For a state whose musical pedigree includes the birthplaces of jazz giants John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, North Carolina's current jazz scene could use some sprucing up.
That's the goal of Torrey Feimster, publisher of Charlotte's Pride magazine and the event organizer for the 15th annual Sunset Jazz Festival. The event runs Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 10, and this year features Maceo Parker, Carla Cook and Fred Wesley, among others.
This marks the first year in the event's history that non-local or regional acts are headlining, and Parker's the key draw here. The main horn man for James Brown, Parker's sax helped put the swing in Brown's classics "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "Cold Sweat," among many more. He later played with Parliament/Funkadelic and Bootsy's Rubber Band in the 1970s and has carved out a successful solo career since then, including last year's well-regarded School's In!
Feimster says he hopes that pulling in nationally known artists will eventually result in a Charlotte showcase that rivals better known jazz festivals, thereby fostering the local scene.
"The goal now is to become a regionally and hopefully nationally recognized jazz festival," says Feimster. "But we are going to eventually dedicate this to local acts because there are some phenomenal acts here in Charlotte."
The festival -- formerly known as the Sunset Jazz Series and ran every Sunday in July until this year -- kicks off Friday night at 7pm at CPCC's Halton Theater. Cook, a brassy vocalist with R&B leanings, will join Parker and trombonist Wesley, who last played with Parker in Brown's seminal 1960s band. Tickets for this show are $30 (balcony) and $35 (orchestra). (Interested parties can call 704-330-6534 for more information).
Saturday's events include a free jazz workshop at 11:30am at the Afro-American Cultural Center led by Cook and Wesley, and an outdoor concert at The Green uptown, highlighted by Dave Goldberg and the Dave Allen Quartet, Ziad (featuring Mandyl Evans), and Pucho Brown and the Latin Soul Brothers. The music kicks off at 1pm and runs through 7pm. The price is right: free.
Also on The Green Sunday, beginning at 1pm, are Tyrone Jefferson with A Sign of the Times, Saltman & Knowles and Cecilia Smith; that show is also free.
The jazz series began in Independence Park and then moved to Frazier Park the last few years. But after a non-event related shooting there that forced cancellations of two Sundays of jazz, Feimster decided to alter the nature and locale of the series, while maintaining its basic goal.
"The whole purpose of the jazz series and now festival was to give back to the community these free concerts," Feimster says. "You don't have to necessarily like jazz, but if you enjoy live music, come on down."
All Tomorrow's Parties: The annual Tosco Party is just plain getting out of hand -- what's next, the Bobcats Arena? Bank of America Stadium? Tosco-palooza? Over the past four years, the "unplugged" showcase has featured some of Charlotte's best rock, country and folk acts doing the acoustic thing, and sold out the 705-seat McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square. So expand they must, moving the Saturday, Sept. 16 event to the 1,020-seat Halton Theater at CPCC. The fun gets underway at 7pm. Tickets range from $12 (for so-called adults), $10 for seniors and $6 for the kiddies under 16. For information, call 704-330-6534.
Jesus On the Mainline: Hip-Hop pioneer Kurtis Blow and reggae legend Papa San will be among those performing Sept. 14-16 in a Charlotte taping for the Mixx Master's Lounge, the Inspiration Network's cable TV series dedicated to Christian Hip-Hop. Other artists include LeCrae, Pettidee, Urban D, DJ Morphiziz and Soul P.
The tapings will be held at the Inspiration network's MediaComm center, located at 9700 Southern Pines Blvd. Doors open at 6:15pm nightly. Tickets for the tapings are free and can be reserved by calling 704-561-7809 or visiting www.mixxmasterslounge.com.
Pickers & Grinners: The Charlotte Folk Society hosts its next open jam this Friday, Sept. 8 at 7:30pm at Bryant Recital Hall at CPCC. Performing will be bluegrass super-group the Circuit Riders, and after the free, hour-long show and refreshments, the song circle and open jam session takes place. Flat pickers and banjo pluckers are encouraged to join in.
Ephemera: Tracking for Lou Ford's much-anticipated comeback release is finished, and the band is in the process of mixing. No word yet on a release date. Also nearing completion is the new one from Dave Childers & the Modern Don Juans, which bassist and producer Mark Lynch says will again "focus on the more raw and rocking side of Childers with a few Nebraska-esque ballads for ballast." Hey, if it ain't broke. ...