The Kool Jazz Festival, which last year took over the entire Kennedy Center for a day-long celebration of America's unique contribution to the world of music, will return June 5 for a repeat performance but with a different cast of hundreds.
Last year's noon-to-midnight festival, which attracted more than 10,000 fans, marked the first time in the Center's 11-year history that every one of its halls was simultaneously devoted to a single event.
The festival, co-sponsored by the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. and the Kennedy Center, will open with a gala performance in the Concert Hall featuring Ella Fitzgerald. That same night, Baltimore will for the first time join the Kool festivities with a five-hour jazz-pop concert at the Civic Center featuring the Crusaders, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Rita Marley and the VSOP II Quintet with Herbie Hancock, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.
Last year, Baltimore jazz fans made up more than a fifth of the Kennedy Center's audience. "Kool wanted to cover a wider area, so they put together a program that would not conflict," said George Wein, the festival promoter.
Only Spyro Gyra and the VSOP II Quintet will play both cities.
The Kennedy Center concerts once again will be divided into two five-hour sessions (noon to 5 and 7 to midnight). Some of the jazz greats scheduled to appear: Oscar Peterson, the reunited Modern Jazz Quartet, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Dizzy Gillespie, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, George Benson and his All-Stars (including Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine), Gerry Mulligan and his Orchestra, Jon Hendricks and Family, Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra, Big Joe Turner, Clark Terry and his Jolly Giants, Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, Jay McShann, the Archie Shepp Quintet, Horace Silver, Anita O'Day and Sun Ra with his Arkestra.
Other performers scheduled include Joanne Brackeen, Freddie Hubbard, Don Pullen, Houston Person and Etta Jones, Barry Harris and Jimmy Rowles. A number of Washington performers are to be involved, but no names were available at press time.
The festival also will feature several tribute programs, including Bob Wilber and the Bechet Legacy, Philly Joe Jones and Dameronia (the music of Tad Dameron) and Sphere, the quartet made up of musicians who played with the late Thelonious Monk.
"We're doing a little more production in our program this year," Wein said. "Last year was so very exciting; the minute we finished last year, they asked us what dates we wanted this year. I hope it's as exciting this year."
The idea for the festival developed when Wein, a lifelong jazz promoter best known for the Newport Jazz Festivals, and Kennedy Center chairman Roger Stevens talked informally at last year's Lionel Hampton tribute at the Center.
"Roger's always been pro-jazz," said Tom Kendrick, director of operations at the Kennedy Center. "He's big on two things: the American musical and jazz, both being America's national music. The Kool Jazz Festival gives you an opportunity to say in a very direct way that this is national music being highlighted in the national culture center. And then you get a double blessing in that it is a national event and a community event because of where it is.
"It takes a hell of a lot of advance planning. We have to move heaven and earth to do this.".
Because of open seating and audiences flowing in and out of the Center's four halls, attending the Kool Festival requires a spirit of improvisation and endurance. Sometimes festival goers have to choose between jazz legends performing at opposite ends of the Grand Foyer.
"It should be a bit easier the second time around," Kendrick said.
The Washington event will kick off Kool Jazz Festivals scheduled for 22 cities; more than 2,000 artists are to participate in 500 concerts. Last year's events attracted more than 2 million fans between May and November.