Philadelphia-based jazz musician Gerald Veasley is set to co-host the 4th Annual Duck Jazz Festival on Sunday, October 10, 2010, at the Duck Town Park, in Duck, North Carolina. The festival, held on the Outer Banks coastal area, will be headlined by guitarist/vocalist Joyce Cooling. The other acts scheduled to appear in the Duck Jazz Festival include Adrian Crutchfield, from Charlotte, North Carolina; Big Rick and The Bombers, from Wake Forest, North Carolina; and The Roy Muth Big Band with Laura Martier from Norfolk, Virginia. The event is free to the public, and has attracted nearly 5,000 visitors in years past. Attendees are encourage to bring a picnic, beverages, chairs, or blanket, but no beach umbrellas or tents are permitted at the event.
Although Veasley is the ongoing host of a jazz nightclub in Reading, Pa. (Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base), this is his first time handling the emcee position at a festival. He said the first thing he has to get used to is the absence of his instrument. “This is new territory for me, because even when I’ve hosted events at jazz festivals or hosted jam sessions, I’ve always had my bass with me. I’ll be doing some playing at some point during the festival, but this will be the first time when I’ll just be someone behind the microphone.”
Veasley is no stranger to Duck, having appeared at their inaugural event in 2007, as a sideman to guitarist Jimmy Bruno, and in 2008 as a headliner. He said that he felt a particular affinity for the community there. “I liked the folks who put it together a lot. I liked the fact that it was in an area that I’ve grown to love through the years. My family used to vacation in Nag’s Head for a few years until one storm-battered year that kept us away.” From there, it was a natural fit for an expanded role. “With my affinity for the area and how much I liked the people who put it on, I thought it would be cool to go down there in another capacity. I talked with the festival organizers and they invited me to come down and host.”
He also knows the headliner with whom he’s crossed paths and stages many times before. “I’m very familiar with Joyce Cooling,” says Veasley, “because she and I were Heads Up recording artists at the same time. We’ve done concerts together and been in jam sessions together. I love her playing and her compositions.
Veasley raves about the overall vibe of the festival. “It’s held in a park with room to grow. I understand that they’re building a new venue that will be ready next year. The park is really cool. Very casual. It’s a free festival. It reminds me of how when you’re traveling in Europe and doing festivals there, sure there are large festivals like North Sea, Montreux or Umbria, but there are also so many towns off the beaten track that just have a love of the music and that present their own festivals. I would love to see things get back to that. This festival is in that same tradition.”
Veasley has seen firsthand during his career the shift away from clubs and towards festivals. “A lot of the way that people experience jazz these days is through festivals. We don’t have as many clubs as we used to have. And for folks who are of a certain age going to a night on the town at the jazz club with parking, dinner and baby-sitting, sometimes is a little tougher. But to get together for an afternoon or weekend and listen to great music and kick back and relax, I think it’s more likely. Jazz festivals continue to flourish even in small towns like Duck.”
Veasley says that the festival draws on a mix of local resident islanders and out-of-towner tourists. “We get a lot of folks who come from out of town – coming from Charlotte, Raleigh or other parts of North Carolina. And from the surrounding communities.” He notes that the festival is comparable to some other jazz events that happen along the East Coast. “You have Cape May Jazz Festival which is at the very Southern tip of New Jersey, but they have folks come from New York, Philadelphia and DC to support the festival. Rehobeth is another one. [Also Provincetown.] It’s great for the local community because it extends the season. The out-of-towners get to experience a little bit of the summer there. It’s cool that these shore communities have these festivals. They can start off like this one started off as a community-oriented festival and then expand because the music is a draw.”
As a part-time coastal Carolina resident I can testify that the ocean is still pretty warm down there around the time. Does Veasley have plans to hit the beach? “I’ve got to. This whole summer I haven’t been to the beach and that’s unusual for me. With my daughter that’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing. This will be my time.”
For more information, visit the festival’s web site or call (252) 255-1286.