2018 marks the 37th Annual Savannah Jazz Festival, the Lowcountry’s only entirely free week-long music festival featuring regional, national and international world-class jazz. Major investment provided by the City of Savannah Department of Arts, Culture and Historical Resources, and sponsored by Savannah Area Ford Dealerships, Miner Family Wines, The Marymor Family Foundation and others. The festival takes place in venues around Savannah culminating with three days in Savannah’s historic Forsyth Park September 23 – 29.
This year’s featured headliners include legendary pianist and keyboardist Chuck Leavell who has performed with esteemed bands and musicians such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and The Allman Brothers Band just to name a few. This special performance will be the world debut of Leavell’s newest album “Chuck Gets Big” and will be accompanied by the Savannah Jazz Orchestra. Jazz and baseball meet when Bernie Williams headlines Friday evening’s perfor mances in Forsyth Park. Transitioning from centerfielder for the New York Yankees to center stage after a 16-year career in baseball and four World Series rings, Williams on a Savannah made Benedetto guitar will entertain concert-goers with his own style of jazz and tropical rhythms.
Multiple Juno Award-winning and Grammy nominated soprano saxophonist and flutist, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque will exude girl power with their Afro-Cuban melodies. Bunnett and Maqueque’s fresh, inventive, no-compromise music earned the group a standing ovation at the Kennedy Center, a rare encore at the Chicago Jazz Festival, and four sold-out nights at Chicago’s legendary Jazz Showcase.
Savannah Jazz Fest’s lineup also includes six-time Emmy winning composer and keyboardist extraordinaire Peter Fish delivering tight, funky jazz. Up-and-coming blues guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram will perform delta and electric blues, and Eric Gales, hailed as a child prodigy who has performed with artists like Lauren Hill, Carlos Santana and Three 6 Mafia, will light up the night with his blues-rock electric guitar.
For the first time ever, Savannah Jazz Festival will host a Latin Dance Party, featuring the 10 piece Salsa Afro-Cuban orchestra, LPT Salsa Band at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum for a night of salsa dancing. Other artist’s slated to perform include Bryce Eastwood, Robin Sherman, and Brian Miller. Regional greats including Teddy Adams, Howard Paul, Jody Espina, and Quentin Baxter will make appearances alongside festival acts.
A special treat this year on the traditional Monday evening movie night features Clint Eastwood presents: Johnny Mercer, The Dream’s on Me at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s historic Lucas Theater. The following evening, The Lucas will host the Ben Tucker Alumni Band.
Talented students from regional schools and universities such as Georgia Southern University, Armstrong State University, Savannah Arts Academy and Savannah Country Day are also scheduled to perform the opening day of Savannah Jazz Fest, Sunday, September 23 at The Mansion on Forsyth Park.
Traditional latenight jam sessions on three nights carry on the tradition of after-hours experiences when musicians engage in freestyle jazz. These sessions are the genesis of pure jazz; structured but in the moment.
Coastal Jazz Association President and CEO of Benedetto Guitars, the premier maker of jazz guitars, made in Savannah, Howard Paul says, “There is no greater community arts event in town than the Savannah Jazz Festival. We do not charge for tickets to any events for a whole week of great jazz music. This is in the true spirit of jazz music; it is America’s unique art form that unifies all races and cultures. Savannah’s long history in jazz music from hosting Duke Ellington to being the home of Johnny Mercer and Ben Tucker puts the Savannah Jazz Festival on the map of being a tradition that should carry on forever.”