Promising a "Nicholas Nickleby day of jazz, a total immersion," jazz impresario George Wein and Kennedy Center Chairman Roger L. Stevens yesterday announced a one-day Kool Jazz Festival that will occupy all four theaters of the Kennedy Center, the first time that entire facility has been dedicated to a single artistic activity.
Kool (of the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.) and the Kennedy Center will co-sponsor the day-long May 30 festival. "You'll be able to go to the afternoon session, take a break and come back to the evening session," Wein beamed. "And you will know what jazz is, and why it's great, great music."
Ironically, two other major jazz events will take place about the same time: the Charlin Jazz Society's City Jazz Festival June 3 through 5 and the Wolf Trap Jazz Festival June 15 through 20.
Calling jazz "America's most important contribution to the world of the arts--along with musical theater," Stevens predicted that the festival would be "the most unusual day in the history of jazz." The festival grew out of the Kennedy Center's recent tribute to Lionel Hampton. "I told Roger I wanted the entire Kennedy Center for one day," Wein said. "He asked, 'What do you want to do with it?' I said, 'I don't know but you give it to me and we'll make some history.' "
The festival will occupy the Concert Hall (2,759 seats), the Opera House (2,318), the Eisenhower Theater (1,142) and the Terrace Theater (512). There will also be performances on the patios and in the foyers. Among the performers will be such familiar and established names as: Dave Brubeck, Betty Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz and Benny Goodman (who will celebrate his 73rd birthday with a special pre-festival concert on May 29). The avant-garde and new jazz will also be well represented with such performers as the World Saxophone Quartet, Leroy Jenkins, Ornette Coleman, Arthur Blythe and Amina Claudine Meyers. Altogether, Wein and Stevens yesterday announced more than 40 artists and groups that are expected to participate. With the exception of Ornette Coleman's electric Prime Time, the emphasis will be on acoustic jazz.
The programming will be split into two sessions, the first running from noon to 5 p.m., and the second from 7 p.m. to midnight. Ticket prices for each session will be $27.50 and those tickets will admit jazz fans to all four theaters, with a reserved seat in the Concert Hall, site of a major event each session. A limited number of $15 tickets will admit buyers to all but the Concert Hall events. Ticket buyers will be allowed to move to various locations during each session.
Knowing that the scope of the Kool Jazz Festival could overwhelm the City Jazz Festival, Wein said, "We hope to give them as much support as possible. We'll help them with talent costs for local musicians. They need money, we want to give them some." Cooperation with Charlin may also help smooth the ruffled feathers of local musicians (including internationally known figures such as Buck Hill and Andrew White) who were excluded from the programming of the Kool Festival.
Wein also expressed surprise about Wolf Trap. "I thought they had dropped their festival," after a loss last year. "But that's a different public, an outdoor thing with a built-in structure."
Kool's involvement with Wein dates to 1976; for the last two years, they have heavily sponsored the annual Newport-New York Jazz Festival, which last year changed its name to the Kool Jazz Festival. The Kennedy Center Kool Jazz Festival kicks off a summer-long series of 20 separate festivals across the country, to end in Los Angeles in November.