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Jazz to the world!
Sample the music with the Savannah Jazz Festival
The Eric Mintel Quintet, from left: Mintel. Nelson Hill, Dave Antonow and Dave Mohn. The band plays Saturday in Forsyth Park.

First things first: Eric Mintel wishes to publicly thank Savannah keyboard player Eddie Wilson for the use of his piano this weekend. Mintel and his group are coming down from Pennsylvania to perform Friday (at Jazz’d Tapas Bar), and Saturday (for the Savannah Jazz Festival’s “Jazzy Picnic” in Forsyth Park). If it weren’t for Eddie Wilson, Mintel says, he would’ve had to rent his 88 keys and hope everything worked out OK. So thanks, Eddie.

That’s a precise little microcosm of the world of jazz – everybody jams, everybody shares, everybody’s ultimate goal is the betterment of the communal musical experience.

That’s not to say there aren’t any egos in jazz – perish the thought – but it’s a form of music that not only encourages collaboration, it thrives on it. You can’t get a new color until you mix a couple of the old ones together.

Although the Savannah Jazz Festival officially began earlier this week with a few jam sessions and a film screening, the pot gets bubbling Wednesday, with a mini–concert at Blowin’ Smoke BBQ.

Thursday begins a four–day run on the new bandshell stage at Forsyth Park. Spyro Gyra headlines the Saturday concert – that’s the big one – playing a 9:30 p.m. set, at the close of an eight–hour jazz marathon.

Second on the bill that afternoon will be the Eric Mintel Quartet, with a tribute to the music of jazz legend Dave Brubeck. Mintel is an accomplished and versatile pianist who frequently conducts workshops and classes in colleges and public schools – yet another way jazz musicians enjoy spreading the wealth around.

Here are a few words from Mintel:

On Brubeck

“Brubeck paved the way for a lot of us guys, and what we’re doing today – he was one of the first guys to tour college campuses and bring jazz to the college circuit. Because back in that day, students weren’t able to go into clubs or anything like that. So he broke that wide open, and he was able to keep a lot of jazz musicians working.”

On the show

“We’re going to do a lot of the tunes from that classic Time Out album, our own treatment. Plus some Brubeck that people might not have heard before, some new things that he’s written and some obscure things, because a lot of people only know ‘Take Five’ and ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk.’”

On the power of jazz

“I just feel like jazz is a main music for bringing people together. I’ve seen this happen over and over again, where people might not have really understood jazz too much before, or known much about it. What we’re doing is bringing the audience into it, adding a little bit of humor, breaking that wall down between the performer and the audience. And at the end of the concert – this always happens – people are saying to us ‘I never realized I love jazz.’ There’s a lot of power to this group, a lot of energy.”

On the band

“Even though it’s my name, it’s the Eric Mintel Quartet. Because those other three guys are like an appendage. We’re really on the same page musically, spiritually, we’re a band of brothers. We’ve all been together for six years, and because of playing together so much, all four of us are on that same level of what we want to do with jazz, what we want to do to get to that next level, and making people happy along the way.

“The sax player is Nelson Hill. We call him The Great Nelsondo – he’s a magician on that thing. He’s had an incredible career – he played lead alto with Maynard Ferguson in the early ‘80s. He’s a protege of Phil Woods. He played with Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine, he did a stint with Buddy Rich and lived to tell about it. And he played the saxophone lead on that ‘Theme From Arthur (The Best That You Can Do)’ record by Christopher Cross. Dave Antonow is on electric five–string bass, and he’s also an accomplished guitarist. Dave Mohn is just an absolutely incredible drummer – he studied with Jack DeJohnette. Dave’s been with me about six years, Antonow’s been with me six years, and Nelson’s been with me 10 years.”

Savannah Jazz Festival

All events free.


Wednesday, Sept. 22

Where: Blowin’ Smoke, BBQ, 514 MLK

7 p.m. Bob Marsteller Tribute to Louis Armstrong

8:15 p.m. Jody Espina Quintet

Thursday, Sept. 23

“Blues Night”:

Where: Forsyth Park, Drayton Street between Park and Gaston

7 p.m.: Georgia Kyle

8:15 p.m.: Eric Culberson Blues Band

9:30 p.m. Joe Louis Walker

Friday, Sept. 24

“Jazz in the Park”

Where: Forsyth Park, Drayton Street between Park and Gaston

7 p.m.: University of North Florida Jazz Band

8:15 p.m.: Red Holloway

9:30 p.m.: Andreas Oberg Trio

Saturday, Sept. 25

“Jazzy Picnic in the Park”

Where: Forsyth Park, Drayton Street between Park and Gaston

3 p.m: Army Signal Corps Swing Band

4:15 p.m.: Eric Mintel Quartet

5:30 p.m.: Coastal Jazz Hall of Fame All–Stars

7 p.m.: Marcus Printup/Joe Gransden w/Savannah Jazz Orchestra

8:15 p.m.: Joe Gransden/Marcus Printup Combo

9:30 p.m. Spyro Gyra

Sunday, Sept. 26

“Children’s Jazz Festival”

Where: Forsyth Park, Drayton Street between Park and Gaston

4 p.m.: Savannah Arts Academy Skylite Jazz Band

5 p.m.: Coastal Jazz Association All-Stars