Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The winding road back to jazz normalcy (updated Aug 17)

The journey back to jazz festivals performed to live audiences has many different approaches. No matter which on-ramp you choose, normalcy, as we know it after the extended pandemic pause, appears to be a year away.

Let’s look at some of the ways that festivals organizations, working with government health officials, are bringing their events back this season. Most have reduced capacity, fewer stages, fewer artists, and shorter hours than in the past. Social distancing and other good-health protocols are the norm in most cases.

Charles Lloyd
  • Newport: In its online presence and press releases, the granddaddy of jazz festivals has been using the wording “Newport Jazz 2021” and “Newport Jazz Presents.” They’ve avoided calling this year’s July 30-August 1 weekend “the Newport Jazz Festival” though many of us will continue to do so out of habit or tradition. The rationale: they have limited attendance to 60% of the usual 10,000 per-day capacity at Fort Adams State Park, dropped from four to two stages (the main Fort Stage and Quad Stage) and cut the number of acts from about 50 to twenty-something, so it may not feel the same as recent full-blown festivals. Headliners include Charles Lloyd, Kamasi Washington (replacing Wynton Marsalis on the bill), Mavis Staples, Trombone Shorty, artist-in-residence Robert Glasper, Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science, Ledisi’s Nina Simone project, Chris Potter and Andra Day. There will be no Friday night event at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Newport Jazz Festival expects to return to its full scale in 2022.
  • Freihofer’s Jazz Festival: This event at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs NY usually has a lawn full of people, two stages (the ampitheater and the more-intimate daytime gazebo stage up the hill. This time out, June 26-27, the festival has reduced its hours and cut the lineup to four bands per day, all on the main stage. With capacity limited to about 30 percent inside the 5,200-seat shed, about 200 of the 3,400 unused fixed seats are being removed to create more access points - so people don’t have to crawl over each other to get to their assigned seats. Socially distanced “pods” are being marked for the lawn seating. Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride’s New Jawn, Joey Alexander and Hot Club of Saratoga perform on Saturday; C├ęcile McLorin Salvant, Al Di Meola, the all-woman superband Artemis and Garland Nelson’s Joyful Noise on Sunday. 
    Robert Glasper
  • Telluride Jazz Festival: This longstanding festival in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains runs August 13-15. There will be a “hybrid venue” layout in Telluride Town Park – with socially distanced pods for those who want them, as well as general open area for those who feel comfortable with it. Organizers are maintaining the full attendance capacity of past years – by doubling the size of the site space. This year’s headliners include Robert Glasper, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Galactic.
    Terri Lyne Carrington
  • Labor Day Weekend: There will be no Chicago Jazz Festival in Grant Park this year. Bouncing back from last year's streamed event to remote viewers, the Detroit International Jazz Festival's 2021 event planned to have live audiences, but planners decided in mid-August to revert to another streaming event. The lineup includes Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Barron, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gregory Porter, Anat Cohen, Sean Jones, Kenny Garrett, and The Brubeck Brothers.
  • Monterey Jazz Festival: There will be a greatly reduced footprint for this popular September 24-26 northern California event at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. Instead of eight stages scattered throughout the 20-acre site, performances will be limited to the main stage, the Jimmy Lyons Stage in the Arena, with a 50% audience capacity. Headliners include George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science, artist-in-residence Christian Sands, and Pat Metheny’s Side-Eye project.
  • New Orleans
    New Orleans #1
    : Shifts from spring to fal and offl.The French Quarter Festival  and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival moved from their traditional late spring schedules to the fall, but then canceled them again in early August because of COVID-19 flareups. April-early May weekends to an October 8-17 schedule. No details have been announced yet on its lineup, staging and any capacity changes at JazzFest’s sprawling 75-acre Fairgrounds Race Track site. Satchmo SummerFest, scheduled July 31-August 1, established capacity limits and requires attendee registration in advance or before entering the gates..

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