THE SPECKTATOR

'Jazz' Fest Weekend Begins

With R&B singer Brian McKnight?

Can anyone think of a better act to kick off Jazz Festival weekend than R&B superstar Brian McKnight? Didn't think so.
Posted

7 p.m. May 24

Florida Theatre, 128 E. Forsyth St., Downtown

Tickets: $42

355-2787

floridatheatre.com

Kerry Speckman shares her unique perspective and observations on people, places and events on the First Coast and beyond. She's also the 2012 winner of Jacksonville Dancing With the Stars, so she's got that going for her.

Contact Kerry by email or follow her on Twitter.

So you're Alvin Brown, mayor of a city that's continually recognized for producing one of the best jazz festivals in the country. And your list of past headliners reads like a who's who of the genre: Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, Diane Schuur, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Rosemary Clooney, Chuck Mangione, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall.

Of course, you want to take the Jacksonville Jazz Festival to the next level, but your loyal constituents tell you it's simply not possible and beg you not to try. Except that you are Alvin "Next Level" Brown: Do they just expect you to throw up your jazz hands and give up or, in the alternative, throw in the tight-weave, cotton cloth towel that one might use to clean a trumpet and say "I quit"? 

Of course not! If you're the Alvin Brown we know, you're going to find a way to take the Jazz Festival to another level, maybe not a higher level, but certainly a different level.

Hence, the debut of the JFF "Off Jazz" Concert. The event, which kicks off Jazz Festival weekend, features performances by multiple Grammy Award-nominated R&B and soul artist Brian McKnight and R&B singer Avant. (Seriously, why would Mayor Brown kick off a jazz event with something as predictable as jazz music?)

And if that doesn't take the the Jazz Fest to a whole other level, why not bring in a contemporary swing band like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy to headline Saturday night's show? (Really? How much jazz can a person stand listening to in a weekend? People should be thanking Mayor Brown for the break.)

All kidding aside, this game of musical chairs isn't something that Brown dreamed up himself. Festival organizers have been sneaking decidedly non-jazz acts, like Patti LaBelle, Ledisi, the Neville Brothers, Patti Austin and Roberta Flack, into the line-up for years. The only difference is Brown is the first one to actually refer to a performance as being "off-jazz."

Of course, he's also the only one to insert his own name into the name of the event.

That said, enjoy Mayor Brown Presents Jacksonville Jazz Festival 2013!

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