By my count, we're about to experience the 24th Isthmus Jazz Festival this Friday and Saturday at the Memorial Union Terrace. But who's counting, besides me? No one, I presume. Besides, I'm a little rough on the count myself, and it's not how many, but how good.
This year's edition looks to be another winner. Though scaled down to fit the times, the festival will provide area jazz aficionados and Terrace lovers the idyllic situation for fresh-air enjoyment as long as the weather cooperates. And all indications are it will be doing so.
This year's Jazz Fest (the first was in 1988), though without a major headliner at the Union Theater, offers up a fine mix of homegrown talent and regional performers who've been making enough noise to get noticed by the Jazz Festival committee.
The action starts at 4:30 p.m. on June 3 when leader Dan Wallach, professor of jazz studies at Edgewood College, unveils the 2011 edition of the Isthmus Jazz Festival High School All Stars, his annual amalgamation of high school phenoms, to be followed by Michelle DuVall and the expanded ensemble Get Down, Mr. Cat!
Do you know what a mellophonium is? Find out at 7:30 p.m. on Friday when the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra, under the tutelage of former Stan Kenton band member Joel Kaye, takes the stage. The evening will end as has become traditional at the Jazz Fest with dancing to the sounds of the big jazz band - this year it's the Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Super Group. Castañeda is this year's Isthmus Jazz Personality.
The music starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday when Wallach returns with more of his charges; this time it's the Edgewood College Jazz Band. There follows a full lineup, culminating with Grupo Candela at 10 p.m. and dancing to the close of the festival.
For complete details of the schedule on both days, see editor Dean Robbins' festival roundup starting on page 11. See you on the Terrace.