BMP-Ben Martinez Project
Date and Time
Saturday, October 20th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Tom Braxton, Norma Zenteno and Grammy winner Redd Volkaert are among the 50 acts scheduled to perform at the 51st Texas Jazz Festival beginning Friday in Heritage Park.
The festival, which will feature a variety of performers on three stages over the course of the weekend, gets under way at 5:30 p.m. Friday and runs until 9:30 p.m. Sunday evening. The festival also includes 40 arts and crafts vendors and more than 20 food vendors, said Texas Jazz Festival President Rick Sanchez. Admission is free.
This year’s event includes performances by Florida-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Stacey Knights, the Austin Latin jazz ensemble Tortilla Factory as well as Merle Haggard sideman and 2009 Grammy winner Redd Volkaert. Volkaert will perform with the Austin Community College District Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Tom Husak.
In addition to new headliners, the festival also includes spectacular consistently fan "SELL-OUT" favorites, like the Texas Brass Band, saxophonist Tom Braxton, vocalist Norma Zenteno, and from Albuquerque, NM, The Ben Martinez Project.
All of the usual crowd pleasers will be back again as usual. Tom, Norma and Ben have been playing the festival for 15 or 20 years and they draw the largest crowds every year.
While the quality of the music alone is a big draw for jazz fans, TJFS President notes that the event is one of the only free major events still offered in the city and the only free jazz festival in the country.
“We don’t charge and we never will charge,” Sanchez said. “That’s been the idea from the very beginning. We want to provide good quality music to the public but we don’t money to stop anybody from coming.”
Sponsors such as the Coastal Bend Chevy Dealers, AT&T and Citgo help cover festival costs, said Sanchez, who added that vendor space rentals also help generate revenue.
The festival is a labor of love for hundreds of volunteers who dedicate hours and sometimes a full week to the event, known as the official jazz festival of the state of Texas.
The roots of the Texas Jazz Festival lie in a jam session which was held in the Harvin Student Center at Del Mar College in 1959. The following year, jazz musicians gathered for the first Jazz Festival in the college’s auditorium, now called Richardson Performance Hall.
Student groups still are a big part of the festival. Del Mar College’s MWF Jazz Band, the University of Incarnate Word Jazz Ensemble, the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Jazz Band and the ACC District Jazz Ensemble are all scheduled to play. High schools sending jazz bands to perform include King, West Oso and Kaufman.
Through the years the festival has had a number of homes — including the Peoples Street T-Head, the now-defunct Memorial Coliseum and the Watergarden of the Bayfront Plaza Convention Center — before moving to Heritage Park in 1999.
Sanchez said fans continue to support the festival year in and year out because of the quality of talent on display on the event’s three stages. This year he expects to see 60,000 to 70,000 visitors through the course of the weekend.
Not that there aren’t any complaints.
“The biggest complaint I get is that I have too many good bands playing at the same time,” he said. “That’s a good complaint — I can live with that one.”