Jazz will be flowing throughout downtown Bellevue this week, with a combination of free and ticketed events for regional and international acts for the Bellevue Jazz Festival.
The Bellevue Jazz Festival launches the sweet sounds of national and international jazz singers and musicians into Bellevue Wednesday, June 1, with a week-long series of concerts and performances, about 50 of which will be free to the public at venues around downtown Bellevue.
Free venues include restaurants, including and , retailers such as and musical instrument store , and the . (See a full schedule by clicking here.)
Festival goers also can enjoy world renowned acts such as violinist Regina Carter, the Charles Lloyd Quartet and Zakir Hussain onstage at .
The festival features a lineup of nationally and internationally renowned jazz artists, and it also will showcase regional talent, including Swiss singer Martine Bron, who performs on the kickoff day, June 1, at in Bellevue.
Bron, who has lived in Bellevue with her husband and children since 2006, says she has been delighted to have the opportunity to pursue her musical education and performance career here. She studied at Cornish, in Seattle, and in Montreal, Canada, and regularly performs at jazz jam sessions around Seattle. She has recently released a CD, Swiss Girl, and plans a release party in June at the High Dive bar in Fremont.
Bron performs a mixture of original songs and covers played with a jazz flavor, and says her music has been described as having mainstream appeal. Bron will perform Wednesday with guitarist Keiko Feitas, also a Bellevue resident.
“We do my originals and also cover songs with a twist, like Fragile, by Sting, and Time After Time by Cindi Lauper,” she says. “It’s great to work with Keiko. We’re getting a pretty good repertoire.”
Oftentimes, Bron says, singers must pay a band to rehearse and perform, while going to a jazz club where a band is already playing offers her the chance to simply take the stage and sing with the band.
Bron says she loves the atmosphere on the Eastside, and it reminds her a lot of her hometown in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“I remember thinking in Kirkland it was even greener than Switzerland,” she says. Bron says she draws a lot on her experiences living in a bilingual world for her music. “It really opens your mind. You have to reassess your preconceptions to be balanced.”
When she’s not performing in the festival, Bron says some of her favorite festival participants to listen to are Tierney Sutton and Gail Pettis, who hails from Seattle.
“Sutton is absolutely a gorgeous vocalist and she has a unique take on songs. She creates an atmosphere that is very special,” Bron says.
Patrick Bannon, communications director for the Bellevue Downtown Association, says this year marks the fourth turn for the revived festival, which had previously been operated under the auspices of the city for more than 15 years.
Bannon says that highlighting regional talent such as Bron is one of the primary goals of the Downtown Association’s festival. Along with top local professional talent, the festival will put on a student showcase featuring area high schools and middle schools, as well as a rising star concert on the last day that will feature 19 top individual teen performers who have been selected by a panel of jazz educators. In addition, Bannon says, the festival is a great opportunity to educate the general public, particularly emerging audiences, about jazz as one of America’s authentic art forms. Offering a variety of both ticketed and free performances has proven to be a great way to accomplish those goals, Bannon says.
It’s also a great way to highlight local businesses that support the nonprofit Downtown Association through their memberships.
“Restaurants love to be a part of this,” he says. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone.”
You can see the schedule and buy tickets for performances at the Bellevue Jazz Festival Website .