Jumpstarting Mississippi Jazz | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jumpstarting Mississippi Jazz

New Orleans jazz singer Germaine Bazzle performs for the Township Jazz Festival at The Township at Colony Parkway. Photo courtesy Germaine Bazzle

New Orleans jazz singer Germaine Bazzle performs for the Township Jazz Festival at The Township at Colony Parkway. Photo courtesy Germaine Bazzle

When Jackson bassist Raphael Semmes and Tripp Douglas, who is the owner of Fusion Coffeehouse (1111 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite A, Ridgeland), created the Fusion Jazz Series 10 years ago, they had a bit of an agenda. As jazz lovers, they felt the music didn't receive as much attention as other genres.

"The blues in Mississippi is the beginning and the end. ... That's a great thing, but you know, we have a really rich jazz heritage here, too," Semmes says, pointing to Mississippi-native legends such as Milt Hinton and Lester Young.

"You can hear blues, pop and rock just about anywhere ... in the metro area, but jazz is a bit harder to find."

Some of Mississippi's foremost jazz musicians began performing for the Fusion Jazz Series, including Rhonda Richmond, Lisa Palmer, Russell Thomas and Mose Allison. Soon, there was hardly enough room to hold the still-running monthly event. Semmes and Douglas realized that they had an opportunity to provide something even bigger for jazz enthusiasts and newcomers, so in 2007, they held the first Township Jazz Festival.

"It's an ongoing learning experience," Semmes says. "I think the conclusion that you draw every year is that if you put good music out there and let folks know about it, you're going to have a successful event."

The eighth annual Township Jazz Festival is Saturday, April 11, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at The Township at Colony Park, and features New Orleans jazz singer Germaine Bazzle, the Mighty Souls Brass Band of Memphis, The Vamps, Southern Komfort Brass Band, Raphael Semmes and the Fusion All-Stars. Jazz bands from Ridgeland High School, Madison Central High School, Jackson Academy and the University of Southern Mississippi will also perform. For more information, visit townshipjazzfestival.com.

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