Shemekia Copeland photo by Suzanne Foschino
Various venues, Bellevue, WA
The ninth annual Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival returns to the Eastside Wednesday, June 1, through Sunday, June 5. The favorite local event will feature 48 performances by national artists, local groups, and middle and high school ensembles across 14 venues (the festival’s most ever), primarily in downtown Bellevue, in both free and ticketed performances. Venues include Bake’s Place, Paddy Coyne’s Bellevue, the Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, and Cypress Lounge and Wine Bar at the Westin. This year, all venues welcome all ages – a first for the festival.
Debuting as a two-day jazz event in 2008 and adding blues to its repertoire last year, the Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival has grown significantly in the last nine years. This year, for the first time, the fest welcomes industry giants Shemekia Copeland (just nominated for a Grammy for best blues album), Etienne Charles & Creole Soul (a well-respected assistant professor of jazz studies at Michigan State), and Lee Oskar (a longtime, famed performer who does a unique crossover blend of blues and jazz).
Along with its nationally renowned artists, the event also features a wide array of rich Northwest talent, both in professionals McTuff, Jacqueline Tabor, the Joe Cook Blues Band, and more, and in local middle and high school combos. In the student showcase on Saturday and Sunday, the festival welcomes students from 12 middle and high schools, including Bellevue High School, Mercer Island High School, and Evergreen Middle School.
It is the mix of all the performers that distinguishes the Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival for Mike Ogliore, Vice President for Events & Operations at the Bellevue Downtown Association. When asked his favorite part of the event, Ogliore said, “Going from a headliner performance like Booker T. Jones or Mingus Big Band [acts in past years at the Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival] to, the next day, seeing these young students performing some of the same music you saw the night before. It’s just a really nice bridge of talent between these youth and these professionals.”
The majority of the festival performances are free, and the shows that require tickets or cover charges are listed on event’s schedule page online. Most of the 14 venues are walkable in the area between Bellevue Way, NE 8th Street, and NE 4th Street; two sites on the outskirts are Bellevue Brewing Company and the Bellevue Club.
“As downtown Bellevue continues to expand, it’s great to see the desire growing for live music in these bars and restaurants downtown,” says Ogliore.
– Sara Jones
View the event’s sponsors, purchase tickets, and find more information at bellevuedowntown.com/events/bellevue-jazz-blues-festival/overview.