Glen McDaniel, Nick Villalobos and Zack Clark perform as the trio Simply Three, which is scheduled after a previous appearance in Juneau to return for a May 18 concert at Centennial Hall as part of this year’s Juneau Jazz and Classics festival. (Photo courtesy of Simply Three)

Glen McDaniel, Nick Villalobos and Zack Clark perform as the trio Simply Three, which is scheduled after a previous appearance in Juneau to return for a May 18 concert at Centennial Hall as part of this year’s Juneau Jazz and Classics festival. (Photo courtesy of Simply Three)

This year’s Juneau Jazz and Classics festival is stretching out

Festival that begins Saturday extended to two weeks and three Southeast communities.

There’s some extra spring in this year’s Juneau Jazz and Classics as the festival that starts Saturday is returning to its youthful roots, offering two weeks of events instead of one while eliminating the newer and lesser-attended fall festival.

The event is moving about in other ways as well, including relocating the free noontime concerts to the Juneau Arts and Culture Center rather than the State Office Building, and staging two road shows in Hoonah and one in Tenakee Springs. But the soul of the festival that debuted in 1987 will remain familiar to fans with performers stretching the boundaries of jazz and classical genres, events such as workshops and a blues cruise, and jam sessions and pop-up performances.

“Because we decided to drop the fall this year we wanted to make the spring a little bit more robust and spread it out over time,” said Rachel Disney, operations assistant for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, which hosts the festival. “We also wanted to build in rest days between concerts and events so that people didn’t get exhausted and feel like they have to make everything, and make themselves too exhausted trying to do that.”

That means four opening days of events between Saturday and Tuesday, then a two-day break before another four days of performances next Friday through Monday. The festival will conclude with events the subsequent Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Headline performers include new and familiar names, including festival Artistic Director Zuill Bailey who selected most of the musicians and will be playing cello with some of them as well as solo. Disney said Bailey is planning to get an early start on the festival by playing a pop-up show at Hearthside Books downtown during First Friday, with other such shows by festival performers likely to be announced at the festival’s online sites a day before they happen.

“When he gets here he usually just kind of carries his cello with him wherever he goes,” Disney said. “If it’s nice he’s going to be outside. If it rains he kind of picks a place to go inside. So we kind of never really know. He goes with the flow and it’s kind of what his mood wants him to do.”

Among the places Bailey is definitely scheduled to be is the Marie Drake Planetarium on Sunday for “Bach Under the Stars” shows at 2 p.m. where he’ll perform while the audience lies on the flooring watching the cosmos above. Another show titled “Celebrate!” at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 12, at the University of Alaska Southeast will feature Bailey teaming up with renowned viola player Yinzi Kong and her husband William Ransom, a pianist who is making a return to Juneau after serving as the festival’s artistic director until Bailey took over in 2020.

“Right before the pandemic we moved from William Ransom to Zuill Bailey being the artistic director and we usually do a sendoff event, like the passing of the baton or something, and we didn’t get to do that,” Disney said. “So we’re finally getting to bring Will back here to kind of celebrate him being the artistic director and saying goodbye.”

Ransom, who like his wife has performed with ensembles globally, is currently the Mary L. Emerson Professor of Piano at Emory University in Atlanta. In addition to shows and workshops in Juneau, the couple is scheduled to perform in Tenakee Springs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14.

Jazz guitarist Pasquale Grasso is scheduled to perform shows with his trio in Juneau and Hoonah during the year’s Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival. (Photo courtesy of Pasquale Grasso)

Jazz guitarist Pasquale Grasso is scheduled to perform shows with his trio in Juneau and Hoonah during the year’s Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival. (Photo courtesy of Pasquale Grasso)

Among the featured newcomers this year is Pasquale Grasso, an Italian-born jazz guitarist noted for both classical playing techniques and bebop influences. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life…this guy is doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult” is how jazz legend Pat Metheny described him in a 2016 interview with Vintage Guitar Magazine.

Grasso is scheduled to play an opening-night “Jazz at the JACC” concert with his trio at 7 p.m. Saturday and then, for people wanting an encore or with limited budgets, return with his trio to the venue for a free brown bag show on Tuesday. The trio is also scheduled to travel to Hoonah for a performance at 9:15 a.m. on Monday.

Also visiting for the festival is the Navy Band Northwest Bangor Brass Band based in Silverdale, Washington, which is scheduled to perform at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday as part of the annual Juneau Maritime Festival at Elizabeth Peratrovich Plaza. The military band musicians will also offer workshops for brass and drums on Monday evening at UAS, and perform an early evening concert Tuesday at Sealaska Heritage Institute Heritage Plaza.

This year’s featured blues act is True Blues, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Corey Harris and fiddler/accordionist/vocalist Cedric Watson, who will perform a dance concert Friday, May 10, at the JACC and during a blues cruise Saturday, May 11. Also featured during the latter part of the festival’s second week is Imani Winds, a classical quintet that won the 2024 Grammy in the Classical Compendium category for the recording “Passion for Bach and Coltrane.”

The finale will feature the classical crossover string trio Simply Three at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Centennial Hall.

“This is their second time in Juneau,” Disney said. “And we got many, many requests to bring them back. And so when we had the opportunity to bring them back I know that we said yes because of that.”

The full and updated schedule, ticket purchases, volunteer signups, and other information are at https://www.jazzandclassics.org.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

2024 JUNEAU JAZZ AND CLASSICS SCHEDULE

Saturday, May 4

11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Maritime Festival booth featuring instrument “petting zoo” and occasional performances. Elizabeth Peratrovich Plaza. Free.

7 p.m.: Jazz at the JACC by the Pasquale Grasso Trio. Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Sunday, May 5

2 and 4 p.m.: Bach Under the Stars by Zuill Bailey, Marie Drake Planetarium. Pay as you can.

Monday, May 6

6 p.m.: Workshops for Brass and Drums by the Navy Band Northwest Bangor Brass Band. UAS Egan Wing classrooms. Free.

Tuesday, May 7

Noon: Brown Bag Concert by the Pasquale Grasso Trio, Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Free.

5 p.m.: Rush Hour Concert by the Navy Band Northwest Bangor Brass Band, Sealaska Heritage Institute Heritage Plaza. Free.

8 p.m.: Jazz jam at the Crystal Saloon. Free.

Friday, May 10

Noon: Brown Bag Concert by True Blues (Corey Harris and Cedric Watson), Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Free.

7 p.m.: True Blues Dance by Corey Harris and Cedric Watson. Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Saturday, May 11

8 p.m. Blues Cruise by True Blues (Corey Harris and Cedric Watson). Statter Harbor.

Sunday, May 12

2 p.m.: Celebrate! by Zuill Bailey, William Ransom and Yinzi Kong. UAS Egan Library

Monday, May 13

Noon: Brown Bag Concert by William Ransom and Yinzi Kong. Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Free.

6 p.m.: Workshops for Piano and Viola by William Ransom and Yinzi Kong. Chapel by the Lake.

Wednesday, May 15

Noon: Brown Bag Concert by Imani Winds. Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Free.

6 p.m.: Workshops for Winds by Imani Winds. UAS Egan Wing classrooms.

Friday, May 17

5:30 and 7:30 p.m.: Winds by the Lake by Imani Winds. Chapel by the Lake.

Saturday, May 18

7 p.m.: Simply Three: ENCORE! Centennial Hall.

Out of Town Concerts

Hoonah: Pasquale Grasso Trio at 9:15 a.m. Monday, May 6.

Tenakee: William Ransom, piano, and Yinzi Kong, viola, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14.

Hoonah: Imani Winds at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 16.

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