Jazz festival highlights rich legacy

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    The third annual Jazz by the Boulevard Music & Arts Festival may take on an even more distinctive New Orleans flair with both musicians and evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in attendance.The festival begins Friday on the lawn of the Will Rogers Memorial Center in the Fort Worth Cultural District and will run the course of the weekend, featuring a number of local and national jazz artists.

    “We have a good mix; a lot of local performers from the Dallas/Fort Worth area as well as national performers that will play in the evenings,” said Donna VanNess, Jazz by the Boulevard event producer.

    VanNess said she expects 50,000 people to attend this year.

    Evacuees housed locally have been specifically invited and a jazz funeral parade is planned for Saturday, led by two New Orleans jazz musicians, VanNess said.

    “We have invited a number of jazz musicians who are displaced here to play in the festival,” VanNess said.

    According to the Web site, the festival will feature a jazz variety, including classic, Latin, soul, rhythm & blues, big band, orchestra, gospel and New Orleans.

    Jazz by the Boulevard’s primary purpose is to serve as a fundraiser to continue beautification projects in the Camp Bowie district, VanNess said.

    Secondly, the festival is meant to educate the public on the legacy of jazz music as it relates to Fort Worth, she said.

    Jazz has roots in Fort Worth that few people are aware of, VanNess said.

    A number of jazz musicians began in Fort Worth, and VanNess cites Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman and Ronald Shannon Jackson as the three most notable.

    “They helped to develop the genre and then moved on to places like New York and Chicago,” VanNess said.

    The festival boasts a list of nationally acclaimed performers, she said.

    VanNess said her personal favorite is jazz violinist Regina Carter because of her unique style and high-energy show.

    “She brings people to their feet, and does a variety of jazz music,” VanNess said.

    Houston-native Joe Sample of The Crusaders, a group that VanNess said was popular in the ’60s and ’70s, is scheduled to perform Friday. Sample has toured with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, BB King, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker, among others, according to a Jazz by the Boulevard press release.

    Another notable performer is Eddie Palmieri, of The Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band, VanNess said.

    Palmieri is a seven-time Grammy Award-winning Latin pianist with a 50-year career, according to the festival Web site.

    The festival also offers activities for the non-jazz enthusiast, with dance performances, more than 60 professional artists’ booths and cooking demonstrations, VanNess said.

    The festival producers have welcomed hurricane evacuees.

    “They are bored and this is a great way for them to remember New Orleans jazz and participate in something fun,” VanNess said.

    The approximately 500 evacuees who were staying in Will Rogers were notified of the festival, and a number of other shelters and the American Red Cross have spread the word as well, VanNess said.

    VanNess said the producers have also made arrangements to help transport the evacuees from area shelters to Will Rogers Memorial Center for the festival.

    VanNess said that despite the seemingly somber subject, the jazz funeral parade will be a high-energy event.

    In New Orleans, people often have parades to honor a deceased loved one, a tradition that began around the turn of the century, according to an article by Alex Oliver, on the Web site for The Times-Picayune (La.).

    On Sunday, food and beverages will be provided to all evacuees. The Red Cross will be accepting donations throughout the weekend, and Mardi Gras “Beads of Hope” will be available for purchase to raise money for the relief efforts.