Festival Preview: Savannah Music Festival

Multi-genre festival includes performances by Marcus Roberts, Dianne Reeves, Bela Fleck, Jason Marsalis, Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes and other jazz artists

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On March 24, the annual Savannah Music Festival kicks off with a performance by soul/R&B dynamo Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. The festival takes place over the two-plus weeks and features a diverse blend of classical, world, folk, zydeco, bluegrass, blues and, of course, jazz. Over 100 events and performances are held at venues all over the city.

The festival is programmed by executive and artistic director Rob Gibson, who had worked with Wynton Marsalis in the early years of the development of the Jazz at Lincoln Center program. In a piece at jazztimes.com last year, Gibson told JT: “When I was in college I was the program director of the college radio station. And it dawned on me recently that I’m doing the same thing – programming reggae, bluegrass, jazz, classical, rock… I’m now 51 years old and I haven’t changed!” That diversity in programming is indeed one of the unique aspects of this festival.

This year’s jazz programming includes a cross-genre collaboration between festival regulars Marcus Roberts and Bela Fleck, who will perform a special premiere of work they developed together. Pianist Roberts also is involved with the educational component of the festival, including the Swing Central Competition, which brings together a dozen outstanding high school jazz bands to perform classic material from jazz history. Other jazz performances include The Clayton Brothers on a double-bill with Ike Stubblefield’s Organ Trio joined by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and trumpeter Marcus Printup. Vocalist Dianne Reeves and Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro will perform a show connecting the dots between jazz and Brazilian music. Singer/guitarist John Pizzarelli and his wife Jessica Molaskey, will offer five performances of “The Heart of a Saturday Night”, a rich and refined cabaret program featuring the music of Sondheim, Gershwin, Berlin, Ellington and Basie woven together with works by songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits. Pianists Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes will perform together as well.

This year’s festival also includes Sound Dialogues, a series of 1:1 sessions with artists interviewing other artists, such as Jim Ketch with Bill Charlap, Joe Craven with Bela Fleck and Rodney Whitaker with Slide Hampton. Those sessions will be held at the Kennedy Pharmacy in Savannah.

For tickets and more information about the festival, you can visit the festival website.

Here is the schedule for the non-classical events at the festival:

THURSDAY, MARCH 24

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Charles H. Morris Center, 6 & 8 PM

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Trustee Theater, 8:30 PM

FRIDAY, MARCH 25

Zydeco Dance Party: Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie

Charles H. Morris Center, 6, 8 & 10 PM

African Interplay: Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal/ Lionel Loueke Ensemble

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 8 PM

SATURDAY, MARCH 26

Slave Shout Songs from the Coast of Georgia: McIntosh County Shouters

Charles H. Morris Center, 12:30 PM

Delta Guitar Slingers: Michael Burks, Lucky Peterson & Sherman Robertson

Charles H. Morris Center, 7 & 9:30 PM

Giants of Texas Country: The Flatlanders/ Junior Brown

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 7:30 PM

SUNDAY, MARCH 27

Delta Guitar Slingers: Michael Burks, Lucky Peterson & Sherman Robertson

Charles H. Morris Center, 5 & 7:30 PM

MONDAY, MARCH 28

Percussion Summit: Jason Marsalis, Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørenson, Joe Craven

Charles H. Morris Center, 12:30 PM

Sound Dialogues: Jim Ketch Interviews Bill Charlap

Kennedy Pharmacy, 2 PM

The Art of the Jazz Piano Duet: Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes

Charles H. Morris Center, 6 & 8 PM

TUESDAY, MARCH 29

Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes Piano Duo

Charles H. Morris Center, 12:30 PM

Sound Dialogues: Joe Craven Interviews Béla Fleck

Kennedy Pharmacy, 2 PM

Béla Fleck with the Marcus Roberts Trio (Premiere)

Charles H. Morris Center, 6 & 8:30 PM

The Face of the Bass: Edgar Meyer

Telfair Academy of Arts & Sciences, 6:15 PM

Edgar Meyer, double-bass

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30

Bill Charlap & Houston Person Duo

Charles H. Morris Center, 12:30 PM

Bill Charlap Trio with Special Guest Houston Person

Charles H. Morris Center, 5:30, 7:30, & 9:30 PM

Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 8 PM

THURSDAY, MARCH 31

Swing Central Jazz Showcase

River Street’s Rousakis Plaza, 10 AM

Ike Stubblefield Trio

Charles H. Morris Center, 12:30 PM

Sound Dialogues: Rodney Whitaker Interviews Slide Hampton

Kennedy Pharmacy, 2 PM

The Clayton Brothers/ Ike Stubblefield Trio feat. Marcus Printup & Wycliffe Gordon

Charles H. Morris Center, 5, 7:15, & 9:30 PM

Masters of Indian Music & Dance: Amjad Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain/Vijayalakshmi

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 7 PM

FRIDAY, APRIL 1

Swing Central Jazz: The Competition

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 9 AM

Downtown Uproar: Duke Ellington’s Small Band Classics/ Swing Central Finale

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 7:30 PM

SATURDAY, APRIL 2

Jazz meets Brazil: Dianne Reeves/ Chico Pinheiro

Lucas Theatre for the Arts, 8 PM

Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile

Trustee Theater, 9 PM

SUNDAY, APRIL 3

Cajun Dance Party: Joel Savoy & Jesse Lége with The Caleb Klauder Honky Tonk Band

Charles H. Morris Center, 5 & 7:30 PM

MONDAY, APRIL 4

The Heart of a Saturday Night: John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey

Charles H. Morris Center, 7:30 PM

TUESDAY, APRIL 5

The Heart of a Saturday Night: John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey

Charles H. Morris Center, 5:30 & 7:30 PM

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6

The Heart of a Saturday Night: John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey

Charles H. Morris Center, 5:30 & 7:30 PM

THURSDAY, APRIL 7

Cuban Dance Party: Los Muñequitos de Matanzas/ Tiempo Libre

Charles H. Morris Center, 7 & 9:30 PM

Master of New Orleans R&B Meets Blue-Eyed Soul: Allen Toussaint Band/ James Hunter

Trustee Theater, 7:30 PM

FRIDAY, APRIL 8

Sound Dialogues: Andy Falco Interviews Tim O’Brien

Kennedy Pharmacy, 2 PM

Boundless Bluegrass: Tim O’Brien Band & The Infamous Stringdusters

Charles H. Morris Center, 6:30 & 9 PM