For the first time, jazz, Cajun and zydeco tunes and gumbo, beans and rice, and powdered-sugar beignets will transform the heart of Morganton into a mini New Orleans at the inaugural Morganton Jazz Festival.
The festival will begin with Cajun and zydeco music fresh from New Orleans at the TGIF concert 7-10 p.m. May 10. Saturdays lineup features jazz and authentic Louisiana cuisine 3-8 p.m. May 11 at the Historic Burke County Courthouse lawn.
It brings a whole new style of music to the area, said Sharon Jablonski, of the Historic Morganton Festival. Its such an honor to have such a great group of musicians coming into Morganton.
The lineup on the Smokin Hot Jazz Stage mixes local bands like the Hickory Jazz Quartet, with New Orleans-steeped music from MOJO & the Bayou Gypsies, and the Geoff Clapp Quartet.
One thing you can say when you go to New Orleans is theres lots of different styles of music. Were trying to bring that, said Jablonski.
While jazz may not dominate Morgantons musical scene, the festival highlights some strong North Carolina jazz connections. Geoff Clapp, for example, grew up in North Carolina, and his brother lives in Morganton. After following jazz to New Orleans, Clapp has performed, recorded and toured with jazz legends such as Ellis and Wynton Marsalis.
The festival also builds on the solid base of Patton High Schools five-year jazz fest for high-schoolers. This year, the Historic Morganton Festival Inc. partnered with Pattons Band Boosters to open the festival to the community.
They wanted a bigger venue, and weve been wanting something different, said Jablonski. We just said, Hey, we can make that happen downtown.
At this years festival, high school bands from across North Carolina will perform 1-4 p.m. May 11. The Geoff Clapp Quartet will select one of the bands to open for Saturdays headliner.
Chad Higdon, Patton High School band director, described how he meets with the schools jazz band at 7 a.m. each day before school, driven by a love of jazz music.
I enjoy the improvisation, said Higdon. You can have seven or eight recordings of the same song, and its different each time. I think thats the most exciting part of it.
The rich stews of Cajun-style cooking will fuel festival-goers. Phil Scarboro, of Morgantons Friday Friends restaurant, is already practicing his gumbo, shrimp etouffee, red beans and rice, and beignets, along with hamburgers and hot dogs.
He always challenges himself to learn new things, and were all reading up on (the food) to make sure its authentic, said Jablonski.
Jablonski visited New Orleans during a national conference in April, which happened at the same time as the New Orleans French Quarter Festival.
So I plan to steal every possible idea known to man, said Jablonski.
The festival is free to the public.
Bring chairs and blankets to sit on the courthouse and just enjoy the music, said Jablonski. Come hungry!
Julia Sendor is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Julia? Email her at email@example.com.
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