Ballard Jazz Festival Celebrates 14 Years

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Ballard Jazz Festival Celebrates 14 Years

Mike Stern courtesy photo

May 11-14, 2016
Various venues, Ballard

The 14th annual Ballard Jazz Festival returns to downtown Ballard Wednesday, May 11, through Saturday, May 14. Featuring live modern American music across 12 venues, the favorite four-day event is a project of Origin Records run by jazz drummers John Bishop and Matt Jorgensen. Longtime fans will be glad to find the full roster of classic events the festival is known for, delivered with a fresh feel and some choice new talent.

Per tradition, the schedule kicks off with two themed evenings at Conor Byrne Pub: the Brotherhood of the Drum on Wednesday evening (with bands led by drummers), and the Guitar Summit on Thursday (with bands led by guitarists). This year, featured Wednesday night drummers include Tarik Abouzied, Gregg Keplinger, and John Bishop, and Thursday night guitarists include Corey Christiansen, John Stowell, and Tim Volpicella. Both events are 21+ and kick off at 8pm.

Friday night brings the beloved Ballard Jazz Walk starting at 6:30pm – the original solo event that the festival ultimately grew out of. Debuting in 2002 with five bands across five venues, the Ballard Jazz Walk will feature live jazz at 10 sites across downtown Ballard this year – the most ever, with new additions Peddler Brewing Company and Pono Ranch. Organizer Matt Jorgensen points out that this will greatly increase capacity for those who might be hesitant to attend because of the crowds. Talent highlights include the great Julian Priester (at the festival for the first time this year), Marina Albero, Michael Shrieve, and more.

The final day of the festival on Saturday wraps up with two crowd-favorite events at the Nordic Heritage Museum. The Swedish Pancake Jazz Brunch and Classic Volvo/Saab Car Show has seatings at 11am and 12:30pm (music by the Jay Thomas Quartet; all ages welcome), and the Mainstage Concert begins at 7:30pm. This year, headliners for the evening concert include the esteemed electric guitarist Mike Stern and the Hal Galper Trio.

Now running nearly a decade and a half, the four-day Ballard Jazz Festival is known for flying in one or two bigger names to perform, but keeping its focus on highlighting homegrown talent. “We want to encourage cool projects by local and regional artists,” Jorgensen says.
Maintaining this spirit over time, it has developed a real sense of ownership by regular guests, according to Jorgensen, which is part of what makes the festival special.

“They just want to be a part of it,” he says. “Part of it is the neighborhood. Ballard has changed but this is really the only neighborhood where it could really happen. You have all these venues in close proximity. The longest you’re going to walk is ten minutes.”

Ticket options include an all-inclusive festival pass ($100, purchased in advance), or individual tickets to separate events (starting at $13). Local sponsors include Verity Credit Union, HomeStreet Bank, and more.

Tickets and more info at ballardjazzfestival.com.

– Sara Jones

Festival Schedule

Wednesday, May 11, 8pm
Brotherhood of the Drum
Conor Byrne Pub (21+),
5140 Ballard Ave NW

Thursday, May 12, 8pm
Guitar Summit
Conor Byrne Pub (21+),
5140 Ballard Ave NW

Friday, May 13, 6:30pm
Ballard Jazz Walk
Multiple venues
Tickets at New York Fashion Academy, 5201 Ballard Ave NW
Presented by Verity Credit Union

Saturday, May 14, 11am
Swedish Pancake Jazz Brunch
Nordic Heritage Museum,
3014 NW 67th St

Saturday, May 14, 7:30pm
Mainstage Concert
Nordic Heritage Museum,
3014 NW 67th St
Presented by Home Street Bank TriStar Realty Team