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Confluence: It’s the perfect word to describe the 19th annual Evergreen Jazz Festival.
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It’s a confluence of gospel, spirituals and jazz at the annual gospel service at Evergreen Christian Church.
It’s the confluence of about 2,000 locals and out-of-towners who converge on Evergreen for three days in late July.
It’s the confluence of ragtime, blues, Dixieland, boogie-woogie, swing and big band into traditional or hot jazz.
The music was endless at four venues in town July 29-31 with 11 bands playing numerous sets much to the delight of attendees. The festival featured favorites such as the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio and Joe Smith and The Spicy Pickles, while bringing in new groups such as the Dalton Ridenhour Trio from New York City.
At Evergreen Christian Church, the gospel service Sunday morning performed by the Queen City Jazz Band with vocalist Wende Harston included favorites such as “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” “Give Me That Old Time Religion” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
As someone walking into the church said, “Nobody does this like she can,” referring to Harston.
To add to the joyous celebration, Sandy Sturgeon brought out puppet “Grandma” and Gloria Aho brought out puppet “Jerome” to dance along to the music.
“At Evergreen Christian Church, there’s Easter, Christmas and the Evergreen Jazz Festival," Bob Cooper told about 125 people in attendance.
It was a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, singing and dancing good time, and the clergy talked about the commonalities between jazz and religion: improvisation.
“Jazz performers know how to turn dissonance into harmony,” Richard Ward said in his sermon. “The Bible is God’s improvisation around a theme of God’s love for people. To bring harmony, Jesus had to improvise.”
The service ended “the only way you can finish (a jazz service),” Ward said, with a rousing rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
The festival was founded by Sterling Nelson, who served as the festival’s music director until retiring in 2010. He traveled around the country to bring traditional jazz groups and individual musicians to Evergreen to help the festival gain its reputation for excellence.
Attendees sat in the Evergreen Elks Club ballroom, snacking on munchies and enjoying the music from Louis Ford and His New Orleans Flairs, Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra and more, while still others got on the dancefloor. The Elks patio was a beautiful, intimate place to listen to the Felonius Smith Trio, Holland-Coots Swingin' West and more. Still others enjoyed the bands performing at the Evergreen Lake House.
The Evergreen Jazz Festival is intent on helping a new generation of jazz musicians, hosting clinics to help them hone their craft, so they can learn from some of the professionals.
Maybe jazz great Louis Armstrong said it best – and the quote is on the festival brochure — “To jazz or not to jazz? There is no question.”
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