Palm Springs: A Music Mecca and All That Jazz

 

 

Greater Palm Springs is known for many things, among them a world-class resort lifestyle, celebrities, art, and architecture. With the widespread popularity of music festivals such as The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival, Stagecoach Festival, and Palm Springs’ own Splash House, music joins that illustrious list as well. Bruce Fessier, music reporter and critic for the Desert Sun, recently released his list of Top Ten Music Festivals in the Coachella Valley.

While the list includes obvious powerhouse festivals Coachella and Stagecoach, there are a few inclusions that might surprise you. Coming in at #5 after just two years was the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival, just behind the 22-year-old Idyllwild Jazz Festival. “We were very honored to be included in the list this year,” says Gail Christian, festival co-producer. The buzz from the first year grew audiences by nearly 40% in year two. Early ticket sales for this year’s October event are already ahead of 2014.The resurgence of jazz as a popular music genre has been taking place over the last few years thanks to films like the Oscar nominated WhiplashGreat Gatsby and HBO’s biopic Bessie, and TV shows like Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. Iconic pop musicians Queen Latifah and Cyndi Lauper have released albums of jazz standards, and last year Lady Gaga received critical acclaim when she partnered with Tony Bennett for her album of jazz classics from the Great American Songbook. This pop cultural trend inspires audiences to explore the greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker and Mary Lou Williams. The festival’s growth of nearly 40% shows there is a growing audience that includes Millennials.
Grammy Winner Diane Schuur, photo by Lani Garfield.
“The artist’s age-range on stage reflects the audience,” says Sweet Baby J’ai, “Being a jazz fan isn’t about age, it’s about the music.” As the festival’s music director, Baby J’ai brings a group of artists who play everything from straight-ahead classic jazz to modern contemporary jazz and jazz vocals.  Over the three years, festival artists have included Grammy® Award-winners like drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and pianist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Tia Fuller and #1 Billboard trumpeter Cindy Bradley. 2015 Festival artists include multiple Grammy® Award-winner Diane Schuur (“Deedles’ Blues”) and the legendary vocalist and songwriter Nona Hendryx (“Lady Marmalade”). “We bring together great musicians and promise not only an incredible weekend of amazing talent, but a natural relief for your mind, body and soul,” states Baby Ja’i.

Nona HendryxBeing in Palm Springs was important to the festival producers. Producers were approached by other cities to move the festival elsewhere, but felt Palm Springs is the place to be. The city has a long history with music and, like jazz, is experiencing a resurgence. “We hope to be here for many years to come,” continues Christian. Christian is also a resident of Palm Springs and is happy to highlight the city she chooses to call home.The 3rd Annual Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival takes place October 9-11, 2015 in Palm Springs, California at multiple venues including the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum. The festival is a production of L&G Events. For details about the festival visit PSWomensJazzFestival.com or call 760-416-3545.

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