Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Fest begins August 4

M.V. Jazz Fest performer Christian Sands has performed at two Grammy Awards shows. — Photo courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Jazz Festival

A New Orleans-style parade up Circuit Avenue this Saturday, Aug. 4, kicks off eight days of music and jazz related events in Oak Bluffs.

The second annual Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Festival features performances at a variety of venues by more than a dozen musicians and groups who are all established or up-and-coming bright lights in the national jazz scene. An art exhibit and a book signing will round out the multi-media eight-day schedule.

The festival is produced by John Lee, former Baltimore jazz club owner and longtime Vineyard summer visitor. Mr. Lee, who previously served as a producer for the Baltimore Jazz Festival, had been playing with the idea for some time before he decided last year to call in his connections in the jazz world and host an inaugural festival here.

“A couple of years ago I decided to act on what I always thought would be a great marriage between America’s music and one of America’s great resort destinations,” says Mr. Lee. The gamble paid off. Many of last summer’s events sold out and the festival was met with a very enthusiastic response.

For the 2012 event, Mr. Lee added some new features, including a festival-opening all-day concert at the Tabernacle in the Oak Bluffs Campground on Saturday. “I wanted to include something where day-trippers and weekend people could participate,” he says. The concert includes five contemporary jazz acts and a couple of deejays providing music from 2 to 9 pm, preceded by a jazz parade led by Boston’s Made in the Shade.

The Saturday afternoon lineup provides a good indication of the talent to follow throughout the week. Among those performing will be 2011 Grammy winner for Best Jazz Vocal Album, Terri Lyne Carrington; three-time winner of the New England Urban Music Award for Best Jazz Male, saxophonist Elan Trotman; and guitarist Drew Davidsen, the American Smooth Jazz New Artist of the Year.

There is at least one performance every evening throughout the week. A Sunday brunch featuring Boston-based jazz and R&B vocalist Vivian Male will take place at Hooked in Oak Bluffs. The majority of the evening concerts will be hosted by the Island Bar & Grille on Circuit Avenue.

The festival headliner, Jason Moran, performs at the new Dreamland space next to the Strand movie theater in Oak Bluffs. Pianist Mr. Moran combines elements of stride piano, avant-garde jazz, classical music, hip hop, and spoken word in his multi-layered performances. Over the course of his 25-year-career, he has garnered a number of honors: recently named artistic director for the Kennedy Center Jazz program, has received a MacArthur Genius award, Playboy magazine’s first Jazz Artist of the Year, and has received commissions from a number of organizations including Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Mr. Moran is the recipient this year of the festival’s Vineguard award which, according to Mr. Lee is, “An award we give to one of our performing artists who we think represents the authenticity of the music.” Of this year’s honoree Mr. Lee says, “Jason is one of the most serious cats in music today, and not just in jazz. He’s really a leader in terms of moving the music forward.” Local artist Steve Lohman will once again design a personalized wire sculpture that will be presented to Mr. Moran when he performs with his band on Monday night.

Adding to the festival atmosphere will be two non-music events. On Thursday, August 9, poet and author Quincy Troupe will be signing copies of his books at the Bunch of Grapes. Among Mr. Troupe’s bestselling works are “Miles: The Autobiography of Miles Davis,” and “Miles and Me.” Mr. Troupe also co-authored the autobiographical “Pursuit of Happyness,” which was made into a major motion picture starring Will Smith.

Featherstone Center for the Arts will host a gallery show featuring jazz-related work by local artists and a special guest artist from Washington, D.C., Preston Sampson. The show will open with a reception on Sunday, Aug. 5. The campus also features Boston area jazz saxophonist Stan Strickland at their Musical Mondays outdoor concert on August 6.

“The festival presents not only live musical performances but different ways that people express themselves through jazz,” says Mr. Lee. “It’s the arts in general that I support.”

Visit or call 410-205-6585 for more information and a full schedule of events.