New Springfield Jazz and Blues Fest is hit with the crowd

The 2-day festival was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Springfield.

Downtown was filled with music Friday and Saturday as the first Springfield Jazz and Blues Fest hit the right notes with the public as seven groups hit stages at Springfield Commons Park and Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company.

A mix of local groups and regional and national performers, led by celebrated jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli as the Friday evening headliner, brought people from as far as St. Louis to experience the two-day, admission-free festival. The event is presented by the Kiwanis Club of Springfield.

Plenty of summer sunshine complemented the setting and nightfall saw even more people crowd Commons Park as the John Pizzarelli Trio performed after 9:30 p.m. He was the attraction that brought Scott and Barbara Smith all the way from St. Louis.

The couple wanted to do a weekend getaway and were already fans of Pizzarelli and had met him. They decided to make a weekend of it, staying in Yellow Springs, where they planned to get in some hiking when not listening to music, experience the craft beers at Mother Stewart’s, cheese curds at Young’s Jersey Dairy and see family during the trip.

“Being admission-free is the best; we can pay for part of our stay with what we save,” said Scott Smith.

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The couple also found the Ohio weather refreshing opposed to St. Louis. Should the festival continue as an annual event, it may be a regular summer stop for the Scotts.

“It’s great to have something like this we could keep going to,” Barbara Scott said.

Others like Morris and Jacqueline Holloway of Springfield weren’t necessarily jazz or blues fans but found a shady bench in the park to try it out. It was the setting that drew them as much as the art.

“I like this park, it’s beautiful,” Morris Holloway said.

Credit: David A. Moodie

Credit: David A. Moodie

Darren Holland of Springfield saw it as a chance to give his wife some alone time by bringing his young daughters ages 10 months and 2½ years in a stroller. He already likes jazz and thought it a good opportunity to share with his girls, who love dancing.

The Hollands will skip the second day of the Jazz and Blues festival and instead make a stop Saturday at the Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck Competition.

“Having two kids, it’s not always easy to go to things and having festivals close helps,” Holland said.

The Kiwanis Club of Springfield worked to make the festival a rounded event by including a kids’ area with inflatables, food trucks, a few vendors, places to sit and move about. They were grateful for the several people who sponsored to make it a free festival including Springfield’s John Legend.other Stewart’s was filled as well with several food trucks as visitors filled the outdoor area near the stage and inside. There was also room for people who wanted to dance.

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Some of the most convenient seats belonged to those living in the townhouses across the street from the park. Doug and Luktan Nave didn’t know they’d get free live entertainment outside their front doors, where all they had to do was set up lawn chairs.

“This is a great thing for downtown. It’s nice to be in the middle of things,” Doug Nave said.

The couple along with dog Penny often sit on their balcony and listen to the music across the street at Mother Stewart’s when bands perform.

They’d like to see more in the park, which they consider their front yard and sometimes feels like somewhere else.

“You’d think you were in New York or Washington, D.C. but you’re in Springfield,” said Doug Nave.

Todd Stoll, who leads the Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra that helped spark an interest in jazz locally and coordinated the talent for the festival, said the event was designed to expose various types of jazz and blues.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Pizzarelli, one of the biggest names in jazz who has performed with superstars like Paul McCartney and more than 20 albums to his credit, had the audience dancing, grooving and laughing as he had a comedian’s timing in between playing Great American Songbook tunes and how he became interested in these songs and began his career.

His guitar skills also had the audience applauding consistently. Pizzarelli said after the show he hoped that type of reception would lead people to learn more about jazz if they didn’t already know.

“People hear that and now they might go out and look for more jazz music,” he said.

Pizzarelli was glad to help inaugurate the festival as an ambassador of jazz. And though he’s used to playing shows in big cities, this offered a different experience.

“Those places are bigger, but there’s not as many local groups and that has a nice feeling to have,” he said.

Saturday’s performers included bluesman Marquise Knox, who has toured with ZZ Top and Cheap Trick and a mix of local and national talent as the Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra performed with Samara Joy, one of the up-and-coming stars of the jazz world. Stoll said this was a rare chance to see a star as she ascends.

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