Hot Grooves at America’s Classic Jazz Festival

by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS

Few genres inspire more passion and reverence for tradition than jazz. A quintessentially American art form, jazz and its permutations have been around in one form or another since the late 19th century, with roots in New Orleans. In the ’40s, jazz found a vibrant resurgence in the form of so-called “Dixieland jazz,” which updated the form while hearkening back to its origins. The upright bass became the low end of choice, as other string instruments found their way into the repertoire.

Dixieland jazz has remained an immensely popular riff on the form. It’s this music in particular that the Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Society aims to uphold. It accomplishes this through camps fostering the love of the craft in the next generation, and through events like America’s Classic Jazz Festival, now entering its 27th year. Unfolding over four days near the end of June, America’s Classic Jazz Festival features a panoply of jazz artists and outfits in various styles across four stages on the Saint Martin’s University campus. Another goal of the Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Society is encouraging the audience to participate: Three of the festival’s venues are dedicated to dancing, while one is all about listening. There’s simply no room to delve into all the amazing musicians that’ll be participating, but here are some standouts who demand your attention.

Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles will play several sets over the course of the festival. The Denver-based group makes a dizzyingly vivacious swing that recalls Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. It seems unthinkable that anyone could resist shaking a leg or two when these guys hit the stage.

Yerba Buena Stompers are led by John Gill, who some might know as a member of Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band. The Stompers are committed to the kind of jaunty, New Orleans-indebted jazz that one might expect to hear upon walking into any gin joint in the 1940s.

Josh Duffee and the Graystone Monarchs are not to be missed. Duffee, a world-renowned percussionist, leads an orchestra through the sounds of hot jazz.

Really, though, the best suggestion is to wander through the festival and let your ears lead you wherever the grooves are the hottest.

What: America’s Classic Jazz Festival

Where: Marcus Pavilion,
Saint Martin’s University
5300 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey

When: Thursday – Sunday, June 22-25

How much: $15-$500

Learn more: 360-705-3024 | Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Society