Announcing the 40th Savannah Jazz Festival 2021: LIVE in Forsyth Park

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Savannah Jazz, in partnership with the City of Savannah and WSAV announces that the 40th annual Savannah Jazz Festival will take place September 23 – 26. Free, live, and in Forsyth Park!

“We are beyond grateful that the City and WSAV will continue their lead partnerships to deliver the 40th Savannah Jazz Festival, poised to reach our biggest audience ever,” says Paula Fogarty, Interim Executive Director. Last year’s festival was live streamed from Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum reaching 175,000 people around the world and all shows will be streamed again this year in front of the largest live audiences.

Fogarty explains, “People are so excited to be able to gather in person and celebrate life together that we are anticipating our largest audiences than ever before this year.  We are beyond thrilled that being the region’s largest free music festival we are able to be live again in Forsyth Park!  Mayor Johnson has done a commendable job keeping our city safe and preparing us to reopen again.”

The organization’s mission is to deliver world-class music for free to a large and diverse listening audience. Fifteen live performances plus a movie will fill the program, in addition to Master Classes delivered digitally to area school classrooms.  Although the festival is free, there are tickets for purchase in the Patron’s Tent with seating and refreshments for those who do not want to bring their own seats and the can be purchased here.

Our World-class Lineup
This year’s headliners include Grammy-award-winning, Charleston, SC-based, Ranky Tanky accompanied by Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame member, Quentin Baxter, on drums.  Their timeless music is born of the Gullah culture of our region’s Sea Islands. Their eponymously titled debut album soared to #1 on the Billboard, Amazon, and iTunes Jazz Charts.

     The Savannah Divas backed by the Savannah Jazz Orchestra headline Saturday night showcasing our region’s jazz superstars.  Priscilla Albergottie Williams has headlined in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart, Germany as well performances throughout the United States. Cynthia Utterbach a New Jersey native has performed around the world in the musical production “The Buddy Holly Story” and has performed throughout Europe as a jazz vocalist at festivals and clubs. Stephanie Nakasian, who recently adopted Savannah as her hometown, is listed in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz as one of the world’s leading singers. These ladies will front the 17-piece Savannah Jazz Orchestra that will play again for the first time since the 2019 Festival.

Jazz bass legend, John Lee, joins us with special guest, and Grammy-award-winning pianist, Lawrence Hobgood. John Lee, a legendary American jazz bassist, and Grammy award-winning producer started his career in 1970 and he has worked with jazz legends including Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, James Moody, Aretha Franklin, Gregory Hines and many more.
Hobgood’s CD When the Heart Dances, a duet recording with iconic bassist Charlie Haden received worldwide acclaim earning 4-star reviews.

The son of legendary jazz guitarist Grant Green (1931-1979), Grant Green Jr. is joining us for his first Savannah appearance.  He’s toured the world from an early age and was based in NYC for many years where he played with the Godfathers of Groove with Bernard Purdie.

Georgia blues man Robert Lee Coleman brings his uniquely southern take on the blues. Coleman played guitar for Percy Sledge from 1964 to 1969. In 1970, James Brown hired him for his new band, “the JBs.” Robert’s guitar is featured on Brown’s album Hot Pants, including the songs Revolution of the Mind, recorded live at the Apollo Theater & Make It Funky from the “Soul Classics” LP.

Piano sensation Kenny Banks, Jr.’s music was described by Downbeat Magazine as “gospel and blues-infused” and calls his arrangements “thrilling, modern and surprising.”  In 2003, Kenny joined the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra on tours of Peru, Canada across Europe.  He has performed across the world and the United States with such artists as the Theo Croker Quintet, Jennifer Holiday, Jazzmeia Horn, and India Arie.

The tribute to America’s great military bands features perhaps the top big band The U.S. Navy Band Commodores.  This 18-piece band has been entertaining crowds and military members for 50 years. Some of the top legends in American music have accompanied them including Ray Charles, Brandford Marsalis, Clark Terry, Grover Washington, Jr., and Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame Member, James Moody.

Headlining Blues night is female guitar and vocal sensation Ana Popovic.  This Serbian born blues lady has toured Europe and the Americas for 20 years and has shared the stage with superstars including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and others.  Bruce Springsteen called her “one helluva guitar player.”

Terry “Doc” Handy is a seasoned percussionist skilled in a diverse array of genres including Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, and Latin Jazz.  Doc has also been selected as the opening performance for many greats including James Brown, Aaron Neville, Macy Gray, Kool and the Gang, Kirk Whalum, Brian Culbertson, and El Gran Combo.  Doc is most inspired by percussionists Ralph McDonald, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Bill Summers.

Saxophone and flute virtuoso, Don Braden, returns to our festival with his soulful and swinging music. One of America’s most important jazz musicians performing today, Braden has been part of Harvard Monday Jazz band several years and has been Director of the renowned Litchfield jazz camp for over 20 years.  He has performed with jazz greats including Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard and many others.

Regional performers include bluesman Eric Culberson, Savannah Jazz Hall of Fame Band, Georgia Southern’s Jazz Ensemble, Savannah State’s Gospel Choir, and others.

     Savannah Jazz, a 501c3 non-profit, is calling for your support to keep our festival free.    Your individual and corporate sponsorships will reach over 175,000 people globally. For all information visit www.savannahjazz.org.

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