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2014 Jazz Fest’s Big Band Bash Set for April 19

2014 Jazz Fest's Big Band Bash Set for April 19The 2014 Amelia Island Jazz Festival’s 3rd Annual Big Band Bash is set for April 19, 2014, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm, in the ballroom at the Omni Resorts Amelia Island Plantation.

The popular Benefit Gala Dinner/Dance will present The Dynamic Les DeMerle 17 piece Orchestra, featuring vocalist Bonnie Eisele and special guests, in a salute to America’s legendary big bands.

The music will pay tribute to greats like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Harry James, with whom DeMerle played drums for several years.

A Meet And Greet the Musicians cocktail party is set to begin at 6:30 PM and will include a complimentary glass of champagne.

Additionally, the event will auction an original piece of Jazz Art to be donated by the Park West Gallery.

Requested dress is Semi-Formal.

Tickets for the Big Band Bash are priced at $75 per person, and the proceeds will benefit the Amelia Island Jazz Festival Scholarship Program.

For online ticket purchases and further information, please visit the festival website: www.ameliaislandjazzfestival.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the UPS Store in Fernandina Beach, or at the AIFBY Chamber Of Commerce, Gateway to Amelia, A1A and Amelia Parkway.

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Les DeMerle Practices for Jazz Festival in the Mediterranean

Saxophone Penomenon Mindy Abair at Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Saxophone Penomenon Mindy Abair at Amelia Island Jazz Festival

After almost 16 weeks sailing the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas while performing aboard the Celebrity Equinox Cruise ship, Amelia Island Jazz Festival Artistic Director Les DeMerle and his wife, vocalist Bonnie Eisele, are eager to dry off and play for the home folks at the tenth anniversary 2013 Amelia Island Jazz Festival.  “We had a terrific time,” DeMerle said of their lengthy sojourn that took them to a variety of appealing and historical ports, including Barcelona, Cannes, Genoa, Rome, Venice, Naples, Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Ephesus, Malta, Dubrovnik, Kotor, and more. “We played quartet and big band shows almost every night, which really helped us get fine tuned, tight and well prepared for this year’s Jazz Festival,” he added.  The 8 day event will run from October 6-13 and headline masters of swing The Royal Crown Revue on October 11 and sensational saxophonist Mindi Abair on October 12 plus an assortment of great sounds, including Latin Jazz, Blues, Dixieland and Smooth Jazz Brunches, Jam Sessions, a newly established Drum Clinic Spectacular, Jazz At The Movies, along with late night jam sessions, Jazz In The Schools and Jazz for Seniors presentations.  Additionally, DeMerle and Eisele’s homecoming coincides with the release of their latest Origin Records CD, “Feelin’ Good,” a live set that was recorded on the Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Ship last summer.  “We’re really pumped about this release, and we look forward to swinging many of those tunes at the festival this year,” DeMerle said.

DeMerle added that it was a challenge to keep up with the many Jazz Festival preparations from thousands of miles away while doing nightly shows as well as delivering notable and well received lectures about Big Band history, based on his work as a drummer with the Lionel Hampton and Harry James orchestras.  “We had fun for sure—the audiences are big jazz lovers, and each night we got a chance to talk about Amelia Island and our festival. No doubt many of our cruise friends will visit the island for this year’s event or in the future.”  Among those who attended their shows was the great British drummer, Mick Avory, who played early on with the Rolling Stones but is better known for his work with the popular rock group, The Kinks.  “A great guy and fine musician,” said DeMerle. “We coaxed him into jamming with us and had a ball!  He was quite a jazz drummer as well.” DeMerle gives the AIJF’s current Board Of Directors–Loren Lum, Holly Germano, Suzanne McLeod, and Bonnie Eisele–along with a “truly dedicated group of volunteers,” high kudos for manning the 2013 AIJF plans and schedules in his and Eisele’s absence.

During their time away from the ship the DeMerles toured a variety of attractive landmarks and scenic destinations throughout the region.  “We checked out the David in Florence, sampled original Italian pizza in Naples, and marveled at the magnificent Dubrovnik seaport in Croatia.  We went for a gondola ride in Venice,” Les said, “however, our favorite experience there was revisiting the Venice Jazz Club, an intimate spot patronized by enthusiastic jazz lovers.  We enjoyed sitting in with the local musicians too, and the crowd responded big time.  One night they let us bring in our whole band from the boat, and the acoustics were so good, we actually recorded a set at the club.  It was very exciting and could well turn out to be an upcoming release for us.”

The 2013 AIJF will kick off Sunday October 6 at 10:45 AM at the Hoyt House downtown with a Mardi Gras style street parade, led by The Spare Rib Six with DeMerle and Eisele, that will precede the traditional Dixieland brunch at David’s Restaurant. Later that afternoon, beginning at 4:00 PM, TGIF, The U.S. Navy Jazz Band, will perform a free concert in Amelia Park.  For the weekend headliner events at the Omni Resorts Amelia Island Plantation, The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band with Eisele and keyboardist Mike Levine and trumpeter Bobby Pickwood will open for The Royal Crown Revue on Friday. Super saxophonist Jesse Jones, Jr. will join DeMerle’s band with Bonnie Eisele on Saturday for “A Tribute To Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson” preceding Mindi Abair’s show. Both nights there will be a second stage outside which will offer pre-show sets from groups led by AIJF scholarship winners Richard Roberts (trumpet), Boyce Griffith (saxophone) and the Next

Royal Crown Revue at Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Royal Crown Revue at Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Generation Jazz Band.  DeMerle is particularly jazzed about a new event this year, the Drum Clinic Spectacular, which will be held at the Amelia Island Plantation’s Racquet Park Conference Center beginning at Noon on Saturday, October 12.  The clinic will pay tribute to legends Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, and Daniel Glass, leader/drummer for The Royal Crown Revue will join DeMerle in what promises to be an innovative, educational event.

DeMerle recently signed an exclusive endorsement deal with Craviotto Drums, which donated a “state of the art” set to the Jazz Festival.  “Steve Maxwell, representing the company, will be attending and emceeing the event,” DeMerle advised.  Other festival events include Jazz At The Movies, which will present CHOPS, an award winning documentary film that features Wynton Marsalis and follows the Douglas Anderson HS Jazz Band’s quest for honors at Lincoln Center in New York City.  The school’s band leader Ace Martin and Roberts will be on hand for the movie and a live set also Tuesday, October 8, in the Omni AIP’s Heron Room; Red White & Blues with soul blues belter DieDra Ruff and the Ruff Pro Band plus a wine tasting on Wednesday; and a Latin Jazz Concert and Dance with percussionist El Niño & The Latin Jazz Knights on Thursday. Both of the latter shows will take place at Sandy Bottoms.

The festival’s final show, a Smooth Jazz Brunch featuring Levine, Dennis Marks, DeMerle and surprise special guests will happen on Sunday, October 13 at the Omni AIP’s Sunrise Inn.
For a complete schedule or to purchase AIJF tickets, including the All Jazz Pass which will be good for all events, and Premier Seating for the Headliner Concerts, please go online to www.ameliaislandjazzfestival.com
or to The UPS Store – Island Walk Shopping Center, 1417 Sadler Road, (904) 277-0820 or the AIFBY Chamber of Commerce – 961687 Gateway Blvd., #101G, (904) 261-3248

A not for profit 501(c)(3) corporation, the Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival distributes proceeds toward a scholarship program to fund college educations for aspiring jazz musicians.

For more information, please contact the Festival Hotline at (904) 504-4772
Email address: info@ameliaislandjazzfestival.com

From Blues to Jazz; Amelia Island Loves its Music Festivals

DieDra Ruff performs at Sandy Bottoms for Amelia Island Jazz Festival

DieDra Ruff performs at Sandy Bottoms for Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Someone once said Blues represents High School and Jazz is College. With the Amelia Island Blues Festival just in the can and the Jazz Festival 2 weeks out, we can truly say that Amelia Island loves its music festivals, no matter the educational status derived from them.  From Chamber Music to Country Music and from Reggae to Blues, most musical genres are represented in the island’s annual line up festivals. Whether main stream or niche market, everyone can enjoy their individual taste with fabulous live performances.

As with the Blues Festival, the origins of the Jazz Festival are typically found in veteran musicians wanting to contribute some of their talents and contacts to the community. In the Jazz Festival’s case it was Les DeMerle and his Spouse Jazz Singer Bonnie Eisele, who took the initiative back in 2001. Since then, the festival has brought an eclectic group of performers to our shores, including Spyro Gyra, David Benoit, David Sanborn, Ramsey Lewis, Buckwheat Zydeco, Nicole Henry and many more.

As in some previous years, the festival this year also gives a nod to its musical roots and showcases besides true jazz greats,  blues performances and Latin Roots on special weeknights.

“We always enjoy paying tribute to the roots music which has been so important to the evolution of jazz,” said Les DeMerle, the Amelia Island Jazz Festival’s Artistic Director, “and we are thrilled with the Blues and Latin artists who are coming in for this year’s event,” which runs from October 6 – 13 in Fernandina Beach.   Appearing Wednesday, October 9, for Red, White & Blues Night, a program that also includes a wine tasting, will be the exciting southern soul blues shouter DieDra Ruff & the Ruff Pro Band.  The following evening, October 10, rhythm masters El Niño & The Latin Jazz Knights will take the stage for the festival’s annual Latin Jazz Concert and Dance.  Both shows will take place at Sandy Bottoms from 7:00 – 10:00 PM.

DieDra Ruff

Birmingham, Alabama based DieDra Ruff’s energetic show at this past April’s Springin’ The Blues Festival in Jacksonville Beach was “so impressive that we just had to have her here,” said DeMerle, who likened Ruff to one of her idols, Aretha Franklin.  “We’ll be doing some of her tunes for sure,” Ruff said in a phone interview, “but we have a wide range of material that runs from Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones.” Other influences on her style include Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, and Anita Baker. The band, which features her husband Keith Ruff on guitar, will represent Birmingham in the 2014 International Blues Competition in Memphis, TN, an event in which they were finalists in 2009.   Currently, they are recording their fourth album, VIVA-FIED BLUES, for Ruff Pro Records.  Prior to moving to Alabama, DieDra spent several years living in Jacksonville and loves the area.  “We are very excited about returning back home to NE Florida and seeing so many of our old friends,” she said.

El Niño & The Latin Jazz Knights

El Nino Garcia [provides Latin Rhythms at the AI Jazz Festival

El Nino Garcia provides Latin Rhythms at the AI Jazz Festival

El Niño & The Latin Jazz Knights will bring in a six-piece line up chock full of danceable, poly-rhythmic beats and stellar musicianship.  Led by percussionist Gil Garcia (aka El Niño), the six piece outfit from Tampa has become one of the most popular Latin oriented groups in the state.  “My wife Bonnie and I jammed with this wonderful act at the Clearwater Jazz Festival last year,” said DeMerle, “so I can absolutely guarantee a lively and fun evening.” Garcia was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Chicago, where he said “there was so much great jazz going on–it made a strong musical impression on me.” Add that experience to the influence of salsa greats like Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, and Ray Barretto, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of soulful energy in store for patrons of Latin night.  “We make it a point to keep the people dancing and the toes tapping,” Garcia added.

The Amelia Island Jazz Festival will run from Sunday, October 6 thru Sunday, October 13.  Headliner concerts by noted swing masters, the Royal Crown Revue, October 11, and smooth saxophonist Mindi Abair, October 12, will take place at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort Concert Pavilion.  For a complete schedule of shows, jam sessions, and venues–or to purchase tickets–please go to:  www.ameliaislandjazzfestival.com

For more information, please contact the Festival Hotline at (904) 504-4772 or email  info@ameliaislandjazzfestival.com