Indy Jazz Fest is taking on a whole new personality this year, with a zippy look, feel, tempo and intent. It's "all around town" in new venues, brewpubs and breweries, and taking over Main Street in Speedway.
Indianapolis Jazz Foundation president Gene Markiewicz points to a roster of activities to bring jazz front and center. At the Indy Jazz Fest kickoff at the Jazz Kitchen on August 12, Markiewicz greeted a sizable crowd of jazz lovers with the urgency of someone building on a hundred year-old-legacy. Indy has a rich history of "spilling out in the streets," in the words of jazz great David Baker. Baker's 1940s generation, building upon their forebears, became the imprinters of Indianapolis jazz nationwide and internationally. The new players emerged - and are emerging - from this heritage.
Scanning the program lineup for the 11-day festival, you'll find something for everyone.
"Jazz is great!" enthuses Markiewicz. "It can be complex and yet simple. It is an art that can require you to concentrate or veg out. You can listen to one recording and hear it differently every time you play it. It is an art that expresses a player's and listener's emotion. Live jazz can feed off the audience in a way no other art form can."
Markiewicz points out that while "Jazz has a solid foundation of loyal fans and players, it would be nice to have more mainstream fans, so we can have more clubs, so we can have more gigs, so we can play more jazz so fans can listen to more jazz. Why should we care?" he asks. "Because jazz is America's true art form."
Indianapolis Jazz Foundation meets its twin goals of jazz education and performance via year-long programs in schools and public performances, by groups like the Indianapolis Youth Jazz Ensemble and First Friday Student Combo Performances and Combo Competitions at Indy Reads Books. At Indy Jazz Fest Sept. 14 and 21 programming includes free, open-to-all ages master classes, clinics and panel discussions supported by the Foundation, the Fest and Brewers of Indiana Guild.
"It's something we always have done," said Ted Miller, Brugge owner and brewer. "Craft beer and arts have a hand-in-hand relationship. The same people have a love for both. The education side of Indy Jazz Fest is fantastic."
Miller credits The Pub Creep, a new addition to the Fest, to the camaraderie between Dave Allee, Jazz Kitchen owner, and brewers, particularly linking Allee with Miller and Kevin Matalucci, Twenty Tap owner, as members of Broad Ripple High School Class of '87. "We look after each other," quipped Miller, who says Zach Lapidus will be the first music event in Brugge's upstairs room.
Billy Hannan at Broad Ripple Brewpub adds that BRBP owner John Hill "Is a very big fan of jazz. He used to go to jazz concerts in London (before emigrating to Indianapolis). It's a big thrill for him to have Cynthia Lane headline at BRBP."
Hannan recalls Rob Dixon and Gordon Bonham "used to come to play at BRBP." He mused on how nice it would be to have them and others come back to bring jazz to a family-friendly space in the dining room.
That could be a way around what Markiewicz refers to as, "the drag in Indiana due to laws that restrict students from being in the presence of alcohol; they can't go to places to hear live music readily. It is really great to sit in a jazz club in Cincinnati, for example, and see young jazz fans listening to live jazz."