Indy Jazz Fest
Indy Jazz Fest & The Kitchen That Serves Culture
Indianapolis will be hosting a spectacular array of musical royalty at Indy Jazz Fest in historic Garfield Park this October 1st and 2nd. Saturday’s lineup features New Orleans breakout sensation Tank & the Bangas, three-time Grammy Award winner Lalah Hathaway, and world-renowned smooth jazz guitarist Norman Brown. Sunday spotlights jazz titan and four-time Grammy Award-winning pianist Robert Glasper, Ghost-Note, a super band comprised of members of the Grammy Award-winning group Snarky Puppy, and Grammy Award-winning New Orleans second-line band Rebirth Brass Band. Over the last 20 years, Indy Jazz Fest has grown to be one of the most celebrated outdoor events in Indianapolis, and this year feels particularly special. I talked with Indy Jazz Fest festival Director David Allee about the upcoming celebration and the music he dedicates his life to.
David Allee & The Jazz Kitchen
Before there was ever an Indy Jazz Fest, there was The Jazz Kitchen. The corner of 54th and College Ave has a rich tradition of live music that Allee proudly keeps alive at his newly renovated club. “Across the street, there was Crazy Al’s in the 70s and 80s. There was a club called “The Place to Start,” which was another jazz club in the 80s,” Allee recollects. “You only have to spend a little time around jazz before you realize how fundamental heritage is to this culture.” Jazz itself is a heritage and lineage.
Indy Jazz Fest Beginnings
Indy Jazz Fest was first organized by a group of city planners in 1999 as a vehicle for cultural tourism in Indianapolis. The event changed hands a couple of times before its management was entrusted to Allee, jazz saxophonist and IJF Artistic Director Rob Dixon, and Al Hall, successful insurance agency owner and founder of the jazz label Owl Studios.
Also, since 2009, the Indy Jazz Fest has been the premier event of the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, a 503(c)3 not-for-profit organization.
The goal has always been to present high-quality art and entertainment in an environment that best fits the artist and the style of the music. “Many of the bands are renowned jazz luminaries, yet others are amazing artists that rely on festivals and events like ours to expand their recognition,” says Allee
A relative unknown at the time, “We were the first people to bring Trombone Shorty to town.“
“We booked stars like George Duke, Stanley Clark; the list is endless,” Allee details. They eventually moved to an indoor concept with curated performers in numerous venues across Indy. Last year, Indy Jazz Fest shifted back outside to the amphitheater at historical Garfield Park, which is where the event will take place again this year. “Ultimately, the outdoor setting opens up the ability to allow audiences of all ages and a casual setting where people can sample a wide range of jazz styles.
Naptown Sound Kick-Off Celebration
Part of the festival this year is the Naptown Sound Kick-Off Celebration, an event that features masterful Indy-based artists. Other lead-up events include the Labor Day Street Fair at The Jazz Kitchen, another showcase for Indy’s great artists. “We consider ourselves to be at least partly responsible for pushing the music forward in this town. Our job #1 is to be looking for a way to support artists who are pushing it forward.” Allee says.
The Bridge Between Indy Jazz Fest and The Jazz Kitchen
Indy Jazz Fest aims to create a cultural celebration of jazz that reflects its deep heritage while continuing to make it accessible for all. Jazz lovers and new fans alike can look forward to two nights of amazing music that showcase some of the very brightest minds in music today.
“People listen at different levels,” Allee says. “You have your jazz heads who just hinge on every note, you have people who come on a date or maybe just love the food! There are all of these different angles through which people find the music.”
At The Jazz Kitchen, “Stylistically, we change every night. We’re straight-ahead jazz one night, a big band another night, and smooth jazz another night. We have R&B and soul, there’s Hip Hop in here every once in a while. We have our Latin Night on Thursdays,” Allee adds. “It’s not only a place to catch live music; it’s a place you can come and celebrate! Our kitchen is amazing. You can grab a drink and just hang out. Put us in the rotation!