June 11, 2009

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Jazz and Blues Fest moves indoors
Weekend of music throughout Manchester
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

This year, the blues won’t be under a blue sky. Year nine of the Manchester Jazz and Blues Festival will be held at venues across the city from Thursday, June 11, through Sunday, June 14 with a big show at the Palace Theatre on  Friday.

Peter Ramsey, the theater’s executive director, said that blues and jazz form an important component in the city’s cultural scene. The festival began in 2001 with Ramsey and former Manchester Mayor Bob Baines at the helm, eager to bring more people downtown. Though the event was held outdoors through last year, organizers have moved the festival to the Palace.

“The challenge has been the weather, because it’s quite an investment for the bands and the infrastructure and the stages, et cetera,” Ramsey said. “We had rain a couple times. The rain would really impact who would come down to it. We decided because this year is a very uncertain year anyway because of the economy, we felt that we’d be safe moving the event inside.”

But the shift in venues shouldn’t deter past festival attendees. Returning to the festival this year is the Rhode Island-based group Roomful of Blues, now in its 40th year of touring and currently promoting its latest album, Raisin’ a Ruckus. The group has played at the festival several times in the past and appeals to a wide range of people, according to guitarist Chris Vachon.

“A lot of people enjoy the blues stuff,” he said. “We do a pretty wide variety of stuff, stuff you can dance to, and just for that fact alone, it doesn’t really go out of style totally. I think even if [teens] came, they’d want to groove. We just try to put on a good show.”

While Roomful of Blues will hold down the fort at the Palace on Friday night, the Hilton Garden Inn will play host to the Lisa Haynes Duo, the Eric Klaxton Quartet and the Grinning Lizards. Commercial Street Fishery, Unwined, 900 Degrees and Cotton will also feature live music throughout the weekend. Ramsey said that he wanted to highlight different venues across Manchester.

“When we decided to bring the event inside, there was a lot of discussion about trying to make it more of a city-wide event, like the way they do in Montreal and Burlington, Vt.,” he said. “We approached six restaurants, and six restaurants around the city are going to have jazz and blues in their restaurants all week long. This is the first year we’ve made it a true city-wide event.”

And more venues, organizers hope, will bring out a greater cross-section of attendees, culminating in a blues jam Sunday night at 900 Degrees. Vachon said that festivals like Manchester’s are important for the future of blues and jazz, as they expose a younger generation to the music adored by their parents.

“I think the festivals themselves are really good, just for the fact that people can come out and see live music,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a bar and you have to be a certain age. I think it knocks the age barrier down.”


Blues & Jazz
Schedule for the ninth annual Autofair.com Manchester Blues & Jazz Festival

Thursday, June 11
• Lisa Haynes Duo at the Hilton Garden Inn (101 South Commercial St.) at 6 p.m.
• Yvonne Aubert at Cotton (75 Arms Park Drive) at 6 p.m.

Friday, June 12
• Eric Klaxton Quartet at the Hilton Garden Inn at 6 p.m.
• The Craig Fahey Trio at Unwined (865 Second St.) at 7:30 p.m.
• Roomful of Blues, Henri Smith, New Orleans Friends & Flavours, and the Davis and Deleault Quartet at The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St.) at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15 to $25. See www.palacetheatre.org.

Saturday, June 13
• Andy Green at Firefly American Bistro & Bar (22 Concord St.),  5 p.m.
• The Grinning Lizards at the Hilton Garden Inn, 6 p.m.
• The Nate Therrien Trio at Commercial Street Fishery (33 South Commercial St.) at 7 p.m.
• The Craig Fahey Trio at Unwined at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 14
• Blues jam at 900 Degrees (50 Dow St.) at 5 p.m.