Last weekend, thousands of jazz aficionados flocked to Downtown Jacksonville to experience the 2019 Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Many attendees commented that this year’s line up was one of the best in years with R&B/Soul great Gladys Knight headlining the festival.
Concertgoers experienced two stages of live jazz, local food, drinks, shopping and entertainment. Jacksonville’s annual jazz fest began in 1981, and has become one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country, offering a fun and vibrant street festival atmosphere.
One of the annual highlights of the thirty-year event is the Piano Competition. Five finalists representing the very best jazz pianists in the world are chosen by a blind panel of judges to compete for a cash prize and a chance to perform on the main stage at each year’s festival. This fierce competition has become an integral part of the festival and a favorite among many eager to witness some of the most incredible rising talents in the jazz world.
A jazz brunch was held at the Omni Hotel downtown as attendees enjoyed world-class food and listened to the unique blend of jazz and traditional gospel music from Jacksonville native, GRAMMY-nominee Jamison Ross. This year marked the 22nd consecutive year of one of the most popular specialty sets of the festival, the improvisational open “Jam Session.”
In the true tradition that led to the birth of jazz, festival fans enjoyed watching the exciting mix of musicians perform together. Friday night Ledisi and Monty Alexander had the crowd on their feet. On Saturday, Brian Culbertson had the audience spellbound. Other artist on the bill included Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet and more. On Sunday evening, Gladys Knight closed out the show singing her hits and delighting fans with her jazz inspired scatting. (Lott, Vanleer and Barlow Photos)