2020 marks the 39th year of Savannah’s most diverse and beloved community event and this year is branded as The Savannah-Safe Jazz Festival 2020 in keeping with the Savannah-Safe Pledge and safety standards for events. Savannah Jazz is proud of Mayor Johnson and the City Council for their dedication to lift spirits through great American Blues and Jazz music. In partnership with the City of Savannah, WSAV, and Dick Broadcasting Radio, and others, this year will be different, but equally as high-energy with 16 performances live-streamed and broadcast in front of a small socially distanced studio audience from Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum’s covered outdoor venue.
The Festival is organized by Savannah Jazz with major investment provided by the City of Savannah Department Cultural Resources; lead sponsors are Savannah Morning News, WSAV, Dick Broadcasting Radio, Miner Family Wines, Ford Area Dealers, and Roger Wood Foods. All events will be live-streamed with some broadcasts on WSAV, Dick Broadcasting Radio stations, and the Savannah Jazz Website, You Tube Channel, and Facebook pages.
Savannah Jazz’s President and CEO of Benedetto Guitars, Howard Paul says, “This year’s lineup represents highly diverse genres, ages, and genders in keeping with the Festival’s mission to unite people from all walks of life. We have been an entirely free festival for 39 years with the goal to make world-class music accessible to our entire community and this year, we will be free and open to viewers all over the world with our live-streaming platforms.”
The small studio audience will observe strict safety guidelines and tickets will be given via an online raffle. Savannah Jazz’s Interim Executive Director, Paula Fogarty explains, “We continue to be the true ‘people’s festival’ by keeping attendance free and attracting the most diverse audience of any event in our region. Because the total number of people allowed in an venue according to the City of Savannah is 50, including staff and performers, we will have roughly 24 – 30 seats for audience members. These will be available via our online raffle at www.savannahjazz.org and our safety guidelines are posted there as well.”
This year kicks off with Movie Night on Wednesday, September 23 with Clint Eastwood’s rare documentary Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way to celebrate the legends’ 100th birthday. Live performances open with our tribute to the Blues on Thursday featuring Eric Culberson with special guest, Dolette McDonald, renowned for her performances with Sting, the Talking Heads and many others. Friday is billed as Latins and Classics featuring great Latin jazz by the Latin Caravan with classics from the Savannah Jazz Orchestra featuring Cynthia Utterbach.
Saturday is billed as Spicy Jazz Saturday as it features the young rising saxophone star, Jazmine Ghent, winner of the 50th NAACP Image Awards’ Album of the Year; the upbeat New Orleans’ act, Buckwheat Zydeco, Jr. and the Ils Sont Partis Band, who guarantee to get folks on their feet – they are fittingly sponsored by Roger Wood Foods who make the best Cajun Sausage right here in Savannah; the ever-entertaining Emmet Cohen Trio from New York – Emmet is the recipient of the prestigious American Pianists Association Competition; and the legendary horn master, Wycliffe Gordon.
About the lineup. Paula Fogarty says, “The musical direction this year is upbeat, so we can all try to feel a little better about life and get out of our heads a bit, whether we are at home watching or listening, or in a park celebrating safely with friend listening on the radio, or in a friendly watch party. This is a ‘feel-good’ lineup, for sure.”
Sunday is billed as B-3 Sunday, celebrating different style of B-3 Jazz, a true American genre. Featured acts include Brian Miller, a Jody Jazz saxophone artist; Ike Stubblefield who burns up a B-3 organ and has played with legends as George Benson, BB King, Al Green, and Eric Clapton; Pat Bianchi, coming in from New York with his trio, was recently voted the Best Organist in New York and has collaborated with icons such as Pat Martino, Chuck Loeb and Joey DeFrancesco. Augmenting this genre on Sunday is the incredible Dave Potter Quartet –Dave is the drummer for Jason Marsalis and he will be accompanied by the legendary saxophonist Greg Tardy. Rounding out the evening will be the intrepid vocal stylings of Stephanie
Nakasian in front of the Savannah Jazz Orchestra All Stars – she toured with the jazz master Jon Hendricks and has been named as one of the world’s leading jazz singers. The Grammy-award-winning saxophonist David Sanchez joins us on Sunday—David toured for years with Dizzy Gillespie who was his mentor and he has recorded ten albums.
The best local and regional performers, including Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame members, will make appearances with festival acts. Efforts have been made to recruit the best rhythm section players in the region to mitigate the need for acts to bring in entire ensembles. Fogarty explains, “We have an A-list rhythm section of regional artists, namely Kevin Bales on piano, Delbert Felix on Bass, and John Lumpkin on drums, who will be supporting acts such as Jazmin Ghent and Wycliffe Gordon. This helps us decrease the risk of spreading the virus by keeping our total headcount at or below the City’s standards for gatherings at this time.”
Continuing educational programs will be offered in the form of Master Classes for local high schools and colleges. These will be live-streamed and offered for future lessons as recorded events.
For more information on the complete lineup and to enter to win tickets, visit www.savannahjazz.org