Hot Springs JazzFest returns for the 31st year this weekend in its traditional home under the skybridge at 100 Broadway St., and the Hot Springs Jazz Society is excited about this year's event. "We are relieved," Ron McHone, chair of JazzFest, said. "We almost folded a couple of years ago with JazzFest because of the pandemic thing, and then funding had dropped out.
It was hard for us to raise funds ... but we went ahead and made it happen last year. We took a lot of money out of our pockets and just made it happen, and we didn't get to be outside. "So we started planning then that if we're gonna do this, we're gonna do and get back under the bridge where you have a larger crowd," he said. Last year's event was held at the Central Theatre, but the event will be back in the open air as temperatures are forecast to be much lower than last week. "It's gonna be under the skybridge -- come rain, shine or whatever," Shirley Chauvin, one of the founders and part of the entertainment committee, said. Jason Smith, the director of jazz studies at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, reached out to the Jazz Society earlier this summer about not being able to perform at this year's event, Chauvin said. "UAM felt that with such a short practice time, they weren't ready," she said.
"Through attrition, they lose some of their key players when they graduate and go on. And Jason has to sort of rebuild the band, and they're very careful about the reputation because they are really terrific." Curtis Adams & The Modern Jazz Collective, "which will feature some of the very best musicians in the state," will be opening the event at noon to replace the group from UAM, Chauvin said. The Little Rock-based group is comprised of Adams on keyboard, Brandon Dorris on saxophone, Daniel Olah on percussion and Max Campbell on bass. "Brandon is a crackerjack tenor sax player," McHone said.
"He's top-notch." The Village Big Band "will bring a crowd with them" for their 1 p.m. show under the direction of Jim Kelly, McHone said. The Springfield, Missouri-based Arthur Duncan Trio will take the stage at 2 p.m. "He's kind of one of our hotshots -- solid, solid jazz player, great musician," McHone said. The Arkansas Jazz Orchestra, which will feature vocals from Chauvin and Robert Raines, plays at 3 p.m.
before St. Jukes Revival at 4 p.m. "They've got a six-member horn line that comes," McHone said of St. Jukes Revival. "It's a swing band, and the literature they do it's jazz, but a lot of times it's the old jazz, and it's just a blast to listen to. Horn players are hot players, and they've got singers." Jubilation Jazz, a faith-based group, will close out the event at 5 p.m. "I am so excited that that Christian group's coming in to play," McHone said.
"We're trying to hit the full spectrum of our audience here in the community. They do patriotic, Christian-flavored music. And the families will love it. I hope the families will come out for that. They're closing out the festival this year." Local musician Krystyna Valdivia and Austin Murberger will be playing between sets, and Alexis Hampo will serve as emcee for the event.
The Clyde Pound Trio will be playing tonight from 7-10 p.m. at The Ohio Club to continue the tradition of teasing the event. McHone, a former band director for 37 years, said he would love to see more high school and college bands play the festival, but due to when it is held, it is difficult. "I wish that in some ways our festival was at a different time of the year because we could showcase more of our educational groups -- the high school groups and college groups," he said. "But they just started to school a week or two ago, and they don't have their ensembles ready to play.
That's why we don't have the high school groups here. They're just not ready."