I’m here at the Oak Hollow Festival Park, where the stage is set for the 8th Annual John Coltrane Jazz Festival. Situated a couple of hundred yards from the lake, I’m reminded of Otis Redding’s “The Dock of The Bay” as the sun is high, and clouds are rolling in. The sky looks questionable and you can tell by the size of the crowd that people are leery of what’s to come. Although it’s still early in the day, I can only imagine that the coordinators of the festival are praying that this all blows over.
It’s 4:15 with The John Coltrane Youth Jazz Workshop opens the festival. Thunder can be heard in the distance with strikes of lightening being seen across the lake. The question between the photographers, “How long before they call the show for the evening?”
As the youth group wraps up their set and the production crew sets up for the Coltrane All-Star Band, emcee for the evening, Dyana Williams of TVONE’s Unsung let’s everyone know, “This is a rain or shine event, but we want everyone to the safe ... there is a storm coming this way”. Raindrops start to fall, and umbrellas go up while some of the elders pack up their lawn chairs and head back out. That might be the difference between the baby boomers, gen-xers and millennials, they don’t mess with the Lord and His work. As most patrons take shelter under several vendor tents, it’s now pretty much a waiting game.
As I look around, I still see some people who seem to think they are being troopers, toughing it out, but as an onlooker I see sheer craziness when you’re sitting in a metal chair with an aluminum umbrella … all while it’s lightening. I’ll keep my other opinions to myself as I hunch my shoulders.
Finally, after about 20 or 30 minutes, the rain has pretty much stopped, but it’s still lightening. A lot of the patrons have come back from their cars and moved from under the vendor tents and use the opportunity to grab a bite to eat. Apparently, another storm system is coming through and the show remains at a standstill. I will say that everyone is patient and I haven’t seen anyone complain. Right now, it’s just a matter of waiting for Gregory Porter, who is set to go on at 9:15p; he’s the headliner for Saturday night.
Now we’re ready to get the evening started as it seems that the thunderstorms have passed. At this point everything is pushed back about an hour and a half. As we try to figure out who won’t be performing, I hear that everyone is still going on - only that the sets will be cut short. This seems like a win, the patrons still get to see everyone and as for me … well I finally get to capture Mr. Porter.
On stage is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and they’ve come to give us a little of that New Orleans Zydeco sound. The crowd, definitely feeling it as they are the first performers since the storm came in. Everyone was ready for some music and the patrons who managed to hang in there were treated with music from the tuba, trombone, cowbells, drums, baritone sax and cornet. Close to the end of their set the rain came again, but no one moved.
Up next, Jazzmeia Horn. I had the pleasure of seeing and photographing her a few week prior. So I was keen to really listen to her performance. From the pit, a lot of the photographers have no idea who she is ... but they are about to find out. Jazzmeia and crew come out and thank everyone for hanging in with all the rain. It is definitely persistent and is wreaking havoc for many of us trying to capture to performance, but this is part of what we do. So, for as long as the acts continue coming out tonight, we will be here just like the patrons.
Jazzmeia is showing out ... belting and giving all of her in appreciation for sitting out in the rain. She’s scatting and allowing the music to pour out through every limb .... her body is her interjection as she uses it to punctuate every lick.
Lee Ritenour, formerly of Fourplay, is on deck and he’s killing it on the guitar ... this is definitely one of those stink face moments. As par for the course of the night, he too is thanking the remaining patrons for sticking it out in weather. And he too, along with his band, give us a piece of themselves as thanks.
I lost myself for a few moments when I saw Gregory Porter. Like I seriously cannot remember anything about his set other than I was there and I believe I was grooving. I have the images to prove I was there and witness his brilliance, but other than that I cannot tell you one single thing about his set. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you’re so completely lost in a moment that you cannot recall a single thing. That’s what Mr. Porter did for me.
All in all, day one in the festival was a success. There were little to no complaints, from where I stood. Patrons waited patiently, and the show went on even with an ordinance in place. Kudos to the team of The John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival.