Jazz Festival will be zooming classics for 2020


The Amelia Island Jazz Festival announced this week that its 2020 edition will feature a reinvented series of virtual concerts, a special WJCT radio broadcast, a “wholly innovative” AIJF Sponsors Happy Hour Party, and educational outreaches to schools and seniors.

This year’s Jazz Festival will run Monday, Oct. 5, through Sunday, Oct. 11, with performances available via Zoom or Facebook Live.

“The festival Board of Directors feels that this is the best way to keep the AIJF alive and safe for all during the current pandemic,” said festival Artistic Director Les DeMerle. “We’re planning a very exciting set of performances without missing a beat!”

The Festival Sponsors Happy Hour Party, available to Bronze Saxophone sponsors and above, will kick off the week at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, with a virtual “Rat Pack”-themed Zoom event hosted by DeMerle and Bonnie Eisele featuring recorded music from Frank Sinatra (“Come Fly With Me”) and Dean Martin (“Sway”) in addition to others from the era.

AIJF Board member and mixologist Chris Twiggs will be showcasing several of his special recipes, including the “Dean Martini,” all of which will be emailed to sponsors in advance along with an exclusive invitation and drink recipes.

“A Salute to the Duke,” this year’s Friday headlining show, set for 7 p.m. Oct. 9, will celebrate the music of Duke Ellington. The Dynamic Les DeMerle Jazz Quartet with vocalist Bonnie Eisele, multi-instrumentalist Dr. Bill Prince, Doug Matthews on piano, bassist Ernie Ealum, and DeMerle playing drums, will perform classic Ellington compositions including “Take The A Train,” “Cotton Tail” and “Satin Doll.”

Additionally, the performance will feature 2020 AIJF Scholar Janae Yates, 18-year-old jazz drummer, and a memorial tribute to two old friends of the festival – legendary alto saxophonist Richie Cole, who appeared in 2006, and local favorite guitarist and vocalist Dan Voll, both of whom passed away in recent years.

This will be an online, ticketed event broadcast via Facebook Live from Story & Song Bookstore Bistro on Amelia Island. Tickets are $20.

Then, “To Satchmo with Love,” the Saturday headlining show also planned for 7 p.m., will celebrate the music of Louis Armstrong and present “exciting trumpeter and vocalist” Longineu Parsons along with The Dynamic Les DeMerle Jazz Trio. A classically trained trumpeter, Parsons is well known for his interpretations of Armstrong, who was nicknamed Satchmo.

A Jacksonville native now a member of the faculty at Florida A&M University, Parsons has played for Nat Adderley, Cab Calloway, Doc Severinsen, Herbie Mann, Archie Shepp Sun Ra and Branford Marsalis. He appeared in the national
theatrical production of Satchmo on Broadway and at Carnegie Hall.

Like the Duke Ellington tribute, this will be an online, ticketed event broadcast via Facebook Live from Story & Song Bookstore Bistro. The cost is $20.

Winding down this year’s abbreviated Jazz Fest will be the WJCT Electro Lounge Jazz Brunch radio program from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, Oct. 11, with “highlights of great performances from the Amelia Island Jazz Festival over the past 17 years.”

“Compiled meticulously by DeMerle,” highlights will include David Sanborn, Nestor Torres, Houston Person, Delfeayo Marsalis, Steve March Tormé, Bria Skonberg and the Les DeMerle Band. You can hear the program free by tuning to WJCT at 89.9 on your FM radio or using the WJCT app. A stream of the program will also be available at https://bit.ly/3lF9Gzb.

A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, the Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival distributes proceeds toward a scholarship program to fund college educations for aspiring jazz musicians. For more information including sponsorship opportunities and ticket purchases, visit ameliaislandjazzfestival.com.