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Township Jazz Festival returns to Ridgeland this weekend

Photo courtesy of the Township at Colony Park/Facebook

The 16th annual Township Jazz Festival is a little over one week away, with this year’s event set to feature performances from 10 different jazz musicians on Saturday, April 1 at the Township at Colony Park in Ridgeland.

The event’s lineup will include appearances by notable jazz groups located throughout Mississippi and neighboring states, with a special performance by the Russell Malone Quartet planned for one of the final acts.

Russell Malone, who has worked as a member in Harry Connick, Jr.’s big band and Jimmy Smith’s band, has recorded with numerous big-time artists, including Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis, Benny Green, Terell Stafford, Ray Brown, and others.

Before Malone’s group takes the stage, the event will include a guitar summit featuring three jazz acts from musicians located in Memphis, Mississippi, and New Orleans.The Joe Restivo Trio will head off the first set before being followed by Barry Leach and Russell Welch, with all three artists joining in at the end for a combined performance.

“They’ll each do some things and then they all are going to have the three guitars have a jazz jam,” Raphael Semmes, a musician and festival co-founder, said.

Semmes added that the Mississippians Jazz Ensemble, otherwise known as Ole Miss’ jazz band, will celebrate its 100th anniversary with an 18-piece big band.

“Ole Miss jazz band was, if not the first, one of the very first organized college jazz bands in America,” Semmes explained. “We’re talking over 100 years of it, that actually went out and even played some commercial dance gigs.”

Other acts are set to include the Madison Central H.S. Jazz Band, the MS National Guard 41st Army Band, the Raphael Semmes Quartet, the Vamps, and Southern Komfort.

Tripp Douglas, event co-founder and the owner of Fusion Coffeehouse in Ridgeland, said that the festival has grown exponentially within the past 15 years.

“The very first one was literally just in the parking lot, it was a small tent. We probably had a couple hundred people there that day, which was huge for us,” Douglas stated. “It has since just continued to grow and grow and grow.”

Douglas explained that the event, which will be free to the public, has been made possible by sponsorships given by local companies.

“We’ve got people in the lineup that are playing every week that you have to pay $20 to $30, $40 to go see them and you can come see them for free here,” Douglas said. “The vision Raphael had was to make a free, fully accessible event. This is not something that we look to make money on. We just love doing it.”

Here’s the full schedule for the festival:

11:00 a.m. Welcome by Mayor Gene McGee, Ridgeland
11:05 – 11:35 Madison Central H.S. Jazz Band
This big band wowed the crowd last year and were invited back for an encore
11:45 – 12:25 The Mississippians Jazz Ensemble
Ole Miss’ jazz band celebrating 100 years, an 18-piece big band under the direction of Dr. Michael Worthy
12:40 – 1:20 MS National Guard 41st Army Band
Swingin’ in the USA, back by popular demand!
1:35 – 2:20 The Raphael Semmes Quartet
Festival co-founder takes the stage with his popular ensemble
2:30 – 3:15 The Vamps
Mississippi’s premier soul jazz group
3:30 – 4:30 The Guitar Summit
with the Joe Restivo Trio (Memphis), Barry Leach (Mississippi), and Russell Welch (New Orleans)
5:00 – 6:10 The Russell Malone Quartet
Featuring one of the top guitarists in the country
6:20 – 7:00 Southern Komfort
Funky brass band and a parade finale!

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