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The interior of the Vicksburg Convention Center was alive Saturday with the sounds jazz.

The 39th annual Alcorn State University Jazz Festival took over the building, featuring performances by high school and college bands and a workshop and concert by Jazz, Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Ten high school and college jazz ensembles performed in the convention center’s exhibition hall offering a variety of numbers from contemporary arrangers and composers to more familiar composers like Stan Kenton and Count Basie.

But the sounds weren’t only in the exhibition hall. In conference rooms on the convention center’s main floor, musicians were tuning and warming up. Some were making one last review of the music they planned to perform.

The ensembles performed to a small crowd of listeners composed of family members, fellow musicians and jazz fans like John Young of Vicksburg.

“I’ve been coming here every year since they (Alcorn) moved it to Vicksburg,” he said. “You can come here and get to listen to high school and college bands; you don’t get a chance to see that too often. They really need to publicize this more.”

The University of Southern Mississippi Jazz Ensemble II presented a selection of music including updated versions Kenton’s “Decoupage,” and the Beatles song, “Blackbird.”

The Jackson State University Jazz Ensemble I performed a medley of music, including “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which was a Ray Charles standard.

“This is one of the best programs in Vicksburg,” Jack Burns said during a break between bands. “More people need to come out to this. Where else can you find world-class music and performers and it’s all free. This is one of the unknown quality programs Vicksburg has.”

Martha York who recently moved to Vicksburg from Brownville, Texas, said she was just beginning to know the arts scene in Vicksburg.

“I like it; it’s nice,” she said of the festival. “I haven’t heard much jazz, but this is unique and different.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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