In pursuit of summer fun? Jazz fans, you’re in luck. Billed as “one of the most awaited summer music events in the Twin Cities Metro area,” it’s time for the 2011 Annual Freedom Jazz Festival — Jazz for the People! on Saturday, August 13, from 1 to 7 pm at Minnehaha Falls Park (bandstand, 4801 Minnehaha Avenue South, Minneapolis). The public is welcome to attend this free event.
You’ll want to get to the park early for seating available at the stage and picnic areas. Arts and crafts exhibitors, food vendors and community connection groups will be on hand for mingling and mixing.
With over 50 artists of all ages performing all afternoon, this year’s event promises to attract a whole new generation of jazz lovers for jazz on a summer’s day.
For its part, the FJF has a unique opportunity to serve as a potential bridge of unity and understanding by presenting jazz, an internationally celebrated music to an all ages, multi-generational audience on a local stage.
The jazz tradition continues. Not to mention, the FJF provides jobs for employees (stipend paid), and work for musicians.
“Almost everybody who is anybody on the local jazz scene has played at the festival. We have well-known local, national, and international artists as performers on our stage. We have made a point to feature many of the great local jazz masters, the elder statesmen and women who have paved the way for others, as well as showcasing the jazz lions, the young and upcoming future stars,” Lamarr Scott, the president of the FJF, said by email.
Scott has been with the FJF organization from the beginning. “I was just a supporter who thought it was a great idea. Sam Favors, a well-known jazz pioneer, was the originator. When he died, I took over the leadership because I believe in the mission and I feel that this event is important to the culture and heritage of the Twin Cities.
“Jazz is a purely American invention with African American origins. Our mission is to create an entirely new generation of jazz lovers,” Scott added, reflecting on his early days with the organization and considering how he thinks the FJF has evolved up to this point.
As part of the festival programming, there will be a Sam Favors Award Ceremony. This year’s awardee is the legendary Morris Wilson. The Freedom Jazz All-Star is James “Cornbread” Harris.
This year’s festival features the Capri Big Band, Morris Wilson, Best Kept Secret & Kathleen Johnson, Voice of Culture Drum and Dance with special guest performers, the Ugandan Orphans Choir and many more.
Considering the mash-up of talent, how would Scott best describe the artists’ line-up? “This year we have taken great pain to create a line-up of talent that is not just the rehash of things we have already done,” he said “We strive to seek out fresh sounds and voices that are on the verge of greatness, giving our audience not only a glimpse the future but also a chance to witness history being made.”
Snapshot of FJF’s history
Traditionally held on the second Saturday in August at the band shell at Minnehaha Park, against the beautiful backdrop of Minnehaha Falls, the FJF has gained notoriety for being a best-kept secret of summer to an ever-growing and ever diverse mix of serious jazz lovers. To its credit, it has developed a broad and dedicated following with an audience that has grown in numbers from 500 in its first year in 1999 to over 5,000 in 2009.
Attracting people of all ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic levels to bond as a community to enjoy a jazz experience like no other, typically people from seven-county metropolitan Twin Cities areas attend the event, as well as people from Chicago and Wisconsin, according to the FJF’s coordinator, Reona Berry.
With a decade-plus history, the Freedom Jazz Festival has provided a wide forum for jazz musicians of all ages, walks of life, and various genres, with local, national and international followings. The FJF prides itself for being, as its event press release states, “a platform allowing [artists] to express their musical voices to the people freely and democratically while always paying homage to the founding mothers and fathers of jazz.”
Considering the decade-long existence, what has presenting the festival taught Scott about presenting fresh jazz?
“Jazz is a democracy. It brings together all kinds of people, it bridges disparity and welcomes diversity, it gives everyone the chance to play and be heard, and it also gives everyone the right to listen and appreciate,” he says. “This is why the theme for this year is called ‘Jazz for the People.’”
Here’s an idea of those listed on FJF’s expansive list of partners, sponsors, vendors, and previous year’s partners and vendors: Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Minnesota Legacy Amendment (Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund), Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Hosmer Community Library (Minneapolis Public Library System), Jazz Police.com, KBEM Jazz 88 FM.
Vendors include, but not limited to: Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities, GROW Wellness Services, Darn Good Foods, Scentsy Wickless Candles, Kuumba Crafters, MarketAmerica.com and Ramsey County Permanent Families Recruitment Project.
Who is the sponsor with the longest FJF history? Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has partnered and shared resources since the first Freedom Jazz Festival. MPRB has supplied arts activities, facilities, equipment, sound system and staffing to make the Freedom Jazz Festival an enjoyable and success event each year.
Longtime sponsor KFAI Radio will have a booth at the festival. Listen to Bill Cottman’s show “Mostly Jazz” on KFAI (Saturday, August 6, 9 – 10:30 am) for more information about the FJF leading up to festival time.
What kind of real jazz experience is Scott hoping festival-goers get while attending this year’s festivities?
“We have taken jazz out of the nightspots and bought it to a wonderful family-friendly venue against the beautiful and lush backdrop of Minnehaha Falls. We want we people of all ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and all generations to momentarily suspend our differences and come together enjoy an afternoon of sheer magic. The event is free of charge, so it is an upbeat money saver in a time of economic downturn.”
Looking ahead, what plans are in the works for next year’s festival?
“Each year, the festival grows larger as more and more people find out about it and attend. The unique, intimate, and beautiful setting of Minnehaha Falls Park has always been our home. It is the perfect place for the Freedom Jazz Festival,” Scott said.
“But as the crowd of concert-goers continues to grow, our thoughts become should we possibly grow larger and possibly lose some of the charm of being small and personal, or do we possibly do a two-day event.”
For more information, go www.freedomjazzfestival.org.
Robin James welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.