Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Les DeMerle Bringing Jazz Fest Back to Island

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Les DeMerle Bringing Jazz Fest Back to Island

Article excerpt


FERNANDINA BEACH - After a three-year break, the Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival will be jamming again in Fernandina Beach Oct. 13, 14 and 15.

Bandleader DeMerle said tour engagements for the Dynamic Les DeMerle Big Band kept him away, but he's glad to be back.

"We're kicking it up again this year," he said. "This lineup is more exciting than ever before because it's so diversified."

This year's event also will pay homage to New Orleans with a Bourbon Street theme and plenty of Dixieland music.

"It's a tribute to New Orleans. Absolutely. And the spirit of all the people in New Orleans, and how they're rebuilding," DeMerle said.

When festivalgoers come to St. Peter's Episcopal Church for concerts Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, they will experience a taste of the Big Easy, he said.

"The courtyard is going to be transformed into New Orleans' Bourbon Street," he said.

But at the center of everything, of course, is the jazz.

The Spare Rib Six Dixieland All-Stars will open the Oct. 13 concert followed by Dirty Martini featuring Jeff Rupert on tenor saxophone and special guest vocalist Michelle Amato.

"They're a very young, hip group," DeMerle said.

Richie Cole and The Alto Madness Orchestra will take the stage next. Cole used to perform with legendary drummer Buddy Rich, has recorded extensively and has played for the queen of England, DeMerle said.

"He's a very exciting alto sax player. He'll be playing straight-ahead bebop," he said.

The DeMerle band, which features vocalist Bonnie Eisele, will wind up the evening with music from its latest CDs, Hittin' the Blue Notes and Cookin' at the Corner.

The Marcus Printup Quartet will kick off the Oct. 14 show.

Printup, who tours and performs regularly with Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, hails from Conyers, Ga. He attended the University of North Florida, where he won the International Trumpet Guild Competition.

"We're very happy that Wynton Marsalis endorses our festival and that he's loaning one performer, Marcus Printup, for the festival. He totally understands the history of the horn. His opening set Saturday night will focus on classic jazz," DeMerle said.

DeMerle's big band will take the stage again to close the night with dancing under the stars, he said.

Concerts both nights will be followed by jazz sessions at the Angel's Porch Cafe on Centre Street.

"A big part of this festival is about young, up-and-coming talent. In the tradition of jazz, jamming was the way that people learned to play on the bandstand. If you could hold your own, you got gigs. It's a proving ground, in a way," he said.

Even before the festival officially starts, there will be jazz all around Fernandina Beach.

On Sunday the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble will perform a free concert at Amelia Park. …

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