Fulton Hosts Jazz Fest

Four people on a stage
Julie Howard Quartet with Jeff Stockham. Photo by: Kassadee Paulo

FULTON – For the past 11 years jazz lovers have been coming to the Fulton Jazz Festival where local, regional and even international jazz musicians play into the night for three nights.

This year’s festival was Thursday, August 8 to Saturday, August 10.

The first night, a salute to seniors, was supposed to be held at Bullhead Point, but weather drove the festival indoors at Tavern on the Lock. The next two days were behind the restaurant next to the water.

“We pride ourselves on being a true jazz fest,” said festival president Joe Cortini. “A lot of jazz fests will feature watered down music and even rock and/or country groups. We lean very heavily on the jazz genre.”

Scott Dennis – Rhythmaires Big Band, Julie Howard Quartet with Jeff Stockham, The Classified Horns, Nancy Kelly, Jerry Weldon and Soul Bag All Stars, and Brownskin Band took the stage to perform for spectators at the free concerts.

“People that attend are able to get up close to the music; typically they don’t have to fight a huge crowd just to be able to see the entertainment or to get a bite to eat,” Cortini said.

Vendors sold dishes with a Southern flare, including jambalaya and gumbo as a nod to jazz’s roots. Cortini said he likes to call the festival a “boutique festival.” Other vendors sold local handmade crafts.

Cortini said Jazz Fest used to be a Chamber of Commerce event and when they decided to drop the event, a small group of people including Cortini decided to keep it going.

“I’m just very happy to be able to bring the Jazz Festival to a community that truly is in need of the arts,” Cortini said.

The festival was once behind the community center, but last year they brought it to the riverfront and decided to keep the event there since it was well-received.

Cortini said the new venue brings a certain intimacy and charm of being on the river and also leaves more of an impact on the economy as well.

“During last year’s Jazz Fest, even speaking to a few of the local downtown restaurants, they had remarked at how busy they were, filled with people that had planned on attending Jazz Fest that evening,” Cortini said. “So it’s good for businesses.”

Cortini grew up in a family of musicians. His grandfather was a music teacher and ran the Fulton Citizens Band in the 1920s, his father was a well-respected drummer, his uncle was a trumpet player, and his brother, Kimo, is also an accomplished musician.

“Jazz is in my blood; it’s been in my family for over a century,” Cortini said. “Jazz, as an artform, is a true expression… When you see a jazz group play, you are seeing instant composition sometimes. Of course the bands all have arrangements, but what you are witnessing is in the moment and you’ll never see it again, and that is the beauty of jazz.”

Audrey Avery also has a familial connection to jazz, which is part of the reason why she decided to volunteer at Jazz Fest. This was her first year volunteering but has enjoyed the festival in the past.

“My mom always enjoyed jazz, and she’s been gone for a while, so it’s something that I enjoy. I actually listen to it at home, my husband and I do,” Avery said. “It’s relaxing actually.”