WHAT’S ON TAP
For full schedule and more information, visit: www.jazzanooga.org.
What: An interactive online educational social media platform.
When: April 3, 10, 17, 24.
To participate: ovee.itvs.org/screenings.
Extra: Free and family friendly.
Downtown Jazz at the Waterhouse Pavilion
What: Live music featuring Chattanooga Community College Jazz Ensemble, Youth Academy All-Stars and Chattanooga’s Jazz Divas.
When: 12:30-2 p.m. April 4, 11, 25.
Where: Waterhouse Pavilion, 850 Market St.
Jazz on the Southern Belle Riverboat
What: A dinner cruise with music provided by local musicians.
When: 7-9 p.m. April 12.
Where: Southern Belle Riverboat, 201 Riverfront Parkway, Pier 2.
Admission: $42.95 includes cruise, dinner, tax, tip and music. For more information, visit chattanoogariverboat.com/imscart/index.php?page= shop/events_calendar.
Jazz on the Bluff
What: Start at Rembrandt’s Coffeehouse Outdoor Patio from 10:30 a.m. to noon, then move to the Hunter Museum of American Art from noon to 4 p.m. Scheduled to perform are Tim Hughes Quartet, Normal Park Jazz Band, UTC Jazz Ensemble, The Undoctored Originals and Youth Academy All-Stars.
When: 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. April 6
Living Jazz Series
What: Live music from Dexter Bell Trio.
When: 5:30-7 p.m. April 6.
Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
Admission: $10 adults, $5 students.
What: A mini educational center featuring a community music listening lab, Jazzanooga event info and the photography exhibit “The Fine Art of Jazz.”
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. April 7-27.
Where: Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd.
Admission: $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, $3 ages 6-12, free 5 and under.
JazzReach Featuring Metta Quintet
What: Concert by Metta Quintet, the official resident ensemble of the JazzReach Performing Arts & Education Association Inc., a leading arts-education organization.
When: 11 a.m. April 11 free school performance; 6:30 p.m. public performance.
Where: Bessie Smith Cultural Center Performance Hall, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd.
Admission: $10 adults, $5 children/students.
Extra: JazzReach will also perform a free concert for school-age youth from Hamilton County Department of Education, charter schools and area home schools. To order tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information: For information and evening performance tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/jazzanooga-presents-jazzreach-featuring-metta-quintet-tickets-10564299103#.
Gospel Meets Jazz
What: An evening of the local gospel and jazz.
When: 5:30 p.m. April 13.
Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
Jazz on the Grass
When: 6 p.m. April 21.
Where: Whiteside Park, 756 E. M.L. King Blvd.
Jazz at Memo’s
What: Live music and chopped wieners, sausage and barbecue at one of M.L. King Boulevard’s iconic eateries.
When: 6 p.m. April 24.
Where: Memo’s, 430 E. M.L. King Blvd.
What: An Evening with Michael Twitty. Nationally renowned food historian and culinary blogger will host a community lecture and cooking demonstration on Edible Jazz and the importance of tradition, nature and availability of ingredients in black and Southern cultures.
When: 5:30 p.m. April 24.
Where: Dish T’Pass, 302 W. Sixth St. (Inside Chattanooga Workspace).
Tickets and information: www.eventbrite.com/myevent?eid=9913674066.
What: Jazzanooga Presents Lalah Hathaway and Ruben Studdard.
When: 8 p.m. April 25.
Where: Tivoli Theater, 709 Broad St.
Tickets and information: chattanooga onstage.com/events/jazzanooga-2014-lalah-hathaway-ruben-studdard.
What: Parade/celebration featuring a kids’ creative area, jazz yoga, a CD exchange, jazz Zumba and performances by Tennessee State University Jazz Collegians, University of Tennessee Knoxville Trombone Ensemble, Sweet Georgia Sounds, 9th Street Stompers, Youth Academy All-Stars.
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. April 26.
Where: Parade begins at Whiteside Park, 756 E. M.L. King Blvd. and ends at Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
What: Jazzanooga Presents Gregory Porter and Avery Sunshine.
When: 6:30 p.m. April 27.
Where: Kirk Walker Community Theater, 399 McCallie Ave.
Tickets and information: chattanoogaonstage.com/events/jazzanooga-2014-gregory-porter.
The late Bessie Smith is known the world over as the Empress of the Blues, but she was also well known in jazz circles back in the day. Likewise, jazz aficionados will likely know about the late Wilfred Middlebrooks, but his name is not nearly as famous outside the jazz world.
Both were born in Chattanooga, and both had remarkable careers. It’s Middlebrooks’ bass, for instance, that you hear on Ella Fitzgerald’s Grammy-winning live recording of “Mack the Knife” in 1960 from the album “Ella in Berlin.”
Shane Morrow is a jazz fan and community advocate who wants Chattanoogans to know about musicians like Smith and Middlebrooks, but also about people like Booker T. Scruggs and Dexter Bell, who are alive and well and playing jazz locally on a regular basis.
To accomplish his goal, Morrow has created the Jazzanooga Festival, a month-long celebration featuring almost two dozen events including food, educational elements and, of course, music. Many are free and most are open to families. April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so the timing seemed right, Morrow says.
“We have so much history and so many people who have done great things in jazz, and I want people to know about it,” he says. “It’s not just a festival. It’s a celebration of our own history. People need to know about people like Wilfred Middlebrooks but also the people who went on to be band leaders or composers, the talented people that helped shape jazz music.”
But along with local acts, Jazzanooga also is bringing in national acts such as Gregory Porter, who in January won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Liquid Spirit,” longtime vocalist Lalah Hathaway and, a name well-known around here, “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard from Birmingham.
“We sign Gregory Porter, and he wins a Grammy,” Morrow says. “Then we get Lalah Hathaway and, of course, Ruben Studdard is the American Idol that people around here want to see.”
Morrow hopes that others will notice the breadth and variety on the schedule, then get out and sample something outside their comfort zones. That includes discovering places in town they’ve perhaps not been to before, such as the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
“We even have a special culinary event, Edible Jazz, just for Chattanooga’s foodies,” he says.
He also wants people to rediscover Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, formerly named Ninth Street, or The Big Nine as it once was known, the stretch where many of the great Chattanooga jazz artists got their starts.
For decades, Ninth Street was the hub of the black community, home to black-owned retail shops, nightclubs and businesses. Bessie Smith sang there as a child and teenager, and it attracted many of biggest black entertainers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Nat “King” Cole, who would stay in the Martin Hotel. Clubs like the Whole Note and The Half Note were full of blues and jazz.
East Ninth Street was renamed M.L King Boulevard in 1981.
“I’m glad this festival is taking place primarily because we here in Chattanooga have not had a real taste or knowledge or history of jazz in Chattanooga for quite awhile, especially as it relates to The Big Nine,” says Scruggs, who plays clarinet. “I think it’s great what Jazzanooga represents.”
Several events, including concerts and a parade, are planned throughout the month as part of Jazzanooga’s Big Nine Series. In addition, the official resident ensemble of JazzReach Performing Arts & Education Association, a national program originally based in New York City, will present two concerts April 11 for Hamilton County students, then another show that night at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
Members of the Youth Academy All-Stars, under the direction of Dexter Bell, will perform at various times and locations throughout the month as well. Jazzanooga has also partnered with the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to establish a music introduction scholarship for a deserving student.
Partial funding for the festival comes from the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations and from Double Cola.
Morrow presented the first Jazzanooga in 2010 as a one-day event. It didn’t take long for him to realize it could be bigger, though he says even he is surprised that it is now a month-long event. He has been encouraged by how quickly and readily others have signed on to be a part of the festival.
Events are planned at the Bessie Smith Culture Center, Whiteside Park on M.L. King Boulevard, Barking Legs Theater, Southern Belle Riverboat, Rembrandt’s Coffee House, Waterhouse Pavilion, Mocha Restaurant, Siskin Children’s Institute, Memo’s and the Tivoli Theatre.
The full schedule of events gets underway Thursday, with the first of four Jazz University events featuring a social video platform facilitated by local PBS station WTCI and showcasing live interactive online screenings. The festival wraps up Sunday, April 27, at the Walker Community Theatre inside Memorial Auditorium.
Three of the daytime musical performances will take place at the Waterhouse Pavilion, downtown in Miller Plaza.
“The arts and endeavors like Jazzanooga contribute to the unique sense of place and community that make Chattanooga special,” says Paige Southard, program director for the River City Co., which focuses on downtown development.
Morrow says he is open to what new direction Jazzanooga and the festival might take.
“I want it to become what the community wants it to become,” he says.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...