Marsalis to headline Jazz Fest

Published 10:01 am Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A big name will have jazz lovers and the general population alike enthusiastic about this year’s festival in Vicksburg.

Musician, composer, educator and bandleader Branford Marsalis has been named the featured performer for the 36th Annual Alcorn State University Jazz Festival that is coming to the Vicksburg Convention Center, 1600 Mulberry St., Saturday, April 16.

“This is the biggest name we’ve had. Others have been big, but this is a main stream name people know,” VCC executive director Annette Kirklin said.

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Marsalis was the musical director on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, toured with Sting, collaborated with the Grateful Dead, contributed to Broadway, formed a music label, has taught at universities and has three Grammy’s to his name among multiple other accomplishments.

“The Marsalis name is a very known name in the jazz world,” Kirklin said.

The New Orleans native has a musical family with his father and siblings who are known for their musical chops as well.

“Some people call them the first family of jazz because almost the entire family is very renowned jazz musicians,” said David Miller, director of the festival and ASU professor.

Miller made a film on Marsalis’ father, Ellis, 25 years ago and has been trying to get Branford to the festival ever since then.

“For one reason or another it just never worked out,” Miller said.

This year Miller was able to schedule the festival into Marsalis’ busy schedule.

In years past Miller said the festival has been standing room only, and he expects it to be no different this year. He anticipates big crowds at the show because it is good entertainment for a good price. He speculates seeing Marsalis perform in bigger venues could cost anywhere from $25 to $250. Admission to this daylong jazz event is free.

“Vicksburg really doesn’t know what it’s got right under its nose,” Miller said adding people come from across the country to witness the festival. “All [locals] have got to do is get out of the house, come down to the convention center and it’s all free.”

High school and university students from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi will perform during the day from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and then Marsalis will teach a workshop from 4 to 5 p.m. The Mississippi Jazz Educators are scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Then at 8 p.m. Marsalis is set to take the stage.