Words by: Chelsea Stewart

The first Florida Jazz & Blues Festival, aimed at celebrating and elevating a culture of live music, attracted jazz and blues lovers from all over at Tallahassee’s Cascades Park Sept. 24 and 25 weekend.

The short weekend event’s headliners included the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Rebirth Brass Band, Freddie Cole Quartet, Shemekia Copeland, Marcus Roberts and The Modern Jazz Generation, Mr. Sipp “The Mississippi Blues Child”, Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues, and the Johnnie Marshall Blues Band.

Other acts included Charles Atkins and the P&W Trio Blues, Son D’ Aqui, Heather Gillis Band, Cleveland Eaton Trio, Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence, Lady Bianca, Leon Anderson Quartet with Avis Berry, Brett Wellman and the Stone Cold Blues Band, Greg Osby Quartet, Selwyn Birchwood.

The festival promoted “twenty acts over three days” with most performing 50 minute sets.

“It was magical. And so refreshing to see something new in Tallahassee be so successful. I didn’t know what to expect. The venue was perfect, the artists were amazing and I’m glad I got to experience something like this,” said Caleb Patterson, a Tallahassee resident.

Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor expressed the significance of the festivities happening in Florida’s capital.

“It made sense for a festival of this caliber to be held in Tallahassee because of the effect and influence the city had in jumpstarting the careers of Ray Charles and Nat Adderley.”

The festival was approved by the county and city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, which provided $37,500 for this year’s festival and $37,500 for a future 2017 festival. The remainder of the $110,000 budget was funded through private business partners and ticket sales.

The three-day festival pass ranged from $85 to $120. Depending on the seating level and event, single day tickets ranged from $15 to $60. The midday shows on Saturday and Sunday were free to the public.

Scott Barnhart, director of the Count Basie Orchestra and two-time Grammy award winner, was the artistic director for this year’s festival.

He was given $15,000 to $20,000 from Sam Beler, a record producer and publisher, to award Florida State, Florida A&M,  and Tallahassee Community College students music scholarships.

“This festival was awesome and the artists were amazing,” Tarlisha Sanders, Tallahassee resident, said.

“Even with the weather delay on Sunday, the festival went out with a bang, I can’t wait until next year.”

Though no dates have been set for next year, customers who purchased tickets for Sunday’s event or weekend passes will be given a redeemable free one-day pass for next year’s festival.


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