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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jazz will fill Green once again

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
NEW HAVEN
— Jazz is returning to its traditional spot on the Green this summer, but in a new form.
Rather than the Saturday evening concerts that were a familiar tradition for 25 years before the festival was canceled in 2007, the New Haven Jazz Festival will take place on an August weekend, according to Doug Morrill, president of Jazz Haven.
The nonprofit group is putting on the festival, with the theme, “All Great Jazz is Local.”
“We’re bringing back people who have gone from New Haven to make a name for themselves,” Morrill said Tuesday, including tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and percussionist Jesse Hameen II, as well as pianist Christian Sands, an Orange resident.
Morrill said he’s working on signing nationally known acts as well. “It’s been kind of a remarkable experience because it’s come together so fast,” he said.
The weekend will kick off Aug. 8 with a concert by the Neighborhood Music School Jazz Camp. The festival will take place on the Green from 4 to 9 p.m. Aug. 9 and 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 10.
The jazz fest, previously run by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, traditionally followed the pop concerts on the Green. Last year, because of concerns about congestion downtown and restaurant owners’ concerns the concerts went too late for people to take in dinner afterward, the shows were scaled back, according to Anne Worcester of Market New Haven.
Instead of six weeks of concerts, each drawing 30,000, there were four pop concerts that drew about 10,000 each. “The feeling is that downtown has evolved and there are so many reasons that people come downtown other than concerts,” Worcester said.
The four-week Music New Haven series will precede the jazz festival and will help promote it by having jazz musicians play before and after around downtown, such as at Temple Plaza or in front of the Shubert Theater. She said the Music New Haven lineup will be announced next month.
“Market New Haven is all for a New Haven Jazz Festival that is pure jazz and which features local New Haven jazz artists, and we’ll do everything we can to support it,” Worcester said.
The emphasis on “pure jazz” is something Morrill is proud of as well. In 2006, performers ranged from the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Tito Puente Jr. and T.S. Monk, both sons of jazz legends, to funk/pop band Kool and the Gang and bluesman Jonny Lang.
Morrill has lined up Casey Family Services as a prime sponsor and will get help from the city and the Town Green Special Services District.
“The city is very excited about the fact that a nonprofit organization, Jazz Haven ... is dedicated to bringing it back,” said Barbara Lamb, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.
Daisy Abreu, assistant director of the special services district, agreed. “I think it’ll be great to have the jazz festival back because it’s such a great institution The last time they had it, it was the 25th anniversary,” she said.
Abreu said she understands the concerns of restaurant owners but that it’s good to “keep the Green populated” on summer weekends. “It’s hard to be all things to all people, but we’re trying to make it so that everybody wins,” she said.
Ed Stannard can be reached at estannard@nhregister.com or 789-5743.

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