Some of the best jazz piano players in the world and some of jazz’s most acclaimed artists will be gathering in Huntington, West Virginia, this month for the inaugural Huntington International Jazz Festival, in conjunction with the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition June 22-23. The Jazz Piano Competition is among the largest competitions of its type in the world, and will be a triennial event in Huntington offering an awards package of more than $200,000 in cash and prizes.
The events, all of which are free and open to the public, will be hosted by Marshall University in partnership with the Nu Jazz Agency, an international jazz music management, marketing, promotions, booking, distribution and arts consulting company.
The five-day jazz festival will include everything from jazz performances to a family-friendly street festival to jazz-related photo exhibits at the Huntington Museum of Art and the Marshall University Visual Arts Center. It will culminate with two back-to-back nights of historic performances from the Marsalis Family Quintet, Arturo O’Farrill and the O’Farrill Family Quartet, and Jon Batiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The Marsalis family has been “America’s First Family of Jazz,” including co-artistic directors and NEA Jazz Masters Ellis and Jason Marsalis, who will be joined by family members Branford Marsalis and Delfeayo Marsalis in a rare family performance. Also highlighted at the festival will be performances by the Jon Batiste Trio and “America’s First Family of Afro-Latin Jazz,” five-time Grammy and Latin Grammy award winner Arturo O’Farrill, with his sons Adam O’Farrill and Zack O’Farrill.
“I believe this to be a groundbreaking event for music as well as the state of West Virginia,” Ellis Marsalis said.
Six finalists, selected from a pool of contestants from around the globe, will compete for the top prize in the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition. They will compete in four rounds of competition. The first segment is “New Orleans Heritage,” testing each pianist’s skills in trio format on tunes not only from Ellis Marsalis, but from the songbooks of fellow New Orleans contemporaries such as Harold Batiste, James Black, Alvin Batiste, and Nat Perillat. The second segment is called “Plus One,” which will challenge the pianist to accompany both a singer and instrumentalist in bodies of work from the American songbook. The pieces to be performed will be randomly selected from sealed envelopes, on stage in front of a live audience, immediately before they perform.
The third segment, “Solo Piano,” will require contestants to play a ballad and a Latin Jazz piece. The fourth and final segment is called “The Trio.” Each competitor will be required to perform one blues piece, one jazz bebop standard and one original composition.
The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize, a record contract with ELM Records and management, marketing, booking and promotions assistance from Nu Jazz Agency. First prize also includes guaranteed performance opportunities from a bevy of venues and festivals around the world, including a night at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York, SOUTH Jazz Bistro in Philadelphia, the San Jose Jazz Festival in California and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans. The second-place winner will receive $10,000 and third-place winner will receive $5,000. They also will receive national and international performance opportunities.
Huntington was selected as a home to the jazz piano competition because of Marshall University’s commitment to jazz education. Under the direction of Dr. Martin Saunders, Marshall University’s Jazz Studies program offers 13 jazz courses and degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. They are housed in the Jomie Jazz Center, a 12,700-square-foot facility with classrooms, practice rooms, media facilities, a recording studio, a rehearsal hall and performance spaces dedicated to the study of jazz.
Courses focus on performance, arranging, history, music technology and production. Marshall has hosted guest artists including 26-time Downbeat Critic’s & Reader’s Poll award-winner Steve Turre, Ashlin Parker, world-renowned jazz percussionist Jeff Hamilton and Ellis Marsalis, giving students chances to engage and interact with masters of the music.
“Ellis Marsalis has been such a huge icon in jazz music and as the patriarch of the Marsalis family, but of even greater impact has been his work in jazz education for many, many years,” said Saunders, who is also a professor of trumpet at Marshall. “Having an endorsement of his trust for this program is a great honor for me.”
The schedule of events for the festival and jazz competition is as follows:
TUESDAY, JUNE 19 – SATURDAY, JUNE 23
Dolores Marsalis: The Mother of Jazz
This photographic exhibit pays tribute to Dolores Marsalis, matriarch of the Marsalis family, in a special selection of never-before-seen family photos. Located in the Charles W. and Norma C. Carroll Gallery at the Marshall University School of Art and Design in the Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Huntington.
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018
7–8 p.m. • What Is Jazz and What To Expect at the Huntington International Jazz Festival! • Huntington Museum of Art, 2033 McCoy Road, Huntington.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Education Director Seton Hawkins will discuss jazz and what to expect during the inaugural Huntington International Jazz Festival and the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition.
8–9 p.m. • Hot Can Be Cool: Jazz Portraits by Herman Leonard • Huntington Museum of Art
The Huntington Museum of Art hosts this exhibition and interactive presentation featuring works of legendary jazz photographer Herman Leonard.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2018
7–8:30 p.m. • The Spiritual Side of Jazz: Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music • Trinity Episcopal Church, 520 11th St., Huntington
A select group of the region’s top jazz performers recreate parts of the Duke Ellington’s original Sacred Music works.
THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018
5:30–6:30 p.m. • Basses Loaded: The Life and Times of Milt “The Judge” Hinton • Marshall University Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Huntington
Jeremy A. Smith, curator of the James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection at Oberlin Conservatory, takes us inside the collection and life of the legendary jazz bass player and photographer Milt “The Judge” Hinton.
7–8 p.m. • Midsummer Night’s Swing with the Marshall University Jazz Ensemble featuring NEA Jazz Master Jason Marsalis • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue, Huntington
This midsummer night’s concert opens the Huntington International Jazz Festival’s activities and previews the weekend’s events.
FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018
4–4:45 p.m. • Introducing Jazz-MU-Tazz • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
Marshall University’s summer jazz camp students perform in select groups during the inaugural Huntington International Jazz Festival.
5:30–6:30 p.m. • The Bob Thompson Group • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
West Virginia’s very own jazz legend Bob Thompson and his all-star jazz group perform.
6:30–9 p.m. • The Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition (First and Second Segments) • Missio Dei Church, Upper level of Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
The inaugural Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition begins.
9:15–10:15 p.m. • The Marsalis Family Quintet • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
NEA jazz Masters Ellis, Jason, Branford and Delfeayo Marsalis perform during the headline event with special guests.
SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2018
10 a.m.–2 p.m. • Jazz-A-Can Food Drive Collection • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
Bring canned goods to the Huntington International Jazz Festival’s collection center and help feed the community’s less fortunate.
10 a.m.–10 p.m. • Huntington International Jazz Festival Street Fair • 3rd Avenue, between 9th and 10th streets. Come downtown to enjoy food, family activities and music.
1–2 p.m. • Jazz Music Helps Autism Activity Event • Marshall University Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Huntington
Individuals on the autism spectrum can join in the fun in an area designed for them to enjoy jazz music and activities.
3–3:45 p.m. • A Jazzy Kids’ Concert • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
Kids will enjoy this concert that pairs children’s favorite tunes performed by a live jazz group in sing-a-long fashion.
4–4:45 p.m. • The Marshall University All-Stars • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
The Marshall University All-Stars perform some of the most popular jazz tunes.
5–5:45 p.m. • Arturo O’Farrill and the O’Farrill Family Quartet • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
Five-time Latin Grammy and Grammy Award Winner Arturo O’Farrill performs with sons Adam and Zack as the “First Family of Jazz” meets the “First Family of Afro Cuban Jazz.”
6–8:45 p.m. • The Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition (Third and Fourth Segments) • Missio Dei Church, Upper level of Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
The inaugural Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition completes its final rounds.
8:30–9:30 p.m. • The Jon Batiste Trio • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue
New Orleans native Jon Batiste from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert brings his funky trio to help celebrate the inaugural edition of the Huntington International Jazz Festival.