It's not spring in Rutherford County until JazzFest arrives, sponsored annually by Main Street Murfreesboro.
As always, JazzFest is the first weekend in May, with high school jazz bands performing on Friday evening, May 4, and the pros taking over on Saturday, May 5. It all happens on Murfreesboro's beautiful downtown square. Bring a chair and stay a while. It's free, a gift from Main Street to the community.
The Saturday event kicks off at noon on the Bob Scales Main Stage. Seymour High School's band, traveling from East Tennessee, launches the day's music, followed by:
• 12:45 p.m. - Ethos Jazz Band
• 2 p.m. - MTSU Jazz Ensemble #1
• 3:15 p.m. - 129th Army Band
• 4:30 p.m. - MTSU Jazz Faculty
• 5:45 p.m. - Yamil Conga's Nashville Latin AllStars
• 7 p.m. - Cosmic Collective
• 8:30 p.m. - Jennifer Bruce and DejaNu
Yamil Conga's Nashville Latin AllStars are a perfect mix of Old San Juan and Nashville. A native of Puerto Rico and a current resident of Nashville, Yamil has benefited from an array of musical influences. Salsa runs in Yamil's blood, and this versatile drummer and percussionist learned from the salsa greats like La Fania All Stars, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente and Roberto Roena. Yamil Conga toured for six years with the Centricity Music band, Unspoken, and is now the conguero for the Nashville Salsa Machine, Roland Barber, Souvenir, Lalo Davila and Friends and jazz pianist Tyron Hamilton. He's also backup drummer for the country band Reckless. His out-of-the-box, emotional and heartfelt approach to drumming is contagious. Yamil will also conduct a jazz clinic at 3:30 p.m. at The Center for this Arts, and this free event is open to the public.
When the Cosmic Collective met in a jazz combo at Middle Tennessee State University, the members quickly discovered their collaboration was something that needed to continue past the semester. Every performer in the ensemble adds a particular element to the sound, resulting in a blend that is dynamic, smooth and refreshingly unpredictable. Band leader and vocalist Nikki Michelle attributes their success to the chemistry they share as friends. "Having fun together and doing something we love is what makes this project work and keeps us coming back to create something beautiful," she says. Their fusion of electric jazz and modern sounds has been described as "refreshing and vintage at the same time."
Jennifer Bruce and DejaNu are brilliantly weaving the classic songbook with a new spin of songs that were originally recorded in the pop style. They have given songs written by such acclaimed artists as Paul Simon, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, Hall and Oats and the Everly Brothers new life. It's a New American Songbook. Bruce, the power behind the microphone, is a multi-talented song stylist who has the chops to cover the great tunes of all time and has been influenced by many musical genres. She has a rich, sultry, soulful voice and excels at song interpretation reminiscent of many classic torch singers. Jennifer Bruce and DejaNu will release their second album of New American Songbook classics this spring.
JazzFest is for families, featuring food vendors and the always-popular Kids Alley. From noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, kiddos will enjoy inflatable jump houses, tumbling and gymnastics, a musical petting zoo and more.
JazzFest isn't Main Street's only contribution to the community. The Saturday Market, the summer Friday Night Live concerts, Trick or Treat on the Square and the Christmas Tree Lighting are all thanks to Main Street, which is a nonprofit organization. The Main Street program is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Main Street Center and follows the tenets of that program. Main Street capitalizes on the unique character of the courthouse square and the surrounding business district with the goal of transforming it into the cultural, social, professional and retail center of Rutherford County . . . in essence, the hub of community life.