The Central Illinois Jazz Festival serves up 10+ musical groups at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel over the weekend of February 10-12, 2017. There are at least 10 reasons you should make the trek to this small Midwestern town:
- The opportunity to experience a variety of jazz styles and performers in multiple venues under one roof. Dixieland, swing, big band, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, gypsy and zydeco styles from world class bands including: The Dave Bennett Quartet (Michigan); Dan Levinson’s New Millenium Jazz Band with Molly Ryan (NYC); Cornet Chop Suey (St. Louis); Red Lehr’s Powerhouse Five (St. Louis); Fat Babies Jazz Band (Chicago); Ivory & Gold (Connecticut); Four Other Brothers (Illinois); Dixie Daredevils (Illinois); Gator Nation (California); and Hot Jazz Pie (Florida). Additional performers include the Festival All-Stars (Jeff Barnhart, Danny Coots, Eddie Erickson, Russ Phillips, Ken Peplowski, Bobby Durham, and Duke Heitger) plus Featured Guests Marilyn Keller, Kathleen Miller and Robin Hopkins.
- Music venues, hotel, and restaurants/bar all under one roof. Once you arrive at the conference center, you don’t have to leave to eat or sleep. Just eat in the hotel restaurant or bar and head for your room upstairs when the festivities end or if you need to rest between sets. Believe me, this is a great benefit because you can stay until the festivities end and not worry about driving in the dark and cold or snow (or if like me you sometimes enjoy a drink or two while enjoying an evening performance).
- Flexibility of ticket ordering. If you’d like to enjoy the total immersion experience, pony up $160 for a patron package which affords entry to all sessions (Friday 4 pm to midnight, Saturday 10 am to 2 am, Sunday 10 am to 5 pm) as well as the launch party Friday afternoon and preferred seating in the venue with reserved seating. If you can only come for a day, a ticket to one of the four sessions is $40. This is a great chance to see if you like the jazz festival experience without a big investment of time or money.
- Free sessions open to the public. No ticket is required to listen to the Saturday morning Jazz Lab Band I and Little Big Band performances from local Millikin University’s School of Music. On Sunday morning the public is again invited to attend free of charge the Jazz Gospel Service featuring Red Lehr’s Powerhouse Five with vocalist Marilyn Keller.
- Jam session Saturday night from midnight until 2 a.m. Many of the musicians participate in this jam session, usually held in the bar, and it’s a great way to enjoy some casual ad lib performances by your favorite artists.
- The chance to meet and talk to your favorite musicians. There are many opportunities to meet the musicians. Before or after performances, or when they’re not performing, most musicians are very happy to talk and pose for photos.
- The chance to meet fellow jazz lovers from all over the world. You’ll have many chances to chat with your fellow audience members. Sure, many audience members come with friends or spouses but go ahead and strike up a conversation.
- CD and merchandise tables. There’s a whole room full of the performers’ CDs and you can ask the musicians to autograph the CD if you’d like. Usually, there’re also vinyl records, sheet music, souvenir items and other treasures in the merch room.
- Swing dance sets. Both Friday and Saturday nights there are dedicated swing dance sets in one of the venues. Admittedly, this is not a draw for me as I can’t swing dance. However, dancers of all ages seem to enjoy the opportunity to show off their dancing moves, and it’s fun to watch them while enjoying the musical performance.
- Special sets featuring ragtime pianos, banjos, or clarinets. It’s cool to experience a stageful of talented musicians performing on the same type of instrument.
For more information about the festival, including ticket orders and hotel reservations, visit the sponsoring club’s website at http://www.juvaejazz.com/cijf–42.html.