For people inclined to say they don’t like jazz, there’s a rather enormous variety of it being packed into the first-ever Juneau Jazz Festival that might need evaluating before affirming that opinion.
“It’s all over the map — everything from bluegrass to video game music,” said Brian Van Kirk, a band teacher at Thunder Mountain High School, referring to just one of the featured musicians at the three-day festival that started Thursday.
The featured artist is Kyle Athayde, a multi-instrumentalist and composer who leads the Kyle Athayde Dance Party, which for many years participated in annual events in Sitka until they were discontinued last year. As a result, an effort to bring Athayde and other musicians to Juneau for a dedicated jazz fest year was initiated by Mike Bucy, another local music teacher, working with Van Kirk — both of whom had brought students to Sitka for many years — in association with the long-established Juneau Jazz and Classics festival.
“We just kind of took it over and we took their model they gave us, everything that they had been doing,” Van Kirk said. “And we had community donors and, honestly, Juneau came together and supported this.”
In addition to Athayde and his father, Bob — a longtime award-winning jazz musician and teacher first who first visited the Sitka Fine Arts Camp about 20 years ago, bringing his then-preteen son with him — saxophonist Eddie Barbash is also a featured visiting artist. Born in New York and now living in Nashville, he has been an acclaimed performer in collaborations ranging from soul to funk to chamber music.
Joining the featured players will be a range of local adult and student musicians, from individuals to school bands. Van Kirk said the visiting musicians spent Thursday visiting and performing at schools, where they also worked with students in preparation for upcoming multi-group concerts Friday and Saturday at Thunder Mountain High School.
“So they are broken into different groups to do kind of different subgenres of different things,” he said of the ensemble. “And then on Saturday night everyone’s coming together and we’re going have a big, big band. There’s a whole big band. There’s all five saxes, there’s the four trombones, and a tuba and four trumpets.”
Kyle Athayde, who joined his father as well as bandmates in performing a free midday concert Thursday at the State Office Building to officially open the festival, said afterward one difference between being in Juneau for the first time compared to his many years in Sitka is he’s more involved in the “boots-on-the-ground” logistics just to ensure things go smoothly.
Also, Athayde said, something he is doing for perhaps the second or third time is a concert for children of songs familiar to them featuring jazz arrangements.
“The one thing that’s different and really exciting to me is that we’ve been changing so constantly,” he said. “I wrote this whole suite of music that uses children’s songs to teach people about jazz, and to be able to actually play it at the library for young audience, yeah, it’s really special.”
Visiting band members will also offer workshops to people of all ages Saturday afternoon at TMHS, as well as inviting people to participate in a free jam session at the Red Dog Saloon on Saturday to end the festival.
Ticket and other information about the festival is available at www.jazzandclassics.org/jazzfest.
JUNEAU JAZZ FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Alaska CHARR Friday Concert, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Thunder Mountain High School, 3101 Diamond Pk. Lp.
Performances ranging from student showcases to local talent to professional saxophonist Eddie Barbash. Lineup: 5:30 pm – Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School Jazz Band; 5:50 pm – Ketchikan High School Jazz Band; 6:10 pm – Fleet Street; 6:30 pm – Thunder Mountain High School Jazz Band; 6:50 pm – short intermission; 7 pm – Eddie Barbash with members of the Kyle Athayde Dance Party.
Dance, 9-11 p.m., McPhetres Hall, 325 Gold St.
Featuring the Kyle Athayde Dance Party. Event is alcohol-free. $10 cover at the door (no pre-sale tickets).
Big Band for the Little Kids, 9:30-11 a.m., Mendenhall Valley Public Library, 3025 Diamond Pk. Lp.
Crafts and free family concert designed to engage the kids with jazz music. The Kyle Athayde Dance Party will play jazz arrangements of nursery rhymes and popular kid songs. Crafts at 9:30 a.m., concert 10 a.m.
Jazz clinics, noon–3 p.m., Thunder Mountain High School, 3101 Diamond Pk. Lp.
Free jazz clinics open to the community. Each lasts an hour, from how to listen to jazz to technique classes on specific instruments.
Alaska CHARR Saturday Finale, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Thunder Mountain High School, 3101 Diamond Pk. Lp.
Lineup: 5:30 p.m. – Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Jazz Band; 5:50 p.m. – Hot Club of Juneau; 6:10 p.m. – Juneau Big Band; 6:30 p.m. – Last Word Combo; 6:50 p.m. – short intermission; 7 p.m. – Kyle Athayde Dance Party.
Jazz Jam, 9-11 p.m., Red Dog Saloon, 278 S. Franklin St.
Casual jam session with local musicians and members from the Kyle Athayde Dance Party. All musical abilities are welcome. Free.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com or (907) 957-2306.