Renowned jazz, R&B and blues artists from around the country will help kick off Carmel’s first annual Jazz Fest this weekend.
Organized by local music producer, performer and educator Blair Clark, the inaugural Carmel Jazz Fest aims to bring the community together to celebrate Indiana’s rich history with jazz music and introduce music to the next generation of artists. The two-day festival is set for Aug. 11-12, with local, regional and international musicians performing in indoor and outdoor venues around the City of Carmel, Clark told the Recorder.
“We’d like to cordially invite music lovers in our community and all over the world to Carmel Jazz Fest 2023,” Clark, executive director of Carmel Jazz Fest, said in a statement. “With the full support of the City of Carmel and the wonderful backdrop of our state-of-the-art venues and greenspaces, Carmel Jazz Fest looks forward to invigorating the city with the vibrant sounds of jazz, R&B and blues music.”
Headlined by Spyro Gyra, Clark said the festival will feature more than 30 artists from across the U.S. performing at different venues around the city — including Josh Kaufman, Jennie DeVoe, The Dave Bennett Quartet, Freddie Fox, Brenda Williams and Steve Allee Big Band — and many more in pop-up venues around Carmel.
However, he said all the performance locations, both indoor and outdoor, are fairly close-knit. From The Palladium to Tarkington Theatre and the Studio Theatre, Michael Feinstein’s Cabaret at the Hotel Carmichael, and more, Clark said artists will take the stage in several state-of-the-art venues over the weekend, sometimes simultaneously.
“The Jazz Fest here, literally, from the Gazebo to the Carter Green, you’re just a stone’s throw away from both of those locations, and they’re all right in that area here,” Clark said. “You get different experiences with each one of these places, so it just seemed like a perfect thing to do and a perfect time to do it.”
Clark will also perform a short set at the festival, including a few cover songs in addition to his new song called “Welcome to the Party,” “Al Be Like,” which is a tribute to the late Al Jarreau, and one of Jarreau’s unreleased songs written alongside Preston Glass entitled, “My Sentiments.”
In addition to bringing a jazz festival to Carmel, Clark said a huge goal of Carmel Jazz Fest is to provide an interactive, educational experience for youth, especially those who may not readily have access to music lessons or instruments.
One of the ways they are doing this is by inviting music professors and university jazz bands from Indiana University, Ball State University, Butler University and the University of Indianapolis to perform and interact with other artists.
“We have a great history of jazz here in the state of Indiana, but … I know there are some less fortunate students that if they only had an instrument, and if they only had lessons and the opportunity, they could be some of our next West Montgomery’s, our next Cole Porter’s and our next, you know, phenomenal artists,” Clark said. “I want to try to afford all young people, and any young person who wants that opportunity, to afford that opportunity to them, not just the ones who are fortunate to have the funds to do so.”
Clark said the festival will not just be a place to enjoy music but a place to enjoy community. He said they will have an upscale market with local food vendors, such as Market District, Walking Waffle, Rosie’s BBQ; wine provided by Sugar Creek Winery and a beer garden with Bier Brewery.
Parents are also encouraged to bring their kids along with them to Carmel Jazz Fest. Clark said introducing kids to music early is important but knows they need something to keep them occupied — which is why the festival will include a kids’ zone with face painting, balloon twisting and entertainment from Mr. Daniel at Carter Green.
“We look forward to welcoming jazz fans and visitors not just from the Midwest but from all across the country to enjoy a weekend of music, good food and plenty of beverages from Carmel’s lineup of great restaurants and pubs,” Ashley Ulbricht, board president of Carmel Jazz Fest, said in a statement. “Our goal is to bring a little bit of New Orleans jazz style to Indiana … a festival full of flavors, sights and sounds reminiscent of a stroll through the streets of New Orleans.”