DeMerles Hit the Ground Running
Having just returned from fulfilling a lengthy cruise contract in the Baltic Sea, Amelia Island Jazz Festival Artistic Director Les DeMerle and his wife, vocalist Bonnie Eisele, dispensed with any vacation days and plunged into their annual Jazz In The Schools program in advance of the 2014 festival, which begins this Sunday with a free concert in Amelia Park. “We love going out and educating students of all ages about jazz, the truest American art form,” said DeMerle, who with Eisele will be making stops this week at, among others, the Yulee Middle School and the Fernandina Beach High and Middle Schools. After spending several months visiting ports as varied as Warnemunde, Germany, Reykjavik, Iceland, and Copenhagen, Denmark, they are more than ready to put the island on jazz time. “It’s a terrific experience playing for folks from all over the world,” he said, “but getting back to our home and preparing for the festival is really the special highlight of every year for us.”
The festival starts with its traditional Amelia Park concert Sunday featuring the highly regarded crack TGIF US Navy Band Southeast from 2-4PM. “Bring your lawn chairs and blankets,” DeMerle added, “and we’ll also have food and beverages available from Sonny’s BBQ.” Thursday, October 16, the AIJF will continue with its popular Latin Jazz Concert and Dance, featuring the exciting rhythms of El Niño and the Latin Jazz Knights, plus a wine tasting, from 7-10 PM at Sandy Bottoms.
Critically acclaimed monster jazz organ player Tony Monaco and trumpeter/composer Randy Brecker, a multiple Grammy Awards winner, are set to headline the Festival on October 17 and 18 respectively at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort Jazz Village and Pavilion in Racquet Park beginning at 7PM each night. Both are enthusiastic about appearing on Amelia Island for the first time.
“I can’t wait to play in Fernandina Beach,” said Monaco. “This will be so exciting, especially with jazz luminaries like Randy Brecker and Les DeMerle. Man, it is going to be one special weekend of great swingin’ music, and I’m going to pull out all the stops and wail.”
“I heard from my dear friend David Sanborn that this festival is the real deal because the focus is jazz, and the setting on Amelia Island is beautiful,” said Brecker from his home in Manhattan. “I have also known Les DeMerle for over 30 years! We played together in his groundbreaking New York band, Sound 67, and I know the fireworks are going to fly. The weekend will be incredible, and I also look forward to performing a tribute during our set to my late brother Michael which will be dedicated to the Brecker Brothers Band.”
Prior to the headliner shows on October 17 and 18, the festival will present this year’s AIJF Scholarship winner, saxophonist Luke Stribling, and the Next Generation Jazz Band on the outdoor stage at the Omni beginning at 6PM. The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band, with dazzling vocalist Eisele and hot young saxophonist Hunter Diamond, will warm up each headliner show with high-energy sets. Accomplished and sultry singer Jilla Webb, Jr. will host the traditionally fun late night Jazz Jams, featuring the AIJF’s 2014 musicians, in the Omni’s Heron Room at the Racquet Park following the headliner sets on October 17 and 18.
The festival will end on a swinging note Sunday, October 19, with a Dixie To Swing Jazz Brunch, featuring drummer DeMerle’s Amelia Island Jazz Festival All-Stars, which includes Eisele, the highly talented Dr. Bill Prince, trumpet, sax, clarinet and flute, plus stalwarts Mike Levine on piano, and Dennis Marks, bass, at David’s Restaurant. There will be two seatings at 11 am and 1 pm.
For more information, please visit the website: www.ameliaislandjazzfestival.com, or contact the Festival Hotline at (904) 504-4772.
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.