ELKHART — The Elkhart Jazz Festival has long been known for drawing talented musicians from around the country, and this summer, the festival will offer something even more special — a concert by living legend Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
The New Orleans-born trumpet player and the 15-piece band will headline the jazz festival with a performance June 22 at the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart. The show will be Marsalis’ first appearance in Elkhart County since he played at Goshen College in 2004.
Having Marsalis and his jazz ensemble be part of the 26th annual festival is a big deal, past festival chairman Tim Shelley said: The bandleader’s concert will help the festival reach a younger audience.
“A person like Wynton Marsalis is recognized by young people,” Shelley said. “Even my son, who is 24, recognizes that name and his music, so I think we’ll be able to grab people from farther geographically but also more local people of younger ages.”
Marsalis, 51, is known for his classic style and tributes to iconic jazz trumpeters like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. He has produced more than 70 albums and written five books about jazz during his career.
“In the past, we looked around for young, cutting-edge artists, but we were always kind of worried about how they were going to play with the traditional jazz festival attendees,” Shelley said. “We thought about whether this was something they would enjoy as much as some of the past favorites we’ve had. Wynton Marsalis will be a perfect fit.”
Lerner Theatre general manager David Smith, the festival’s co-chairman along with Kurt Janowski, pointed out that funding for the four-day jazz festival has been cut in half since last year, so ticket sales are more important than ever.
“Ticket sales are driven by an audience, and jazz traditionally attracts an older audience, so for the festival to have some longevity, we have to bring in younger folks,” Smith said. “With Wynton Marsalis, we’re bringing in a household name. You don’t necessarily have to be a jazz fanatic or audiophile to know who he is.”
Jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli has also been named a headliner for the festival. He will perform on June 21, the night before Marsalis takes the stage. Pizzarelli has had a lengthy career as a musician, with 23 records under his belt. His father, Bucky Pizzarelli, is an Elkhart Jazz Festival favorite.
More artists featured in the 2013 lineup will be announced in waves every two to four weeks until the festival kicks off.
Tickets for the festival will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. Early bird prices are $110 for standard jazz passes and $190 for standard patron passes. Premium passes are limited and include tickets to Marsalis’ performance at the Lerner Theatre. Premium jazz passes with main floor seating are $150 and premium patron passes with orchestra seating are $245. Tickets will be available at the Lerner Theatre box office or by calling (800) 294-8223. Tickets will also be on sale online at www.thelerner.com.