What a magnificent week at the 45th Annual Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. It’s an amazing gathering of fans, musicians, students, volunteers and staff creating a soulful jazz village in the sparsely populated and somewhat remote region of northern Idaho. Joy permeates the atmosphere as Lionel Hampton’s beaming face and burning mallets shine down on us from every lampost in town. Over 6000 students travel to the festival to perform in the Kibbie Dome, attend workshops and concerts. It was my pleasure and honor to join forces with the above crew of musicians and singer/dancers to perform in 3 area schools on Tuesday. We opened with Hamp’s Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop in an arrangement from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s forthcoming We-Bop Family CD. Then we launched into songs and dances from The Jazz Drama Program’s forthcoming release, Holding the Torch For Liberty, about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement with early jazz/ragtime style music by yours truly with lyrics and book by Clifford Carlson. The story of suffrage resonated well in the schools and we picked the show up again on Friday adding 15 middle and high school students to the mix for a more fleshed out presentation culminating on Saturday in downtown Moscow’s classic Nu-Art Theatre. In the middle, I coached 3 middle school bands including my favorite from Sitka, Alaska. A great jazz program there. And also, found a great young bassist from Lewiston, Idaho in Talia Howey. The daughter of the festival’s Education Director, Dwina Howey, the fruit falls close to the tree. These ladies swing swing swing on their respective instruments and we are all the better for it. I also gave 2 workshops on Jazz Culture and Swing Rhythm based on my 2010 article in Chamber Music America (attached) and a workshop on Free Improvisation, heavily influenced by artistic and educational titan and Middle School Jazz Academy Master Master teacher, Warren Smith. This material and a heap more is coming down the pike in a Middle School Jazz Academy Curriculum currently in preparation for dissemination. I loved hanging and jamming with great colleagues at the festival including: Sherry Luchete, Matt Wilson, Josh Nelson, Kevin Kanner, Rosana Eckert and Ben Williams. It was an absolute knockout to hear Paquito D’ Rivera and Anat Cohen perform together with the University of Idaho Big Band as well as Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band–tearing it up in the huge athletic arena. 87-year old Haynes was projecting his soaring life force far and wide thrilling all generations. The festival was closed up by the serious dance grooves of Tower of Power. My feet were in heat! for sure. Artistic Director of the festival is John Clayton and what a sublime vision he brings to this beacon of jazz present and future. I can’t think of a better way to honor the drive of Lionel Hampton himself. This is a festival built by a titan and continued by a vision. May it continue to thrive and inspire. Hats off to Executive Director Steven Remington and the Board of the festival. Keep up the great work and THANK-YOU ALL.
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