Two Days of Singing, Swinging to Jazz, the Get-Down Blues

The 21st Annual Tallahassee Jazz & Blues Festival brought swing music, jazz, blues and a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll to the city. Tallahassee Museum hosted the two-day festival that featured talent from Tallahassee, Thomasville and beyond.

The festival is an arm of Saltwater Music, structured by Del Suggs, the organizer and emcee of the event who is also a professional musician and leadership development speaker.

“The reason we started this festival 21 years ago was because there was no place where you could take your family to enjoy blues before,” Suggs said.

Saturday’s opening act was the Thomas University Jazz Ensemble, from Thomasville, Ga., who played tunes like “Mustang Sally.”

Following the jazz ensemble was the Royal Garden Dixieland Band, which brought music from New Orleans, the city considered one of the birthplaces of American jazz and blues. It played classics including “Canal Street Blues” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” explaining the history of each song performed.

Other performers from Saturday’s lineup included the Tallahassee Yellow Dog Band, first-time festival performers. Returning groups included the local bands Roadhouse and the Zach Bartholomew Trio.

The veteran performers of Tallahassee Swing returned after more than a decade of performing at the annual festival. Tallahassee Swing closed out Saturday’s event with melodies by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Glen Miller.

Following the audience’s cries for an encore, the band’s last tune was a cover of the classic “Jump Jivin’.” The band has played locally for 23 years.

Gwendolyn Johnson, a retiree who recently moved from Hawaii to Tallahassee, said she enjoyed the event.

“I have really had a good time,” Johnson said. “This was a great event for all ages.”

Residents like Howard Rich, 57, said the event doubled as a great learning and entertainment experience.

“The blues fest is a great way for the younger generation to be exposed to Dixieland jazz and blues, and that’s where rock ‘n’ roll started,” Rich said. “Everyone understands rock ‘n’ roll, but they don’t know the roots of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Sunday kicked off with performances from the Swingin’ Harpoon Blues Band who crooned its original tunes “No Word in Front of American” and “I Ain’t Too Young to Play the Blues.”

The up-tempo band Rhythm Abuse followed suit with a tribute to Johnny Otis, who is considered the “godfather of rhythm and blues,” who died earlier this year.

Local band Bogazedi played a tribute to James Brown.

The ACME Rhythm and Blues band, dubbed by Suggs as “Tallahassee’s favorite dance band,” got the audience moving with its up-tempo melodies.

Tony Johnson, 53, a Tallahassee resident, said the weather was perfect for the event, despite threats of thunderstorms.

“It’s been great hearing contemporary jazz, classical jazz and blues,” he said. “This was great for a family outing.”

The two-day festival ended with performances by the Thursday Night Music Club, (so-named because it rehearses each Thursday night), who played a tribute to Quincy Jones.