Music at heart of 5th Avenue fest

This poster from the 70s shows Jimmy Young and Johnny Ace of the Percolators Band, a group that played on 5th Avenue during its heyday. Young continues to perform with the Passion Band.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.

The 34th annual 5th Avenue Arts Festival will rule this weekend with a nod to the legacy of great music that was the heart of the 5th Avenue area in the 1950s-1960s by hosting the first-ever jam session open to all musicians.



What: The 34th annual 5th Avenue Arts Festival with art, vendors, entertainment, jam sessions.
When: Festival, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday; reception, 6 p.m. Friday.
Where: Festival, NW 6th Street between 3rd and 7th avenues; reception, A. Quinn Jones Center, 1108 NW 7th Ave.
Miscellaneous: Musicians, especially from the 1950s-1960s, are invited to participate in jam sessions.
Information: Call 352-372-0216.

2 p.m.: Rhonda's Kids, LaVern Porter Dancers, Lil Angels of Praise Dance
3 p.m.: William Waters, Cordorvius Blackmon, Shorin-Nyu karate demonstration, Caring and Sharing Steppers, TP9 (Atlanta)
4 p.m.: Kaycee Walker, Louella Suataron, AK Stomp, Kardiak
5 p.m.: Radiant Star, Quintina Crawford
6 p.m.: Main Ingredient (national R&B group), Kevin Meron (Miami), Javian Johnson
7 p.m.: Passion Band, El' Hae (Atlanta)
8 p.m.: 5th Avenue Jam Session
1 p.m.: Lost Safari
2 p.m.: Hedzole Ghanian Dance Ensemble
3 p.m.: Ras Manasseh, Lil V
4 p.m.: Lavell Kamma One Man Band
5 p.m.: 5th Avenue Jam Session

This year, the festival will feature art, health information and screenings, entertainment, and more than 50 vendors offering such things as jewelry, clothing, shoes and a variety of food to please any palate.

The two-day festival will be held from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday on NW 6th Street between 3rd and 7th avenues. Kicking off the festival will be a reception at 6 p.m. Friday at the A. Quinn Jones Center at 1108 NW 7th Ave.

During the festival, the Gainesville Black Nurses Association and the Gainesville Job Corps Center health students will be on hand to provide health information and screenings. In addition, Teresa Mercado, regional minority AIDS coordinator for Area 3/13 at the Alachua County Health Department, said HIV/AIDS testing, condoms, and information will be available.

The festival also will feature the R&B group, "The Main Ingredient," which produced the 1972 hit, "Everybody Plays the Fool."

Nkwanda Jah, executive director of the Cultural Arts Coalition, which sponsors the festival, said the theme this year will be "Leaving a Legacy," in honor of the musicians who played during segregation on NW 5th Avenue in the 1950s-1960s.

"We're encouraging musicians who performed at ‘Sarah's Place' or in any of the clubs on 5th Avenue to bring their instruments for a jam session on Saturday and Sunday," Jah said.

The jam sessions will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday.

Musicians, jazz enthusiasts and residents shared fond memories of music on 5th Avenue during its heyday.

Longtime Gainesville resident Jimmy Young, a jazz musician and singer with the Passion Band, which performs each year at the festival, reminisced about the vibrant 5th Avenue community and especially performing with the house band at "Sarah's Place," a restaurant and jazz club owned by the late Sarah McKnight. Young said Sarah's was a little bit of Harlem in the heart of Gainesville.

"It was vibrant and amazing," Young said. "Sarah's was the dominant spot for jazz and R&B jam sessions. Musicians came from Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando to sit with us on weekends. We were mostly jazz musicians."

Lavell Kamma, a native of Jacksonville who lives in Gainesville and played at Sarah's, said he played at Sarah's before he made it big and toured the world with his band, the 100 Hours Count Orchestra, where he got to perform with such artists as the late great Otis Redding and James Brown.

He said Sarah's was a tiny place, serving up great jazz and blues. "It was distinct and more than your typical place," Kamma said. "It was so popular, white musicians couldn't resist coming to listen to the music and jam."

"It was just the place," Kamma said. "Nothing fancy, but the music was great and Sarah had style, grace and dignity."

Charles McKnight said his mother was a people person and a very good businesswoman.

"She loved music," said Charles McKnight. "Jazz musicians would come from all over to play at the club."

Albert White, a local historian and president of the Lincoln High School Alumni Association, said he enjoyed spending time on 5th Avenue and listening to jazz at Sarah's. "It was like stepping into another place," White said. "The music was out of sight. It was THE place to listen to music."

Angie Terrell, piano teacher at Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy, said 5th Avenue was a vital part of life. "That's where our social life took place," said Terrell, adding that she went to Sarah's with her husband, Frank Terrell, who is a jazz enthusiast.

"It was always packed," said Frank Terrell. "Sarah's Place was the place on 5th Avenue for great music."

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