Jazz Fest 2011 set for two nights of music

The Jazz Fest stage, being built on OCC's campus this week / Photojournalist Brian Erb

It's about to be opening night for Jazz Fest, and even though it's the 29th year for the festival, founder and director Frank Malfitano is having a bad case of opening night jitters.

Some elements will be familiar: It's back at OCC's campus, where they've spent this week building the huge stage. Fireworks will wrap it all up Saturday night. And, it's free. Malfitano says that produces big crowds, which makes sponsors happy. It also makes the artists happier to perform here, because they can concentrate on music, not the business of selling tickets.

But, Malfitano has fine-tuned this year's edition. Instead of two nights of the same styles of music, he's moving Blues, Funk and Soul groups to Friday night, with 'pure' jazz on Saturday. Malfitano says that's because audiences don't have the time to do 'the same' two nights in a row.

Among this year's featured artists, Felix Cavaliere (Friday 6:30 pm), who got his start while here at Syracuse University, then went on to the Rascals. 'He's coming home,' says Malfitano, who wishes Cavaliere's appearance had come a long time before now.

Besides the 'big name' artists, Jazz Fest features local bands, including school groups. Malfitano says this is music that you can't see on television, you can't hear on radio - and this is a way for young people coming up to see, closeup, legends that were playing 40 years ago and are still performing now, a way of carrying on the tradition of American-originated music.

Besides the music, Jazz Fest features a craft fair, and a food and wine court. Gates open at 3:00 pm, music starts at 5:00 with the headliners on stage at 9:30 pm. Fireworks wrap it up at 11:30 Saturday night.

CNY Central is pleased to be a sponsor of this free event, and you can check the Jazz Fest website for directions, information and specific times.