Who would have guessed? Is the fledging Monty Alexander Jazz Festival nudging its way to fame alongside the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival? All three will hold Labor Day festivals, Sept 3-6, 2015. The big city programs have matured over three decades and mightily benefited from professional marketing arms. In contrast, the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival has only been nurtured for six years in the small town of Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore by volunteer community leadership, donated funds, and the artistic direction of the legendary Monty Alexander.
“Jazz at the pinnacle” is how the 2015 program for the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is billed (chesapeakejazz.org ) Six concerts involving twenty six world class headliners and sidemen, over four days, plus a free concert, and a second line parade down Dover Street (of course, In New Orleans fashion.) Logistics are mind-boggling.
Artists and companions (spouse, parent) need travel assistance. Most musicians come from their home base, but some arrive from their last gig in Europe or Asia. Hotel arrangements must be made. Drums, bases and maybe a tuba have to be rented or shipped in vans. The To-Do List is long, including lighting and sound experts, stage props, and most importantly a parade permit.
Simultaneously tickets must be sold. Social media has to be created and press kits prepared. Electronic ticketing has to be perfected and glitches smoothed. Street light banners have to be raised and posters posted. More money always has to be raised and spending needs to be honed to ensure the Festival’s artist-centric budget policy, by which 90% “goes to the stage.”
Most musicians come from New York City, the “center of jazz” and “the town that never sleeps.” They express only one peeve with our small village. For them, post-gig dining starts ‘round midnight. “Not so in Easton,” Monty advises them, based on his experience after his first concert. That night he had to settle on a bag of stuff from WaWa.
Four- to six weeks- out, Festival planning can be tense. By one- week- out the flutter has flurried and eased into toe tapping anticipation and a tremendous sense of pride in our small town big-time-festival.
The Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is sponsored by Jazz on the Chesapeake, a program of Chesapeake Chamber Music. For more information please visit www.chesapeakejazz.org