Award winning-songwriter, acclaimed actress, poet, and People’s magazine’s Top Breakout artist of 2010 took stage. The triple-threat Philadelphia native utilized her great attributes to move the crowd into frenzy, if you did not know her prior to that performance, she definitely is etched in your mind now.
For the contemporary jazz lover there was the pianist and composer Joe Sample a founding member of jazz funk combo Jazz Crusaders. Performing with Joe was Randy Crawford who had her breakout performance when she sang “Street Life” on a 1979 Crusader album. Twenty time Grammy award winner Chick Corea whose music ranges from chamber music to bebop to fusion to avant-garde also appeared. Robert Glasper who has his roots in jazz, hip hop and R&amp;amp;amp;B performed his hits from his latest cd “Black Radio” on which recording artist such as Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway and others performed. The prolific film score composer Terence Blanchard who emerged in the 80’s with Lionel Hampton and Art Blakely. Smooth Jazz was represented by BWB, Norman Brown guitarist, who in 2003 won a Grammy in the Best pop category; Kirk Whalum sax player from Memphis who was influence by the STAX records artist: and trumpet player Rick Braun who has played with George Benson and Hubert Laws. They gave a rousing performance from their new cd which includes the music of Michael and Janet Jackson. Jonathan Butler, a Black South African first to be played on white South African stations along with Kirk Whalum delivered the gospel along with Elan Trotman a go to sax man in contemporary jazz, who was born in Barbados. The two drew upon their success in urban jazz to create a less “churchy” expression as they orchestrated a power ballad “I stand on your word” which had the audience hands swaying in the air and head bowed.
The Richmond Jazz Festival only in its fourth year offers an exciting Musical experience every August and you will wish you could be at both stages at once. Look out Hampton there is a new Festival in Virginia!!!!!!!!!!
Jonathan B. French
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