Savannah Jazz Festival 2011: Days 6 and 7

Day 6 of the Jazz Festival, from what I saw, was another great evening of music at Forsyth Park.  I was working again and I arrived late.  I missed the first two shows, Sharp 5 and Huxsie Scott and friends.  I have seen Huxsie sing at the jam sessions in previous years and I know that had to be great.  Especially having the Coastal Jazz Hall of Fame Band playing behind her! I got there during the second half of Stan Killian’s show,  He is a tenor saxophonist who is just awesome!  He has an amazing band behind him too.  Being a saxophonist, I am a little biased I am sure, but his was my favorite show at the festival this year.  Though there are plenty of close second’s.  I like the way he plays and he has a great sound.  I had the pleasure of meeting up and hanging out with him later that night at the jam session.  He is also a wonderful person and seems to take great pleasure in talking to his fans, for however long they want to talk.  It was my hope to get to play with him that night, but it didn’t work out.  The session was booked with other players who were in the festival, as well as jam  session regulars Jody Espina, Howard Paul, Teddy Adams and Eric Jones.  There were some others that I didn’t get their names, but they were all great!

One of the players from the festival was Mecedes Beckman.  A college student who plays in the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble was there and she was amazing.  The UNF band backs up the headliner every year, and this year it was Allan Harris  Tony Bennett is quoted in the program as saying “He is me favorite singer.”  What an incredible compliment!  Well, I can see why. Allan Harris’ vocals are amazing.  He sang the standards as well as I have ever heard anyone and better than most. His originals were also beautiful.  I don’t know how much rehearsal time the band and Allan Harris have, but they were great together.  The UNF Jazz Ensemble is always great behind whomever they are playing.  There are featured solos throughout the show and they are fantastic.  The only reason I can remember Mercedes Beckman, is because I met her at the jam session later that night.  She played a baritone saxophone solo that was incredible.  At the session, she had and alto saxophone and she was tearing it up, whether alone or with Jody and Stan!  That was my favorite part of the jam session that night.

On Saturday, though it started much earlier in the day, I was only able to catch the headliner that night.  Legendary jazz guitarist, Pat Martino   I got there just as he started and he was just amazing.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, they show a film every year, and last year the film was about him.  I wish I could have seen that one.  Anyway, I really enjoyed his guitar playing. He had an amazing organ player and drummer with him too.  My favorite thing he did was an awesome rendition of  “Round Midnight”  Of course I am partial to Thelonius Monk’s, but on Pat’s guitar it was simply beautiful, as was the organ solo.  His original compositions were also excellent.  I was hoping he would be at the jam session afterwards, but I didn’t see him.  I actually only stayed about an hour at this one, I was wiped out.  All in all it was a great week of jazz and blues and jam sessions and friends-old and new.  It is what I look forward to all year long.  It is always a great time.

I also want to say as a side note, the people at Blowin’ Smoke do an amazing job of hosting the festival for the first part of the week and the jam sessions at the end of the night.  The entire staff, no matter how busy, make it look effortless.  The BBQ and other whatever else you want to order is always excellent too.  Also the Coastal Jazz Association  puts this together every year and all events are free.  They do an amazing job every single year.  Thank you CJA!

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