Gainesville Jazz Festival features a more eclectic, diverse lineup

The R&B group Little Jake and the Soul Searchers closes the 11th Annual Gainesville Jazz Festival on Saturday at Tioga Town Center. (Courtesy of Randy Batista)

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.

Note: Due to inclement weather the Jazz Festival has been postponed until May 11.


11th Annual Gainesville Jazz Festival

What: Annual outdoor concert presented by the Gainesville Friends of Jazz
When: 6-11 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tioga Town Square, 105 SW 128th St.
Cost: Free
Info: 379-0300, gnvfriends

6 p.m.: Hot Club de Ville, Gypsy jazz
7 p.m.: Zac Chester Quartet, fusion
8 p.m.: Ben Champion Quartet, straight-ahead/Latin
9 p.m.: Gruv Therapy, smooth jazz
10 p.m.: Little Jake and the Soul Searchers, R&B

Last year, the Gainesville Jazz Festival moved into the great outdoors with its first outdoor event. This year, the festival expands its approach to the music itself, embracing sounds beyond the expected to open up the 11th Annual Gainesville Jazz Festival, which is set for Saturday at Tioga Town Center.

Presented by the Gainesville Friends of Jazz, the one-day, free event features a more eclectic and diverse lineup with its five acts, said Gainesville Friends of Jazz vice president Marty Liquori, who's also the executive director of the festival.

“Last year's festival was straight-A classical jazz,” Liquori said. “Now we have rhythm and blues, fusion, Latin and Gypsy jazz.”

Starting at 6, the Gypsy-jazz group Hot Club de Ville (with Liquori on guitar) takes the stage, followed by the Zac Chester Quartet at 7 p.m., the Ben Champion Quartet at 8 p.m., Gruv Therapy at 9 p.m. and Little Jake and the Soul Searchers at 10 p.m.

To Liquori, exposing the different forms of jazz to the public is crucial.

Nowadays, jazz festivals are too liberal with the acts they contract to play, he said.

“It's called a jazz festival,” he said, “but some places, like the New Orleans Jazz Festival, have people like Paul Simon show up, and it ends up not being a lot of jazz.”

“You can't pigeonhole the music,” Liquori said. “There are so many types of jazz. It's good to present different types to people.”

Singer Little Jake Mitchell and his band, the Soul Searchers, are featured as this year's closing performers. He's more R&B, and he's been singing since he was 5, he said.

“During my day, Frankie Lymon was very hot,” said Mitchell, 68. “Chess Records wanted to make me another Frankie Lymon.”

When he was 12, Mitchell moved to Chicago. “I was even recorded on the same master tape as Chuck Berry in 1956,” he said.

And in 1957, he played with B.B. King. The two would later tour together in 1963.

But his greatest achievement came in 1960, when he became the first black performer to appear at the University of Florida's Gator Growl.

“Me and my band were the first to make it possible for African-Americans,” Mitchell said. “It made me feel good to see people joining hands and enjoying themselves back in segregation times.”

Mitchell said that of the 60,000 or so people who showed up to the homecoming celebration, 10,000 were black. They sat in the end zone.

“I demanded that African-Americans be allowed to come,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn't play.”

For Mitchell, this is his first year playing the Gainesville Jazz Festival.

The thrill of live performance is seeing people enjoy the concert, he said.

“I love to see people happy,” he said. “That was one of my mottos back in 1960 and it still is today.”

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