By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West News
SLIDELL – “This is it!”
It may be appropriate that the 1970s song by Kenny Loggins has a jazzy, cool feel to it since that is the word this week in Slidell where the 1st annual Camellia City Smooth Jazz Festival is ready to debut this Friday through Sunday, Oct. 6-8 on the grounds of the Northshore Harbor Center.
‘THIS IS IT!”
That is certainly how creators Will and Diane Bias are feeling after nearly two years of planning, promotions and advertisements about Slidell and St. Tammany’s first-ever Smooth Jazz Festival.
The big event will kick off on Friday with a celebrity golf tournament that includes former NFL greats. Later that night will be a celebrity meet-and-greet in Slidell by invitation only.
On Saturday will be the main event from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. with top, nationally-renowned musicians and singers performing all day on the outside grounds of the Harbor Center.
Then on Sunday, the festival is capped inside the Harbor Center where a Smooth Jazz Brunch will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Will and Diane Bias have been smooth jazz fans for years, traveling the country to attend other festivals such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, Steel City Jazz Festival in Birmingham, Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Florida Smooth Jazz Festival and more.
The genre of music has exploded in the past decade and led to the creation of major festivals across the United States.
That led the Slidell couple to finally decide to bring smooth jazz to the North Shore and create what they hope to be the biggest event in St. Tammany Parish.
“We want St. Tammany Parish and Slidell to become the next big smooth jazz festival,” Will said. “It is surprising, but even with the popularity of this music there is no major smooth jazz festival in the state of Louisiana. Well now there is going to be one, and it will be right in Slidell.”
The Camellia City festival has been promoted in a six-state region and the couple expects several thousand people to be here for the weekend, something they want to benefit local restaurants and stores, as well as spreading the beauty of the music to many newcomers. In other cities the festival began in a similar fashion with a few thousand people and some have grown to bring in as many as 40,000 each year, providing a tremendous economic impact to businesses in the region.
“We know some people aren’t that familiar with smooth jazz,” Diane said. “It’s different than traditional jazz. When you hear smooth jazz it makes you stand up and dance—it’s really tremendous music and if you give it a listen you will agree.”
Even as a first-year event the couple has gone all out to bring in top, national talent. Several have been Grammy nominees and Grammy winners, such as headliner Gerald Albright, while the entire field of 11 performers is comprised of nationally-recognized artists who have played with virtually dozens of the top music stars ever.
“We knew that if we wanted this to be a premier event we couldn’t bring in purely local talent, even though there is a lot of outstanding talent in the region,” Will said. “That’s why we have committed a lot of money for this first year. We want this to be big, and then it will only grow from there.”
Saturday’s main event will be on the outside grounds at the Harbor Center and will be a day of one great talent after another on the stage. The show will go on rain or shine, but the forecast is for a beautiful fall day in Louisiana.
Albright will wrap up the day with his set at 9 p.m. after 10 other artists take their turns on stage.
The day begins with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m., then followed by Stephanie Jordan; GenNext featuring Lin Rountree, Nicholas Cole and Lebron Denis; 3rd Force featuring Craig Dobbin and William Aura; Alex Bugnon; The Speakerbox Experiment; Marcus Anderson and Joey Sommerville; Chieli Minucci, Gerald Veasley and Steve Oliver; Bill Summers and the New Orleans Allstars; and then Albright.
On Sunday for the Jazz Brunch the event will feature Chieli Minucci, Lin Rountree and Joey “Papa J” Sommerville. A jam set will be included that features 3rd Force (Craig & William), Marcus Anderson and Joey Sommerville.
“The other festivals draw thousands, even tens of thousands, for a weekend,” Will said. “It can be a huge economic impact for Slidell and all of St. Tammany Parish and we are hoping to see the same for the Camellia City Festival.”
Tickets for Saturday are offered at three levels. VIP tickets are $100 per person and get you a table at the front of the stage with easy access to food and drinks.
Reserved seats are directly behind the VIP and are $75 per person, with general admission tickets selling for $50 each—all for an entire day of smooth jazz music.
“We just need the people to come out now and support this,” Diane said. “We have done everything we can to make this as local as possible and we know this can grow to be a tremendous event for Slidell.”
For more information or to purchase tickets go to camcityjazzfest.com or purchase tickets at the gate.