Jazz festival to swing on down to downtown
May 31, 2010.
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD -- Thanks to the Stearns Square concert series, thousands of people come to downtown Springfield in the summer as a music destination and now music lovers will have another reason: the annual Hoop City Jazz & Arts Festival is moving to Court Square.
John Osborn, the founder of the festival, explained to Reminder Publications that Mayor Domenic Sarno had asked him to consider moving the three-day festival downtown. Last year it was presented at Springfield Technical Community College.
Although attendance and public awareness has grown over the seven years of the festival -- which first started as the Mason Square Jazz Festival -- Osborn believes moving the festival downtown will provide "a quantum leap."
"I'm proud to say we've grown over the past several years and today we're poised to become one of the premier destination events of its kind in the northeast. We're committed to bringing world-class talent to the festival at all levels. And by moving the festivities to the heart of the city we now can make a significant impact toward improving the downtown economy," he added.
Main and Court streets will be closed July 9, 10 and 11 so the area can accommodate the performances, exhibitors and vendors, he explained. The bands will be setting up on the steps of City Hall with a seating area in the Court Square park. In front of the MassMutual Center will be an area for an art exhibit, while food and other vendors will be on Elm and Courts streets, Osborn said.
The performances are open to the public free of charge.
Osborn said the festival would present "the full spectrum of jazz from smooth jazz to traditional and big bands."
|Greg Caputo, a Springfield native and master drummer, will be performing at the festival. |
Reminder Publications submitted photo
"And we're stretching our boundaries with the Average White Band," he said. "They are not a jazz band, but they appeal to the same demographic."
The musicians include Terence Blanchard, the Average White Band, Elan Trotman, Zoe with Cindy Bradley, Kashif, Greg Caputo, Ken Navarro, Ed Fast & Conga Bop, Soul Source, Modern Riffs and the Springfield Youth Chorus.
Caputo, a Springfield native and master drummer, has toured with Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Nelson Riddle and Benny Goodman in addition to countless noted jazz artists. Classic Drummer Magazine described him as "a master drummer who speaks volumes in refined sensibilities with superb technique."
Blanchard is trumpeter, composer and band leader and is a prolific jazz composer for motion pictures. In 2008, Blanchard won his first Grammy Award as a bandleader for "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)" in the category of Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
Osborn called Caputo and Blanchard "marquee names."
"It's a cornucopia," he said of the line-up.
Osborn credited the sponsorship of Hampden Bank this year as a partnership that will increase the visibility of the festival.
"The partners we have this year are really making a difference," Osborn said.
"We see this event as becoming a gateway to everything great this city has to offer. As a catalyst the festival will move visitors and residents alike to our museums and our historical sites, to our hotels and restaurants, and to our unique places of interest. This translates into economic growth that we believe will have a ripple effect that will be felt throughout our community long after the last note is played," Rick DeBonis, senior vice president of marketing, Hampden Bank, said.
MassMutual is the event's presenting sponsor.
"People are beginning to embrace the vision," Osborn said. He sees audiences not only coming from the Greater Springfield area, but jazz fans making the festival a destination point.
"The city of Springfield is pleased to welcome this world class jazz festival to the city, which is sure to be a great event and give a boost to local businesses. The jazz festival is a quintes-sential example of what can happen when the community, the city and businesses work collaboratively to bring the finest jazz artists in the country to downtown Springfield to be showcased and help define the city as a destination multi-day stay event location," Sarno said.
For schedule information, go to www.hoopcityjazz.org.