Savannah Jazz Festival is back in full force with a worldwide audience on notice

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

After two years of live-streaming concerts and canceled events, the Savannah Jazz Festival is returning bigger and more essential than ever.

This year sees the annual festival returning to Forsyth Park where thousands of attendees can find a spot on the lawn and enjoy one of the most popular free music events in the Lowcountry.

“We’re expecting our biggest crowds ever from all over the world, and it feels really fantastic,” said Paula Fogarty, Executive Director of Savannah Jazz.

Coinciding with the festival is the grand opening of the Savannah Jazz History and Hall of Fame Exhibit in the Savannah History Museum, which has been in development for three years.

Savannah Jazz organizers have unofficially branded the grand opening and the subsequent festival as “Jazz City.”

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

“Savannah is and always will be a jazz city,” said Fogarty. “The exhibit, for the first time, will tell the great story of the history of jazz in Savannah which is as old and important as it is in New Orleans.”

Although the Savannah Jazz Festival was forced to stream its concerts during the pandemic, it actually worked out in its favor, helping grow the brand across the globe.

“The last two years we gained a huge worldwide following, not only for the jazz festival, but for the city of Savannah,” said Fogarty. “We reached over 170 thousand people world-wide both years on every continent except Antarctica.”

Savannah Jazz festival is sure to reach even more audiences when it streams from Forsyth Park on Saturday, Sept. 24 with WSAV. The Savannah Jazz festival will kick off with Latin Dance Night at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

On Wednesday, Good Times Jazz Bar and Restaurant will host local jazz legend Teddy Adams and his Quintet, with Cynthia Utterbach. On Thursday, Blues Night is on at the Lucas Theatre with performances by Ray Lundy, Eric Culberson, and the Mississippi Blues Child, Mr. Sipp.

“Mr. Sip is going to bring a huge wallop of American blues to us,” promised Fogarty.

On Friday, the Savannah Jazz Festival finally returns to Forsyth Park with stellar performances by the Gullah/Geechee influenced Demetrius Doctor Trio and the Wives, award-winning smooth jazz saxophonist Jazmin Ghent, 2021 American Traditions Vocal Competition Gold Medalist and bandleader Nicole Zuraitis, Gino Castillo and the Buena Vista Legacy Band bringing the Cuban grooves, and the high energy, horn-driven Huntertones.

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

Saturday features performances by University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble #1, Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame Band, the Saturn Quartet, Stephen Gordon Quartet with Jason Marsalis, U.S. Navy Jazz Commodores, Quentin Baxter (of Grammy Award-winning Gullah band RANKY TANKY) and his quintet, and jazz vocalist Kari Kirkland with the Savannah Jazz Orchestra.

The festival will close out on Sunday at the Georgia Southern University Fine Arts Hall will performances by the next generation of jazz stars including Savannah Arts Academy Band, Savannah Country Day School Band, and Georgia Southern University Jazz Ensemble.

“The most important thing is this is a free festival,” said Fogarty. “It’s free because Savannah Jazz association believes that jazz music unites people. It doesn’t matter what color or creed or what ever you are, it’s always been a unifying art form—America’s original art form. That’s why we remain a free festival thanks in large part to the grant we get from the city of Savannah. I think that’s what really distinguishes us from the other cultural events in the region.”

IF YOU GO

What: Savannah Jazz Festival

When: Sept 20-25

Cost: Free

Info: savannahjazz.org

ALSO TO VISIT

What: Savannah Jazz History and Hall of Fame Grand Opening

When: 6 p.m. Sept 17

Where: Savannah History Museum and Visitor’s Center, 303 MLK Jr. Blvd

Cost: $30

Info: savannahjazz.org

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah Jazz Festival is back in full force with a worldwide audience on notice


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