Jazz, blues stars headline Jefferson Street festival

Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 2:45pm
With such a wealth of talent at the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival, you're sure to break out in dance.

Several of Music City’s finest jazz and blues musicians like Joe Johnson, Marion James, Herschel Bailey, Connye Florance and CJ Vaughn will be in the spotlight Saturday during the ninth annual Jefferson Street Jazz & Blues Festival.

Last year’s festival attracted more than 20,000 people, and the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (J.U.M.P.) anticipates this year’s event will be just as popular.

“This event continues to bring thousands of people to north Nashville, many who would not normally visit the area,” J.U.M.P. executive director Sharon Hurt said. “The festival continues to grow and we’re again expecting nearly 20,000 to line the historic street that once attracted popular R&B artists like Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix and Fats Domino.”

The Jefferson Street Jazz & Blues Festival is a free event that features performers playing on stages between 26th and 28th avenues. Tyrone Hamilton gets things underway at noon, followed by Tina Brown, Denny Jiosa, Les Kerr, Casme Barnes, CJ Vaughn, Joe Johnson, Connye Florance, Herschel Bailey, Carl Stewart and a climatic late-night blues jam led by James “Nick” Nixon with special guests Johnny Jones, Lady Dianne and Marion James.

This year’s festival has a segment featuring the music of the late, celebrated songwriter, musician, label executive and merchant Ted Jarrett. It’s a preview of the upcoming July 12 Jarrett tribute concert being presented by James at Jimmy Church’s Second Avenue Club. Jarrett, who died March 23 at 83, had songs covered by both The Rolling Stones and Webb Pierce, and was a major figure in the rise of R&B and soul recording in Nashville during the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Food and art vendors will line Jefferson Street, and musicians will be available for autograph sessions.

Friday night J.U.M.P. will once more sponsor Bridging the Gap Mixer on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge beginning at 7 p.m. There will be three stages of jazz and blues performers, plus a cash bar. April Rucker and Roots of Soul appear on the west and east stage, respectively, while DJ Victor Chapman mans the center stage at 10 p.m. There is a $10 charge for this event, $5 for children.

“This is the perfect way for the whole family to spend the weekend listening to the great music that Nashville has to offer,” Hurt said.

The festival is also a reminder of the street’s prominence in black history and culture from the 40s through the early ‘60s, when numerous theaters, nightclubs along with family-owned businesses all thrived within a dense and tightly populated area. The combination of the social, cultural and landscape changes fostered by integration and the expansion of the Interstate Highway system forever changed things for the street and community later in the ‘60s.

The Grammy-winning CD Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm and Blues 1945-1970, Vol. 1 and its subsequent volume documented this period, and the Jefferson Street Blues Festival provides a vivid reminder that many of those artists are still active and working today.

What: Ninth annual Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival; Bridging the Gap Mixer
When: 12 noon Saturday and 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Jefferson Street between 26th and 28th avenues (festival); The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge (mixer)
Cost: Free; $10 for adults, $5 for children
Info: 726-5867