by Sarah Dollendorf
The Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival, renown for consistently bringing visitors class entertainment with each performance, is raising the bar this year for its 12th annual event.
Taking place this year on Friday, Aug. 23, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 24, from noon to 10 p.m. along Center Street in the Village of Lewiston, the Jazz Festival will showcase talented musicians with their own unique styles; from young, new interpretations of jazz to classic takes amid a six-decade span of repertoire of straight-on jazz, Latin jazz and pop-infused genres. Audiences' cravings for their favorite jazz styles will be satisfied as variety again will be the prominent component at this year's event, one that's offered at no charge to visitors.
"Coming into our 12th year, I'm most proud of the fact that this is a free festival, and that we were able to generate private sector sponsor income to pay for the entire festival which is incredible. I'm thankful for the business community, for EmblemHealth, our presenting sponsor, and for the residents who sponsor this event for paying the $150,000 bill to execute this event," stated Sandy Hays Mies, executive director of the Lewiston Jazz Festival. "I'm also proud that we're able to consistently deliver excellent musicians that travel here from all over the country, and that the festival itself offers a beautiful, clean and pristine first-class atmosphere on Center Street that showcases local vendors and restaurants' food and drinks for people to enjoy."
Just as the Jazz Festival has thrived in the past with a regular turnout of close to 40,000 people, this event is predicted to grow larger and be more successful than ever. This builds on an already impressive reputation; it's rare to find an individual who holds a complaint about the festival.
"The Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival has grown each and every year with a unique blend of national, international and local musicians to become an end-of-summer favorite for both residents and visitors from Western New York, Southern Ontario and other regions," said Carol Calato, chair of the Lewiston Jazz Festival board of directors.
The festival will feature more than 150 musicians throughout the two-day event with approximately 40 performances of continuous jazz in five different outside musical venues. In addition to the outside performances, several restaurants and pubs will offer jazz until late in the evening both Friday and Saturday nights.
Premiering this year, in part to further support music education in the jazz genre, The Eastman School of Music Jazz Anthology will be featured on the Rising Star Stage at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Coached by Professor Rich Thompson, listeners will be captivated by a program modeled after the famous "Smithsonian Anthology of Jazz" recordings as they witness young, talented jazz performers take on everything from Louis Armstrong Blues, to Charlie Parker Jazz Standards, Sonny Rollins hard-bop and modern-day Pat Methany favorites with musical maturity. There will be short introductions to each piece accompanied at times with an interesting anecdote.
Alto saxophonist Bobby Militello, headliner for Friday night, will be taking the main stage at Fourth and Center streets. A major figure on the jazz scene for more than 50 years, the Buffalo native brings a successful career in the genre that is respected not only across the country, but also around the world. According to Calato, Militello's success and renown track record is widely respected. He has premiered at major jazz festivals in the U.S., Canada and Europe throughout his career and has been a major influence on the Hollywood and New York scenes, "Bobby Militello will be receiving the first WNY Jazz Ambassador of the Year Award from the Lewiston Jazz Festival," said Calato. "He will be recognized for his outstanding success as an internationally acclaimed jazz musician and for his personal and professional efforts to promote and celebrate the musical genre of jazz."
On Saturday night, M.F. Production's Celebration of Lionel Hampton will be featured on the main stage at 8 p.m., honoring the work of Lionel Hampton, one of the most celebrated jazz vibraphonists of all time. The 12-piece jazz ensemble will be performing a memorial tribute and celebrating his work via this performance of the festival. Kevin Mahogany, who is widely known as the "standout jazz vocalist of his generation," will join talented and internationally acclaimed percussionist Jason Marsalis in an effort to lead the ensemble, as Jasey Falk and Sharp Radway's musical skills also will be featured through the tribute performance.
In addition there will be solos, trios and big bands performing besides the headliners. For a full schedule list of artists, and for the time and location of specific performances at one of the five outside venues on both Friday and Saturday, visit the web address listed below.
Attendees will have an opportunity to partake in foods by the area's finest chefs while enjoying the classy atmosphere of the Jazz Festival. There will be a wide variety of foods available, ranging from rice balls to the classic beef on weck. Regional wines from the Niagara Wine Trail will be available for those eligible to indulge.
And, a Classic Car Display, coordinated by Jag Buffalo and organized by West Herr Jag, will take place along Center Street on Saturday, only from noon to 5 p.m. The display will feature vintage Jaguar cars and cars of special interest - British vintage cars and European collector cars, etc. In addition, there will be a "Jewelry and All that Jazz" show under a tent located at the corner of South Fifth and Center streets, where vendors will be selling jewelry from vintage to contemporary throughout the Jazz Festival. Visitors can also find Jazz Festival apparel and other jazz related items at the Jazz Shoppe in front of Stuart Sports.
"There's really something for everyone here at this festival. From classic Jazz music to younger artists' spin on old-fashioned jazz, to good food and drinks, to the classic cars and the jewelry show, it's all here," said Hays Mies. "And with such a classy venue that always strives to go the extra mile year after year, everyone ends up having a wonderful time, no complaints. That's the best way to have it."
As mentioned, admission to the 12th annual Lewiston Jazz Festival is free, and complimentary parking will be available in Artpark's lower parking area. Seating at performance locations will be extremely limited; therefore attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chair. The event is completely outside, and is a rain or shine event.
For more information, for a complete schedule of performances and activities, and for the list of restaurants showcased at the event, visit www.LewistonJazz.com.