SURRATT: Alcorn’s jazz festival is little-known gem for Vicksburg

Published 4:00 am Friday, November 4, 2022

Some of you may not read this until Friday night or sometime over the weekend, so part of my message may leave you scratching your heads wondering why I even mentioned an event occurring Friday afternoon.

But there is a method to my madness.

The jazz group Astral Project is playing at Gordon’s Alley Friday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. as part of the first installment of the 41st Alcorn State University Jazz festival. As I write this, I’m playing some of their selections on the music site Pandora and the music is pretty good. Even if you’re not a jazz aficionado, it’s worth stopping by Gordon’s Alley to give them a listen and take time just to let the music flow over you and allow you to venture away from the stress and activity of the day and relax.

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The concert, like all the Jazz Festival offerings, is free.

I’ve enjoyed listening to jazz for as long as I can remember. I guess that was my father’s fault. He turned me on the Swing and Big Band and Dixieland music while I was growing up, and that evolved into an interest in jazz. When I was in high school, I played in what we called at the time “stage band,” which gave me a better appreciation of the music.

I’ll confess I’m no expert or jazz junkie; my philosophy, unfortunately, is kind of “I may not know jazz, but I know what I like.”

Which swings me back to Astral Project and the Jazz Festival. I’ve covered the festival for several years now, and it has helped my understanding of the music and led me to a better appreciation of jazz. I intend to spend some time listening to the Astral Project Friday afternoon as a way to relax from the pressures and problems of the week. And it will help me look ahead to the second part of the Alcorn State University Jazz Festival when it comes in April.

But one thing bothers me about the festival. For an event that brings national artists to Vicksburg and high school, college and university bands from across the south, the festival is not well-attended by local folks. Here is an opportunity to hear some good music, see young talent and then take in a concert by a nationally known jazz artist for free — and folks pass it up.

Folks, we have a diamond, and to borrow from the Gladys Knight song, we treat it like glass.

So in this column, I’m going to make a plea to all you people out there who enjoy good music and who patronize the arts in Vicksburg and Warren County to come to the Vicksburg Convention Center on April 15 for the jazz festival, even if you spend a couple of hours listening to some of the school bands or the jazz educators concert — which I’ve found to be more entertaining than the headliner’s concert — and escape. The performers will appreciate it, and so will the organizers.

I’ll remind you about that in April.

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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