The inimitable Les DeMerle, Bonnie Eisele, and the entire Amelia Island Jazz Festival team are at it again, presenting the 14th annual Amelia Island Jazz Festival from October 8 through October 15 at venues across the island. Featuring outstanding jazz music in a variety styles, including swing, bebop, Dixieland, big band, Latin, and contemporary, the week-long festival hosts world-class headliners as well as fresh, up-and-coming young talent.
After fourteen years, the AIJF has presented jazz legends such as David Sanborn, Ramsey Lewis, Spyro Gyra, David Benoit, Buckwheat Zydeco, and many more. “This year, we are fortunate to feature jazz vocalist extraordinaire, Roseanna Vitro, and legendary flautist Néstor Torres as our headliners,” says DeMerle, AIJF founder and artistic director. “In addition to our concerts, the AIJF brings jazz to local schools and to seniors, and of course, our scholarship awards to so many great young local players.”
Roseanna Vitro was exposed to jazz and made it her genre of choice after moving to Houston, Texas in the 1970s. She worked for two years in Houston’s Green Room with her group, “Roseanna with Strings and Things,” while hosting a radio show on KUHF-FM. Many jazz musicians stopped in and played with her, including Arnett Cobb, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan, and Keter Betts, encouraging her to dedicate herself to a life in jazz.
Standing on the shoulders of flute giants from worlds as diverse as Jean-Pierre Rampal, Sir James Galway, Richard Egues, Ian Anderson, Herbie Mann, and Hubert Laws, Latin Grammy Award-winning artist Néstor Torres’s rhythmic and mellifluous flute sound stands apart in a class by itself. With 14 recordings as a soloist, multiple Grammy nominations and awards, collaborations with diverse artists such as Gloria Estefan, Kenny Loggins, Dave Mathews, and Herbie Hancock, Torres’s journey is that of an artist who continues to grow and enrich the lives of those who experience his talents.
JAZZ IN THE PARK FREE CONCERT
The AIJF kicks off on Sunday, October 8 with its enormously popular free community concert, Jazz in the Park, featuring the exciting 21-piece University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Dennis Marks. The UNF Jazz Ensemble II’s music comes from all idioms of big band jazz, including swing, bop, funk, and fusion. This ensemble consistently enjoys the presence of high-quality players, enabling this talented young group to create a wide variety of sound colors and textures.
Marks is considered one of the finest bassists on the jazz scene today. Much in demand as an accomplished musician and composer, he has toured the world many times over, most recently with legendary jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval for over 20 years. He has also appeared on six of Sandoval’s recordings. Concert-goers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Food and beverages will be provided by Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen. The concert will be held at Amelia Park, located between 14th Street and Citrona Drive, from 2 to 4 p.m.
FESTIVAL SPONSOR PARTY AT HORIZONS RESTAURANT
On Monday, October 9, DeMerle and Eisele give a big shout-out to the numerous sponsors with their Jazz Festival Sponsor Party, held at Horizons Restaurant at 5472 First Coast Highway from 7 to 9 p.m. This very special evening features the Amelia Island Jazz Fest All-Stars and the 2017 AIJF scholarship winner, 18-year old saxophonist Skyler Nolan. The event is by special invitation only for Bronze Saxophone sponsors and above. A $250 donation to the festival will give you Bronze Saxophone status, along with being eligible for two tickets to the Sponsor Party and other AIJF perks. For more information about becoming a sponsor, visit www. ameliaislandjazzfestival.com.
WINE TASTING AND JAZZ AT THE AMELIA ISLAND WINE COMPANY
On Tuesday, October 10, a new event graces the AIJF line-up, Wine Tasting and Jazz held at The Amelia Island Wine Company, located at 4924 First Coast Highway, from 5 to 7 p.m. This unique offering features six exceptional wines paired with various jazz compositions that complement the wine. Multi-instrumentalist Dr. Bill Prince headlines the event with performances on trumpet, trombone, clarinet, and flute, along with Doug Matthews, piano, and Les DeMerle, drums. “We’re excited about this new event for 2017,” says DeMerle. “It’s been great fun, pairing wine with jazz, a really unique and creative way to enjoy the sounds of our friend, the talented Dr. Bill Prince. We look forward to seeing you there!”
JUMP JIVE AND WAIL SWING NIGHT AT SANDBAR & KITCHEN
On Wednesday, October 11, join the dynamic Les DeMerle Little Big Band featuring vocalist Bonnie Eisele for one of the AIJF’s favorite happenings, Jump Jive and Wail Swing Night at the newly opened Sandbar & Kitchen (formerly Sandy Bottoms), located at Main Beach. Enjoy the best views on Amelia Island while swinging to the hot jazz of Steve Strawley, trumpet, Clarence Hines, trombone, Al Waters, saxophone, Doug Matthews, piano, Ernie Ealum, bass, and Les DeMerle, drums. Bring your sweetheart and dance the night away from 7 to 10 p.m.
HOT LATIN JAZZ CONCERT AND DANCE AT SANDBAR & KITCHEN
And if you still have some dance left inside of you, come back to Sandbar & Kitchen on Thursday, October 12 for Hot Latin Jazz Concert and Dance featuring Trio Caliente. The group’s one-of-a-kind blend of Flamenco, Pop, and Brazilian Jazz has been enjoyed all around the world. Sharing the stage throughout the years with jazz legends like Charlie Byrd, Keter Betts, and McCoy Tyner to Salsa superstars Jerry Rivera and Luis Enrique, members of Trio Caliente have also performed and recorded with Grammy-nominated jazz flautist, Néstor Torres, Latin Grammy-winner, Raul Jaurena, Shahin and Sepehr, and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.
Special guest Sammy Rodriguez joins the group on percussion. “We thank Les DeMerle for bringing us back once again to the Amelia Island Jazz Festival,” says Deborah Benner, vocalist. “We now feel like family and truly feel honored to be part of a festival with so many outstanding musicians. We will perform hits from our new CD, MIRA, and we know that the dance floor at Sandbar & Kitchen will be packed!”
HEADLINER ROSEANNA VITRO AT FERNANDINA BEACH GOLF CLUB
On Friday, October 13, headliner Roseanna Vitro performs a Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club, located at 2800 Bill Melton Road, at 7 p.m. “I am looking forward to playing the Amelia Island Jazz Festival and have enjoyed working with Les DeMerle on the concept of paying tribute to the first lady of song on her 100th birthday, the great Ella Fitzgerald,” says Vitro. “So many musician friends who have played the festival have told me how wonderful the vibe, energy, and the audiences are, plus they all loved the beauty of the island. I hope to make many new fans at my Friday performance. See you all there, and be sure to come over and say ‘hi’ after the show!”
In addition, this evening also features the Art of the Trio with Mike Levine, piano, Dennis Marks, bass, and Les DeMerle, drums. “This year, I will play a few of my new compositions with Les and bassist Dennis Marks in the Art of the Trio sets before the headliners come on,” says Levine. “My new CD, Star Gazing, is doing very well and I look forward to performing these tunes at this year’s festival. Playing with Les and Bonnie for so many years has been fun, and each year I look forward to coming back to the Amelia Island Jazz Festival. We work hard, but we always have a ball and play some great jazz for a wonderful, appreciative audience!”
“With Mike Levine and Dennis Marks in the Art of the Trio, we have one of the strongest rhythm sections in jazz today,” says DeMerle. “Tunes from Mike’s new CD will be featured in some of our sets, and Dennis Marks on bass and Kevin Jones on tenor sax, soprano sax and trombone will add some real spice to the mix. Bonnie and I have had the great pleasure of playing with Mike for many years and he is featured on two of our CDs on Origin Records, Cookin’ at the Corner’ Vol.1 and 2. He and Dennis are the best rhythm team we could ask for, and the Art Of The Trio performances on our headlining nights along with Bonnie’s stellar vocals will delight and excite!”
DIZZY’S DEN AT SLIDERS BEACH BAR & GRILL
But the fun doesn’t end there! At 10 p.m., join an eclectic mix of jazz musicians at Dizzy’s Den, upstairs at Sliders Beach Bar & Grill, 1998 South Fletcher Avenue, for a Late Night Jam of Bebop, Blues, and Beyond. Featuring the FSU Jazz Ensemble with Kevin Jones, ticket holders are sure to enjoy great spontaneous jazz. Musicians are relaxing after the main gig, and you never know who might show up or what happens next! If you are unable to make the Friday headliner concert, you can still purchase tickets to the Late Nite Jam.
HEADLINER NéSTOR TORReS AT FERNANDINA BEACH GOLF CLUB
On Saturday, October 14 at 7 p.m., headliner Néstor Torres performs a Jazz Flute Traditions Show that’s not to be missed. “I am very excited to come to Amelia Island to present my Jazz Flute Traditions show to all my fans,” says Torres. “I know my music will put everyone in the groove, and they will be dancing in the aisles as salsa and jazz grooves unite! I am also going to salute my heroes, Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws, recreating their hits. My show is going to really cook, so come early and stay late!”
Torres’ concert is also held at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club and will feature the Art of the Trio, with vocalist Bonnie Eisele and percussionist Sammy Rodriguez, along with another fun Late Nite Jam after the performance in Dizzy’s Den at Sliders Beach Bar & Grill.
DIXIE TO SWING JAZZ BRUNCH AT HORIZONS RESTAURANT
The Amelia Island Jazz Festival closes with the ever popular grand finale, Dixie to Swing Jazz Brunch on Sunday, October 15, held at Horizons Restaurant featuring jazz greats J.B. Scott, trumpet, Dr. Bill Prince, clarinet, Dave Steinmeyer, trombone, Mike Levine, piano, Dennis Marks, bass, Les DeMerle, drums, and Bonnie Eisele, vocals.
The AIJF distributes proceeds toward a scholarship program to fund college educations for aspiring jazz musicians and works to provide a rich, diverse jazz offering to the Amelia Island area. By offering educational programs and jazz workshops in area schools and senior centers, and promoting Amelia Island as a tourist destination by drawing jazz enthusiasts from around the nation and the world, the AIJF has found a home on Amelia Island as a beloved yearly event.
“The Festival is dedicated to building upon the rich cultural foundation of jazz by exposing thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds to the sounds, excitement, and vitality of this truly American music,” says DeMerle. “Our concerts explode with exciting, swinging jazz played with passion, expertise and soul by many of today’s leading jazz artists. Each year’s talent roster is the best line-up we can assemble. Come to the 2017 Amelia Island Jazz Festival and become part of an amazing jazz experience. Be prepared for extraordinary jazz music which includes our headliners and many other guest surprises!”
For the Amelia Island Jazz Festival’s full schedule of events, to purchase tickets, or to get information about becoming a sponsor or volunteer, visit www.ameliaislandjazzfestival.com or call (904) 504-4772.