41st Jazz Festival to kickoff Mighty ‘Sip Fest Saturday

Published 3:11 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

The sounds of jazz kickoff Saturday activities for Vicksburg’s Mighty ‘Sip Fest when the 41st Alcorn Jazz Festival headlined by the Randy Brecker Quintet begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Vicksburg Convention Center with opening performances by area high school and college ensembles, including Vicksburg High School.

The jazz festival is under the umbrella of the Vicksburg Arts and Music Fest, which will include outside musical performances by other artists during the day.

“This is the 20th anniversary of our partnership between the Jazz Fest and the VCC,” convention center Executive Director Erin Southard said. “We are looking forward to welcoming Randy back to Vicksburg to celebrate this milestone. Brecker was part of an all-star group that headlined the first Jazz Fest concert at the VCC in 2003.”

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According to his biography, jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker is a multi-Grammy award winner who has helped shape the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades.

His trumpet and flugelhorn performances have been featured on hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Jaco Pastorius and Frank Zappa.

The jazz festival will be inside the convention center in the exhibition hall with the high school and college bands performing throughout the day followed by an awards festival and concerts by the Mississippi Jazz Educators and Brecker.

“These are some of the best jazz musicians in Mississippi,” Dr. David Miller, festival organizer, said of the Jazz Educators. “It’s made up of adjudicators and some of the better directors of the band ensembles — the groups that come — and sometimes if there’s a good musician in the audience, we’ll ask them to come up.

“We just get up there; we don’t have any rehearsals because these are such good musicians that we all know the same tunes,” he added.

Miller said he usually sends a selection of tunes “that we might do” to the educators he knows will be attending the festival.

“It’s all informal; it’s seamless and we all have a good time,” he said. “For me, it’s the one chance I get to play in the festival.”

Adjudicators, Miller said, are musicians who are very knowledgeable of Big Band and jazz and who listen to the school groups and write comments about the performances. He said the festival recognizes one outstanding band from the high schools and one from the colleges and an outstanding soloist from the high school bands and the college bands.

According to the festival schedule, Vicksburg High’s ensemble is scheduled to play from  11:10-11:40 a.m.

Other performances include:

  • 10:30-11 a.m., Alcorn State University Jazz Ensemble – David Miller, director
  • 11:50 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Murrah High School Jazz Ensemble, Jackson — Cristofer Stewart, director
  • 12:30-1 p.m., Hinds Community College Jazz Ensemble — Ben Bullock, director
  • 1:10-1:40 p.m., East Ascension High School, Gonzalez, La. — David J. Gambino, director
  • 1:50-2:20 p.m., University of Southern Mississippi Jazz Ensemble I — Larry Panella, director
  • 2:30-3 p.m., Klein Forest High School Jazz Ensemble, Houston, Texas — Jesse D. Espinosa, director

Brecker will hold a workshop at 3:30 p.m. and the quintet will perform in concert at 8 p.m. The awards ceremony will run from 4:30 to 6:40 p.m. followed by a student reception and jam session.

The Mississippi Jazz Educators will perform in concert at 7 p.m.

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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