Scheduling and other info: grandjazzfest.org
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On August 15 and 16, the GRJazzFest will make its fourth annual run at Rosa Parks Circle. West Michigan’s only free weekend-long jazz festival provides an authentic jazz experience while pulling together disparate corners of the community.
“When you look out over the audience from backstage, what you see is the community: people of all ages, races, cultures, coming together to have a great time and enjoy some jazz music,” says Molly Klimas, one of the event’s organizers who has been working with the festival’s organizing team since its inception four years ago. “It’s probably the most diverse event I’ve been to anywhere.”
This year’s diverse crowd will enjoy 10 performances, coming from a combination of both well-established artists and up-and-comers (there will even be a student jazz jam for the area’s high-schoolers). 2015’s headliner, “The Producers,” is comprised of Grammy-winning producer Paul Brown and Grammy-nominated composer/keyboardist Nate Harasim, and will be playing alongside JazzFest returner Deon Yates, an on-the-rise saxophonist. The 10 different performers of the weekend represent a range not only of exposure, but of musical style.
“It’s amazing how many subgenres there are within jazz,” says Klimas. “This festival has exposed me to so many more types of jazz, which I love.”
The festival is designed with the goal of delivering something valuable to every type of listener. Those who have never heard a piece of jazz music before will discover the diverse world of sound within the genre, fans of traditional jazz have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and experienced listeners of many subgenres will enjoy the festival’s carefully selected list of artists.
Above all, everyone in Grand Rapids can take part in a community-fostering experience. Besting last years’ 10,000, this summer’s audience is projected to include 12,000 people.
New to the festival will be a family guitar tent (provided by the guitar manufacturers Godin and Cordoba), where kids can pick up a guitar, play and learn. Also new is a mobile-optimized website which makes it easier for visitors to plan their visit, including tips on when to arrive and where to park.
At the conclusion of saturday night, the B.O.B. will host an afterparty featuring a jam session from one of the festival’s performers, Mike Frost. The festival falls at the end of Restaurant Week, which is great for festgoers and the downtown dining scene; the schedule is designed to include breaks between acts so that listeners can grab a bite to eat, shop or simply walk around the area without missing a show.
“We want to support our beautiful downtown, and our community,” says Klimas, “and we’re bringing jazz to new audiences."
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