Byline: HEATHER LOVEJOY
The crowd trickled in Friday evening at The Jacksonville Landing as some of the first notes of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival rang out from the Breezin' Stage.
The University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble 1 was on stage about 5 p.m. as people sought shady spots, set up chairs and snapped pictures with the St. Johns River as a backdrop. A couple of songs into the ensemble's set, resident jazz legend Bunky Green earned nods of appreciation and rounds of applause when he came out to play his alto saxophone. After a career playing with notables like Charles Mingus, he's now director of jazz studies at UNF.
Just a few blocks away at Hemming Plaza, the Navy Band Southeast VIP Combo played in their dress whites for a small crowd. Most early bird fans, though, were watching the Sonny Fortune Quartet at Main and Adams streets at the largest stage.
Streets in the area were closed to vehicle traffic, and vendors had chairs for rent and sale, and drinks, food, paintings and jewelry.
Across the street from the stage, Tony Delmond and Leigh Terry of Jacksonville sat listening to Fortune.
"He's one of the guys I follow around," said Delmond, the jazz lover in the pair.
He said he saw the band several years ago at the festival and has been a fan ever since. This year, he's also interested in seeing cellist/bassist Paul Rucker, who improvises as the audience creates clay sculptures.
Closer to the Swingin' Stage, Sherwood Smith and his group of friends were also enjoying the Sonny Fortune Quartet. For about five years, they've made an annual trip from Durham, N.C., to attend the festival. Four more friends were on their way, making for a group of 12.
"It's a great place to be," Smith said. "Over the years, it's one of the best jazz festivals to attend. Jacksonville's been pretty good to us."
He's a fan of traditional jazz in particular, but sometimes enjoys R&B and Latin …