Charting a New Course for Tri-C JazzFest
April 08, 2014
This year, Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland celebrates its 35th anniversary. The birthday offered an opportunity to take stock, to ask what was working and what wasn’t. Gone are the 10-day calendar and venue hopping. This year, JazzFest will take place over three days, with all concerts at PlayhouseSquare. Outdoor concerts will round out the entertainment; food and beverages will be available.
JazzFest runs June 26-28. Big-name acts performing include Trombone Shorty, Dave Koz, John Scofield and Grammy winners Gregory Porter and Terri Lyne Carrington. Bassist Christian McBride will be Tri-C’s artist-in-residence this year. Tri-C Trending took the opportunity to catch up with Terri Pontremoli, JazzFest’s director.
Tri-C Trending: What’s new this year for Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland?
Terri Pontremoli: Well, a very big change: the move to June and a centralized location — a real festival format. I’m very excited about it being in the summer, away from the gridlock of the spring seasons of the arts community here. I also love doing something that is more inclusive and really feels like a Cleveland event. It’s going to be fun to see the audience moving from theater to theater at PlayhouseSquare, but I also think it will be a blast having a free outdoor stage and music on Friday and Saturday night until midnight — and dancing under the stars!
TT: What is the most challenging part of planning JazzFest?
TP: The most fun part of planning a festival is also the most challenging: deciding on artists, seeing who’s available, trying to schedule times that work for artists in their touring schedules. The devil is in the details. From marketing to production to sponsorships and all the educational activities, there are thousands of details to work out, and timing is always tricky.
TT: What is your favorite memory of JazzFests past?
TP: I have so many wonderful memories, but probably the most emotional was when we presented Ella Fitzgerald in 1992. She was so frail when we picked her up at the airport that we all wondered, can she still do this? But her transformation on stage was mind-blowing, remembering every lyric, still having that amazing range and coming back on stage four times for encores. The concert was a sellout at the Palace, and I still get chills when I think about it.
TT: What does it feel like each year when the curtain closes on the final JazzFest concert?
TP: There’s always a bitter-sweetness to the end of the festival. You spend so much time agonizing over everything before it starts, and then it’s over in a blur. There’s always relief that the musicians didn’t miss flights and they all got their checks. I always feel extremely nervous until the first note gets played, and after that, it’s all good. One of the best feelings is being in the lobby as people leave. You can see how geeked up they are about what they just witnessed.
TT: What do you do when you are not working on JazzFest?
TP: When I’m not working on JazzFest – and trust me, there’s very little down time – I travel, often to other jazz festivals. It’s fun to experience other festivals as a fan and observer. I go hear live music, I buy and download new music, play tennis, cook and spend time with family and friends.
For information on Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland, including a full schedule and ticket information, click here.