Skip to main content

Amelia Islander

Amelia Island Jazz Festival 2015

Sep 08, 2015 10:12AM
When jazz musicians Les DeMerle and Bonnie Eisele are not sailing about the world with Oceanic, Regent Seven Seas, or Celebrity Cruises, touring places like Europe and the Baltics or Australia and New Zealand, the couple is planning the annual Amelia Island Jazz Festival, which is held every October. After twelve years, the festival has soared to new heights, hosting jazz legends such as David Sanborn, Ramsey Lewis, Spyro Gyra, Mindi Abair, Buckwheat Zydeco, and many more. “This year, we are so fortunate to feature jazz vocalist extraordinaire Kevin Mahogany and legendary jazz guitarist Larry Coryell as our headliners,” says DeMerle, AIJF founder and artistic director. “In addition to our concerts that are open to the public, we are also hosting a special Jazz in the Schools program, and Jazz for Seniors, held the week before the festival. With the help from our sponsors and our amazing volunteers, our twelfth annual Jazz Festival seems to be following in the footsteps of such festivals as the Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals!” The Amelia Island Jazz Festival provides a rich, diverse cultural offering to the Amelia Island area by exposing thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds to the sounds, excitement, and vitality of great jazz. The festival presents world-class jazz in many styles, including swing, bebop, Dixieland, big band, Latin, and contemporary. During the week-long festival, music is performed by jazz greats as well as fresh, up-and-coming young talent. Performances are staged in several venues around Amelia Island, including the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. The festival helps preserve the uniquely American art form of jazz by increasing the exposure and awareness of the music genre to the general public. The AIJF distributes proceeds toward a scholarship program to fund college education for aspiring jazz musicians and works to provide a rich, diverse jazz offering to the Amelia Island area. It is doing this 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. On Sunday, September 20, two weeks before the Jazz Festival begins, there will be a special concert called “All That Jazz,” featuring the 2015 AIJF Scholarship winner, 18-year-old saxophone sensation Ryan Duncan. The concert will be held at Amelia Community Theatre at 7 p.m. and includes The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band with vocalist Bonnie Eisele. The all-star band will include Steve Strawley, Bill Prince, Zetnz, Clarence Hines, Doug Matthews, Ernie Ealum, and Sammy Rodriguez. “Ryan is an amazing musician,” says DeMerle. “He has quite a resume for his age – a member of Florida All-State, and he has won many awards. We are very excited about this concert because Bonnie and I will be performing one of our cruise ship shows with Ryan and the other musicians.”

Jazz in the Park Kick-Off Concert On Sunday, October 4, the Jazz Festival kicks off with its beloved Jazz in the Park, featuring the Navy Band Southeast’s TGIF, a seven-piece New Orleans-style Dixieland group boasting a long tradition of performing feel-good music throughout the Southeast region. The group’s genesis arose from their concerts held at various Navy commands on Friday afternoons in the “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” spirit. “This high energy ensemble promises to turn any event into a toe tappin’, hand clappin’, smile-fest that is sure to brighten any day,” says DeMerle. “We welcome guests to come early to this free event. Bring the whole family, along with your lawn chairs and blankets. Kenny Gilbert from Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen will be serving barbecue during the concert!” Jazz in the Park will be held at Amelia Park from 2 to 4 p.m. For those interested in becoming a Jazz Festival Sponsor, you will be helping further the education and career of deserving high school musicians, bringing jazz to seniors in the community and continue to provide world-class jazz that is culturally enriching, creative, and fun to Amelia Island and Northeast Florida. And you’ll also get a few perks to make it even more fun! As a Bronze Saxophone Sponsor of $250, you’ll receive acknowledgment in the AIJF’s program, along with two tickets to the Jazz Festival Sponsor Party, held on Monday, October 5 at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Racquet Park’s Heron Room, from 7 to 10 p.m. The Jazz Festival Sponsor Party features the Les DeMerle Jazz All-Stars with Les, drums and vocals, and Bonnie, featured vocals, Doug Matthews, piano, and Ernie Ealum, bass, plus special guests. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served, and you’ll be able to get up close and personal with your favorite jazz musicians. Are you ready to swing? Jump, jive, and wail? Join The Dynamic Les DeMerle Little Big Band with Bonnie Eisele for an evening of swing at Sandy Bottoms on Wednesday, October 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. This unique concert and dance guarantees to pack the dance floor all night long, featuring the classic jazz of Basie, Ellington, Goodman, and more. So put on your dancing shoes, grab your sweetie, and be prepared to “cut a rug!” Les DeMerle’s Little Big Band features Bonnie Eisele, vocals, Steve Strawley, trumpet, Clarence Hines, trombone, Al Waters and Don Zentz, saxophones, Doug Matthews, piano, and Ernie Ealum, bass. Enjoy a wailing good time with Sandy Bottom’s delicious menu items, cash bar, and swing! Again at Sandy Bottoms on the following night, October 8, the AIJF presents Hot Latin Jazz Night featuring Trio Caliente, and their inimitable blend of flamenco, pop, and Brazilian jazz. 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 Nestor Torres, Latin Grammy-winner Raul Jaurena, Shahin, and Sepehr, and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.

Larry Coryell Plays the Omni Resort Headliner Larry Coryell has been booked to play not just one, but two concerts on Friday, October 9, at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. The first show is at 7 p.m., with the second at 9 p.m. Coryell is a master guitarist of all styles, especially jazz, and composer of jazz and classical compositions. “Larry has recorded over one hundred albums and CDs, and he is still recording. He has performed with Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix,” says DeMerle. “He’s been featured in many jazz history books, has many published books of his own, including an autobiography, has graced the front page of Rolling Stone, and is still touring the world over.” As one of the pioneers of jazz-rock, Coryell deserves his special place in the history books. He brought what amounted to a nearly alien sensibility to jazz electric guitar playing in the 1960s, a hard-edged, cutting tone, phrasing, and note-bending that owed as much to blues, rock and even country as it did to earlier, smoother bop influences. “The buzz about the Amelia Island Jazz Festival is really hot,” says Coryell. “My good friend, Randy Brecker, who headlined last year’s AIJF, recently played with me at the Blue Note in NYC, and he had great things to say about Amelia Island and the way this festival presents jazz. I am looking forward to my debut performance at the AIJF and also look forward to hearing and enjoying a great weekend of world-class jazz. Thanks to Les DeMerle, artistic director, for having me!”

Kevin Mahogany at the Omni Resort Kevin Mahogany, considered as the standout jazz vocalist of his generation, will also be headlining two concerts the next night, on Saturday, October 10. “Mahogany’s broad baritone was forged in his hometown, the legendary jazz metropolis Kansas City, where he learned to swing like Charlie Parker, shout the blues like Big Joe Turner, and cry a ballad like Lester Young,” says DeMerle. “Kevin is all about extending, elaborating, and refining the jazz vocal legacies of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Eddie Jefferson, and Al Jarreau into the myriad, interwoven dimensions of music—from gutbucket, the Great American Songbook, and gospel to Mingus and Motown.” “I am looking forward to a fabulous appearance at the Amelia Island Jazz Festival,” says Mahogany. “I’ve known Les DeMerle and his jazz drumming for many years, and have his recordings with one of my favorite singers, the great blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon, so I am very excited to come to Amelia Island and really wail!” Concertgoers on both nights are welcome to join the headliners and other AIJF musicians for Late Night Jams after the performances. To wrap up the festival, David’s Restaurant will be hosting a special Jazz Brunch on Sunday, October 11, featuring Al Waters from Jacksonville. Waters, who had a long career as lead tenor saxophonist with the great Ray Charles, will perform on clarinet, saxophone, and flute, along with DeMerle and Eisele, and other AIJF artists. Park West Gallery artist Tim Yanke of Birmingham, Michigan has been chosen to be the official artist for the AIJF this year. DeMerle met Park West’s manager Morry Shapiro while performing on Celebrity Cruises, where Shapiro offered Park West Gallery to become a sponsor of the AIJF. “Yanke has created original artwork he will donate that will be auctioned off to benefit the Amelia Island Jazz Festival Scholarship Program,” says DeMerle. Yanke’s painting, “Legends,” features bright colors exploding from press type that reads “Jazz.” Underneath the colorful plume are the names of jazz greats. He said about ninety percent of his artwork is inspired by listening to music while working, and in this case, he captured the feelings of listening to jazz. Plans are in the works for Yanke to produce a live painting during a drum solo performed by DeMerle at this year’s festival. “Our concerts explode with exciting, swinging jazz played with passion, expertise, and soul by many of today’s leading jazz artists,” says DeMerle. “Each year’s talent roster is the best line-up we can assemble. Come to the 2015 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!” “The unique thing about this festival is that it is a real jazz festival. And because the music is presented beautifully, every past headliner at the AIJF has asked to be invited back,” says Mahogany. “That says a whole lot in my book! See y’all at the Amelia Island Jazz Festival!” For more information or to purchase tickets visit or phone the AIJF Hotline at (904) 504-4772.