Richmond, VA – Having never been to the RVA Jazz Festival, I was not sure what to expect. I recognized some of the performers, but many I did not. In the end, I was not only impressed with the organization of such a huge event, but also the quality of the acts I had the opportunity to see and hear. I wish I could have seen them all.
When I arrived at the festival, it was before the event actually began. Scoping out the venue, it was easy to see that the early birds were staking claim to the premium seating areas, namely front row at the ‘Virginia Is For Lovers’ stage. I would later learn that many were preparing for the acts that were not going on stage for several hours. In a way, it reminded me of the long lines of people waiting for the doors to open the day after Thanksgiving. It was evident that many of the spectators knew a lot more about what was to come than I did.
Let’s start with the opening act on Saturday, Brunswick. They are a local brass band with an incredible sound. I was somewhat familiar with the band and knew that they were a great band that kicked the festival off right.
After Brunswick, it was off to the Dominion Energy stage on the other side of the park. As we approached, I heard some wonderful music coming from the stage. The artist Lisay, a powerful local vocalist, was delivering quite a musical performance. My only regret was not getting there earlier, as I was only able to hear a little more than one piece.
Next on the Dominion Energy stage was another local group, PrettyBlvck. Once again the vocals and instrumentals were amazing! What was obvious from the start of their performance was the closeness of the members, as they all appeared to be having a great time during their set.
The fourth local band I had the pleasure of hearing was Erin and the Wildfire. Known for their crossover into multiple genres, they entertained and delivered a show for everyone, no matter what your taste.
To this point all of the bands had been local for the most part. My conclusion after the first four bands was, ‘If these are the opening acts and local, what is coming next has to be stellar! Man, Richmond has some musical talent’. Yes, I was blown away!
The next performer I was able to catch was Lizz Wright. As I approached the Dominion Energy stage, I thought I was in heaven hearing the voice of an angel (with full instrumental backing). I think it is safe to say that the music moves her, which in turn was definitely moving the audience.
All the performers to this point were exceptional. It says a lot about the organizers ability to get high end local and national acts (I was quite impressed). What caught my attention with the next 2 performers was they were unlike all others up until now, taking musical creativity to a new level.
Enter Frédéric Yonnet, who brought with him quite a resumé and several harmonicas! To say he has mastered his craft is an understatement! His high intensity performance was beyond belief. The band’s music was outstanding.
Probably the most intriguing band of my journey was the next performer, Black Violin. I am sure I am not the only one who had a difficult time putting violin and hip hop in the same bucket, but it works! Comprised of two classically trained violists, they did that which I love! They were able to take one genre (classical) and fuse it with hip hop. It worked exceptionally well.
The final act of my evening was called, Big Boi. It was safe to say they drew the largest crowd of the day at the Dominion Energy stage and put on a very intense performance.
Marley was everything I expected, very laid back and reminiscent of his late father. As the fog machine haze engulfed the stage, with the haze magnified by the afternoon sun, the reggae sound soon had the crowd standing and dancing.
The final act I was able to take in was Stanley Clarke and his band. Stanley Clarke was a fitting end to my stay at Jazz Fest with his fusion style. If one was to take a little from each performer, the Clarke fusion style, complete with violin, would have tied it all together well.
I left Maymont a changed person. Going in, I had a preconceived notion about what I would see and hear, some good, some bad. When all was said and done, I had a new appreciation for music styles and artists that I would not have considered listening to in the past. A week ago I was not certain how the music would move me. As it turns out, the music moved me to looking forward to going next year!
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Festival Dates: 8/08-8/11/2019