Wilmington’s Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is Back Live
3 Aug 2021
The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival has grown into the largest free jazz festival on the East Coast since the first one was held in 1988 on the open lawn in the center of Wilmington, Delaware. A few years after its inception, the multi-day celebration of the music, culture, and art of jazz took the name of the native trumpeter who died at an early age in a car accident in 1956. While Brown only spent 25 years among us, he left an indelible mark on the world of jazz as one of the most brilliant trumpet players and innovative composers.
Organizers of The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival are thrilled the event will come home this year to Rodney Square on August 4-8, after the 2020 event was presented as a livestream due to the pandemic. The livestream event was able to showcase the music of many local talents, but everyone is more than pleased to have the community spirit and electricity of the festival back.
“Socialization is an important part of the human experience,” said Tina Betz, Director of Cultural Affairs. “After a year of unpredictability and social distancing, being able to gather and greet each other in person is welcomed.”
Betz’s positivity was evident when asked about the 2020 livestream event. “Flexibility is key to staying relatively stress-free when doing outdoor large-scale events. You have to embrace the fact that there are some things beyond your control, such as the weather and as we learned for the first time last year — and hopefully, the last time — a global pandemic. Even though silver linings are challenging to find, the pandemic taught us to find new approaches from the tried and true that can still lead to success. Last year’s virtual festival was viewed by more than 40,000 people in over 80 countries.”
New this year, the festival will stretch into an additional day to showcase dance. “We had the opportunity and privilege to present Wilmington native and award-winning choreographer, Raphael Xavier, in partnership with the Delaware Art Museum,” said Betz. “Raphael’s newest work will close out the festival and is an integration of jazz music, hip hop, and breakdancing. It was an opportunity not to be passed by.”
While the jazz festival is returning to Rodney Square, the outdoor space is not exactly the same as the result of needed renovations. The ongoing multiple-year project includes new masonry and paving, improved irrigation systems, upgraded lights and electrical system, lighted fountains, planters, benches and tables, trash and recycling collection bins, as well as new trees, shrubs, and green areas. In June, a new splash fountain was unveiled.
“It’s exciting to be surrounded by all of the aesthetic improvements to our City’s central public gathering space,” said Betz. “The stage will be positioned differently than it has in the past so we have had to rethink a few logistical elements.”
“The festival has historically drawn tens of thousands to downtown Wilmington,” said Betz. “The impact on hotel stays has been significant. We use the festival to promote local businesses and encourage visitors to venture out of Rodney Square to take in not just the City’s downtown district, but also the Riverfront and other local amenities.”
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