Despite Change Of Venue, Festival Is Still All About The Music
Fort Harrod Jazz Festival is back, but not at Fort Harrod this year. Because of the difficulties with planning events during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers were forced to move the festival to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill this year.
“The change in venues is bittersweet as Fort Harrod has been a great partner and supporter of the festival from the beginning,” said Sam Carr, who has been one of the driving forces behind the festival since its inception. “At the same time, we are very excited about working with Shaker Village with their event expertise and ability to host large events. Going forward, we really feel like we have two great venues. We are already talking about ways to use both venues as we grow the festival.”
While the venues have changed, the focus of the jazz festival has not. The goal since the first festival back in 2013 has been the same: to bring world class jazz performances to an iconic setting. The festival has 12 acts scheduled to play over three days. This year’s festival will kick off with a special concert on Friday, Sept. 17, at Olde Towne Park on Main Street by the “electric jazz” ensemble Cosmic Collective. The concert starts at 7 p.m.
A big favorite with festival-goers in the past, the Cosmic Collective, led by vocalist Nikki Elias started at Middle Tennessee State University. They perform year round and have an album coming this winter featuring Grammy winner Jeff Coffin.
The Jazz Festival begins on Saturday, Sept. 18, at Shaker Village with another returning favorite, Paladin, at noon featuring New Orleans trumpeter, James Poole III. They’re followed by Blue Groove Jazz, the Campbellsville University Faculty Jazz Ensemble and the Jamey Aebersold Quartet. A native of New Albany, Indiana, Aebersold is a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame, along with jazz luminaries like Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
At 6 p.m., another returning favorite, the Sofia Goodman Group of Nashville, will take the stage. Goodman is a Berklee College of Music graduate whose drumming has earned her comparisons Al Jackson Jr., Roger Hawkins and Benny Benjamin.
Goodman is followed by the headliner, saxophonist Adrian Crutchfield, at 8:30 p.m. Crutchfield is the last horn player to record and tour with Prince. He has also toured with artists such as Bette Midler, Lionel Richie, Anthony Hamilton and Bootsy Collins.
The focus on Sunday, Sept. 19, includes local college bands and larger ensembles, a Jazz Festival tradition. The music starts at noon with the University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble, followed by the old school jazz of perennial festival favorites the Walnut Street Ramblers.
The Ramblers are led by piano player Dick Domek and started in 2006 in Danville. One of life’s great mysteries is that whenever the band plays, children who have never heard of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke or Jelly Roll Morton will jump to their feet and begin dancing the Charleston. It must be in the genes, but it’s sure something to see.
The Asbury University are next, followed by local favorite the MetroGnomes, a 19-piece professional big band out of Lexington led by bass trombonist Doug Oatley, who formerly played for Stan Kenton.
Closing out the festival is the Ron Jones Quartet of Louisville. Saxophonist Ron Jones has played with some of the biggest names in jazz like Diane Reeves, Kenny Kirkland and Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo Marsalis. Along with great music, there are also lots of food vendors and beverages available for attendees.
“The festival remains a free event with a focus on drawing visitors to the community,” Carr said. In addition to his role behind the scenes, Carr leads Blue Groove Jazz, plays sax in the MetroGnomes and has been known to sit in with college jazz ensembles.
“We greatly appreciate our 35 sponsors and partners, including top Corporate sponsor, Family Wealth Group, who is sponsoring free admission for visitors to have full access to dozens of historic exhibits, guided tours, and other engaging experiences across the entire 3,000 acres at Shaker Village,” he said.
This year attendees are encouraged to bring chairs, a 10 by 10 pop up tent if they wish, their friends and family, and even well behaved dogs on leashes.
For more information, visit ftharrodjazzfest.org or check out their Facebook page. Per current Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the festival is recommending that attendees bring and wear a mask when a social distance of six feet cannot be maintained. Masks are required if using parking shuttle bus services onsite at the festival.
Friday, Sept. 17
7 p.m.—Cosmic Collective at Olde Towne Park on Main Street
Saturday, Sept. 18
1:30 p.m.—Blue Groove Jazz
3 p.m.—Campbellsville University Faculty Jazz Ensemble
4:30 p.m.—The James Aebersold Quartet
6 p.m.—The Sofia Goodman Group
8:30 p.m.—Adrian Crutchfield
Sunday, Sept. 19
Noon—University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble
12:45 p.m.—Walnut Street Ramblers
2:15 p.m.—Asbury University
3:15 p.m.—The MetroGnomes
4:14 p.m.—The Ron Jones Quartet