Blaine jazz festival features return of MaD Fusion

Published on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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The eighth annual Blaine Jazz Festival sponsored by the Pacific Arts Association begins on Saturday, July 11, with a repeat concert by the very popular group MaD Fusion and continues through the following Saturday, July 18, with a street fair and a five hour open-air concert by festival students at both the G Street and H Street plazas.
MaD Fusion’s concert will feature the music of George Gershwin. Last year’s energetic display by the New York-based group had a packed house cheering wildly by the end of the evening. Tickets are $25 per

New this year will be a free open air concert at Marine Park, “Jazz At Sunset” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 13. It will feature the festival faculty playing jazz favorites, which means that you’ll have the best in the business playing their favorite numbers as the tide rolls into the bay in the gathering twilight.

Perennial favorite festival vocalist Greta Matassa will perform a new concert she calls “Blossom Time” on Tuesday night at the Bellingham Ferry Terminal. Her concert repertoire is based on the career of the legendary Blossom Dearie, a fixture in the New York City jazz scene from the mid-60s through 2006 who died last winter at the age of 86. Though there are no tickets a $10 donation is suggested, and people are advised to get there early as seating is limited. The ferry terminal is at the west end of Harris in Bellingham.

Gene Pritsker’s music highlights Wednesday night’s “cutting edge jazz meets classics plus” free concert in the performing arts center (PAC).

On Thursday night the Jazz Festival faculty plus some of the more talented students will combine to play for the Big Band Swing Dance to be held this year at the Dakota Creek Center on Blaine Road.

“Last year everyone loved it but it was a bit disjointed as the band was in one room, the dancing in another and the food in another,” said PAA executive director Larry Conrad, adding, “but they’ve really fixed up the Dakota Creek center and it will be a nice place to go and dance, a lot like a 1930s roadhouse.” The $20 per person  ($35 couple) tickets cover admission and hors d’oeurves.

All this culminates in student jazz concerts Friday night in the PAC and on Saturday downtown, along with the street fair. Both concerts are free and feature highly talented students combining to present everything from big bands to smaller combos and vocal groups.

During the day the festival becomes a music camp with a very full week of intense rehearsals individually and in combos of various sizes, plus classes in improv and composition for teens aged 12 to 18 plus a mentor program for those 18-23.

At press time 82 students from Washington and Idaho were registered but there is still room for more, according to Conrad. He and his wife Suzanne took over as producers from founding director Sandy Wolf last year.

In the highly popular vocal program, students can study vocal music or a mix of vocal and instrumental jazz and/or swing dance. Students concentrating just on vocal will study both solo and ensemble jazz.

The $25 per half hour private lessons for either instrumental or vocal students are limited to a maximum of two lessons per student per instructor, based on a first come, first served basis. Once again the epicenter of the week’s experience for boarding students will be at Smuggler’s Inn.

The number of free concerts reflects the loyalty of local donors, Conrad said. “Even with the bad economy our donors have really stood up this year to support the work. Now all we need are audiences, so come on out, people!”
This year’s faculty includes drummers Lou Abbott and David Rozenblatt, bassists Clipper Anderson, Larry Holloway and Mat Fieldes, artistic director and woodwind player Ted DeCorso and saxophonist Nick Biello, pianists Darin Clendenin, Randy Halberstadt, Matt Herskowitz and local pastor Jon Mutchler, trumpeters Ed Donohue and Greg Hopkins, trombonists Rick Culver and Blaine music teacher Bob Gray, Bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann, guitarists Christ Woitach and guitarist, rapper and composer Gene Pritsker, vocalist Greta Matassa and Steve Barnes, who also teaches music theory.

In addition there are five teaching mentors and a number of counselors to supervise the students during the week.
Tickets are available at the Blaine Visitor Information Center or on-line.

For more information visit, or or call 360/371-0141.