This year’s Rootabaga Jazz Festival lineup includes the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble and the Aaron Diehl Quartet, both of which offer their unique take on jazz, as well as old favorites the Knox Jazz Ensemble and the Knox Alumni Big Band. While the festival may be held every year, this year the Cherry Street Combo will also be releasing their new CD. Listeners can expect a spicy kick of Latin jazz along with some sublime pianowork, all held together by Knox’s very own jazz musicians.
The event, the result of a partnership between Knox College and the Galesburg community, is scheduled to take place April 10 – 12 at a variety of community venues, including McGillacuddy’s and the Orpheum Theatre.
Assistant Professor of Music Nikki Malley, who serves as musical director of the festival, says that this year’s musicians are “inspiring, to say the least.” Malley, who is in charge of deciding which musicians come to the festival, chooses the musicians based on their current contributions to the jazz world. She looks for new and upcoming artists that embody the direction in which jazz is headed. These innovators of music satisfy both the students’ desire to listen to new and upcoming artists as well as the older listeners’ preference for listening to music they know and grew up with. The more intimate environment at the venues will also promote interaction between the performers and the audience.
For those interested in music, and jazz particularly, the festival is a great opportunity to meet with up and coming names from the industry, as well as contribute in their own way to the music.
“It’s fun to showcase our abilities to a large audience, and we incorporate the audience’s output into our music,” Cherry Street Combo bassist Jake Hawrylak ‘13 said.
Though a community event, the festival is still relatively small enough to promote a sense of camaraderie within all who participate. Many students ask musicians questions about how to improve their craft as well as about professional opportunities, and the musicians too benefit from this closeness and interaction.
“I’ve seen many of them leaving with a smile,” Hawrylak said.
The closeness also promotes better music. Musicians enhancing the good vibes from the audience through their act is evident when attending the various events of the festival when compared to a larger scale concert where musicians perfunctorily play and leave. Malley hopes to make the festival even bigger.
“Students need to be reeducated every year. [The festival] needs to be made more than what it is. It shouldn’t just be a blip on the radar,” she said.