Jazz festival gets ready to welcome big names

Over the past six weeks, Bellevue downtown has gotten a taste for jazz through the rebirth of the historical outdoor jazz festival that began in 1978.

Over the past six weeks, Bellevue downtown has gotten a taste for jazz through the rebirth of the historical outdoor jazz festival that began in 1978.

The revival of the Bellevue Jazz Festival kicked-off on April 9 and continues through May 24.

Next, over the Memorial Day weekend, the city will welcome two headlining acts to the Meydenbauer Center.

Brandford Marsalis, a three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist, will take the stage for a quartet performance on May 23. The music will continue to flow the following night with the upbeat tempo of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a 13-member Latin jazz ensemble and Grammy winner.

Tickets for the Marsalis concert range from $20 to $75. There also are a limited number of special seating in the Golden Circle including table-side service with a full bar.

Tickets for the Spanish Harlem Orchestra are priced at $30 for general admission and $60 for table seating near the stage. Last minute tickets will be available at the door priced at $35 and $65.

The audience will be encouraged to get out of their chairs and onto the giant dance floor to experience the music of New York City salsa. For those dusting off their dancing shoes, free Salsa lessons will be available at the Meydenbauer Center for ticket holders prior to the Spanish Harlem Orchestra beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Doors will open 90 minutes prior to both headlining acts for socializing and a sampling of appetizers available for purchase. Tickets for both events are available through ticketswest.com or Bellevue Downtown Association office.

Through 1993, the festival was an annual event produced by the Parks Department. The original event showcased regional talent and highlighted school groups and local artists. The festival became a staple for Bellevue in the summer months but over time slowly fizzled out.

The Bellevue Downtown Association revived the festival when it recognized the need for a large community-based event that would give people the opportunity not only to explore downtown but also to enjoy it as well. In an effort to keep up with the evolving downtown sector, the BDA reviewed more than 25 different event ideas and came to the conclusion that a jazz festival would be an ideal fit.

“We put together a group of what we call our Jazz Advisors,” BDA president, Leslie Lloyd, explained. “We’re not jazz experts so we pulled together people who represent jazz education, other festival promoters, a record company that produce jazz artists, some artists themselves, and members of other jazz organizations in the region.”

Next, the organization looked to other jazz festivals that were going on around the West Coast to decide which were the most compatible to our area.

“Portland was just really doing remarkable things,” Lloyd said.

“This region can really use and benefit from a jazz festival experience – a music festival experience in general – and downtown Bellevue is a good fit and stage for this to happen,” Patrick Bannon, of the BDA, said.

The BDA hopes this year’s festival is a huge success and has big plans for the future.

“We are embarking on a three year plan,” Lloyd explained of the festival. “This year we are taking some pretty big baby steps, but it’s a small part of what it will be.”

A complete line up of Bellevue Jazz Festival events is available online at bellevuejazz.com.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4602.

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