Shari Davis and Toby Edwards met while working in California, where they both fell in love with smooth jazz during the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival. When the two women both ended up back in the Lake Charles area, they reconnected and knew they had to bring a jazz festival to the area.
“Lake Charles has over 75 festivals per year and we wanted to bring something different to the table,” says Davis. “New Orleans already has a big jazz festival every year but we didn’t want to have to drive that far just to go to a good jazz festival."
The Gulf Coast Shrimp and Jazz Festival features musical performances throughout the day, a Kidz Zone, craft and food vendors and a Jazz After Dark concert. One of the big focuses of the festival is to provide resources to area youth interested in pursuing music education.
The morning kicks off with a free jazz clinic sponsored by Jazz in the Arts, which offers area middle and high schoolers the chance to learn from seasoned jazz instructors. The first 30-minute slot of the day is performed by students selected from the clinic to encourage young talent.
Jazz in the Arts and MusicMakers2U are two nonprofits that help connect youth in the area with resources for music education, that also benefit from a large portion of festival proceeds. Girlie Girls Mentoring is the final nonprofit supported by the festival, which engages girls ages 13 to 18 years old by teaching them etiquette, self-defense and how to give back.
“We work with a network of organizations to provide these opportunities to the youth in the area because there’s so much talent out there,” says Davis.
As the daytime festivities come to a close at 5 p.m., festivalgoers can take a short break before returning for Jazz After Dark at 7 p.m. This second part of the festival will offer an evening to remember with acclaimed jazz artists from throughout the region. Regular admission includes light fare and VIP tickets include dinner.
This evening concert will feature two-time Louisiana Hall-of-Famer and saxophonist Dave Duplissey, Mickey Smith, Jr., with Sax In the City and Jeremy Benoit as “J.B. Saax.”
In keeping with the focus of highlighting talented youth in the area, in between each band a short set will be played from young musicians like the Foot in the Door band, Mikayla Smith and Jarvis Jacob.
“When we hear talent from young people like that we want to show it to the world,” says Davis. “I like to watch the face of the locals when they hear these young people performing, because it sounds so good.”
In addition to highlighting new talent in the area, Davis and her co-director are interested in bringing new jazz sounds to the area.
“We want to bring newer jazz genres here,” said Davis. “Next year we’re hoping to bring in Latin jazz and add some other new elements to the festival.”
Thanks to recent growth in Lake Charles, interest in the festival continues to grow.
“Right now, Lake Charles is really growing with all the plants and industry coming into the area,” said Davis. “We’re seeing there is a much larger audience enjoying the jazz music in addition to the local people who love it.”
Admission to the daytime festival is $5 for adults and $2 for children under 12, and tickets for Jazz After Dark can be purchased on Ticketmaster.
For more information about the Gulf Coast Shrimp and Jazz Festival, visit gcshrimpnjazzfest.com or call 337-309-2712.
- The Envies Live at Riverfront, Sat., June 24, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Abbeville
Come hear The Envies, a new cover band from Vermillion Parish at RiverFront this Saturday. They play everything from Cajun to country to swamp pop to classic rock.
- Swamp Brew and the Shake Backs, Sat., June 24, 9 p.m., Lake Charles
Come groove to the good vibes of and Louisiana Garage Grooves of the Swamp Brew and Indie Rock sounds from the Shake Backs at Sloppy’s in Downtown Lake Charles and end your weekend right.
- Psycho Swamp with Michael Doucet, Sun., June 25, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Lafayette
Come out to Steam Press Café for Psycho Swamp Pop and brunch from Michael Doucet, Heather Ré, Mitch Reed, and Walter Pousson, Jr.
They’ll be playing your favorite swampy mix of blues, Cajun and soul.
- Robert Jardell & Pure Cajun, Sun., June 25, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Lafayette
Come dance the afternoon away at Vermilionville's Performance Center with Robert Jardell & Pure Cajun.
A master of the acoustic accordion, Jardell plays and sings the old tunes about his ancestors, and writes new songs in their honor. Jardell grew up in the Cajun culture in Crowley, and the Morse, Louisiana, native took up the accordion at the age of eight. His traditional acoustic sound and old-timey music have sounded a responsive chord within the Cajun community and won him critical acclaim.