As one of the only forms of music that is purely American, jazz music has been popular across our great country since the late 19th century. That popularity is especially strong here in Wilmington, Delaware where we celebrate the music in memory of our very own jazz great, Clifford Brown, each and every summer.
This year, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is scheduled to fill Rodney Square with music from June 21 through 25. Those five days will be packed with live and free performances by jazz musicians from around the world, honoring the memory of Clifford Brown.
Remembering Clifford Brown
“Clifford Brown was, in the jazz circles, considered to be probably the greatest trumpet player who ever lived.” - Herb Alpert
The festival is named after Wilmington’s own Clifford Brown, who was one of the great American trumpeters of the 1950s. Known to friends and fans as “Brownie,” he had assembled a fantastic collection of recordings in only a short four years before his tragic death in a car accident on the Pennsylvania turnpike in 1956.
Losing Brown at the age of 25 might have been one of the most tragic deaths in music history up to that point. Based on the prolific amount of work he had assembled in such a short period of time, there’s no telling how much more music he would have created throughout the rest of his life had it not ended so soon.
In 1988, Wilmington decided that it needed to do something to honor the memory of this legendary musician. It was then that the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival was born, and ever since there has been one week each summer where Rodney Square is filled with the sounds of trumpets and saxophones.
The 2016 Festival Performers
“Jazz stands for freedom. It’s supposed to be the voice of freedom. Get out there and improvise, and take chances, and don’t be a perfectionist…leave that to the classical musicians.” - Dave Brubeck
This year’s festival kicks off on Tuesday, June 21 with performances from Maya Belardo, the Wilmington Youth Jazz Band, and the Clifford Brown Jazz Supergroup. Then things will heat up on Wednesday with performances from Miles Jay and the Ultimate Clifford Brown Tribute featuring Dr. Eddie Henderson, Leon Jordan, Jr., Eric Wheeler, and Sharp Radway.
The music continues on Thursday, June 23 with Adriel Gonzalez and Jibaro con Tumbao featuring Miguel Orlando. Then Friday’s lineup features Nadjah Nicole, Aniya Jazz, and To the Max Band. On Saturday, June 25, Robert Glasper, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Kim Waters, and the Saul Rubin Trio will have the honor of closing out the festival week.
If you are a fan of the current jazz scene, you have almost certainly heard of many of these performers. But the great thing about jazz is that you can enjoy any of these performances even if you have never heard of the musicians. That’s because the music takes the lead when it comes to jazz.
The Two Big Events
“Change is always happening. That’s one of the wonderful things about jazz music.” - Maynard Ferguson
In addition to all of the performances in Rodney Square during the festival, there will also be two big jazz events happening that you might want to check out.
On Thursday, June 23, the Chase Center on the Riverfront will be hosting Sax in the City, which is an annual fundraiser that benefits many of the cultural events and festivals that happen in Wilmington throughout the summer. Tickets for this event are $25 and can be purchased right from the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival website.
There will be a Block Party between 8th and 10th on Market Street on Friday, June 24. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the festival, as the mayor will be on hand and attending is free of charge! There will also be lots of food, beer, and wine vendors in the area.
Whether you are coming to Wilmington specifically for the festival or you’re just looking for something fun to do on a weekend in late June, there is going to be lots of fun and more than enough great music at this year’s Clifford Brown Jazz Festival.
What: DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival
Where: Rodney Square, Wilmington, Delaware
When: June 21 - 25, 2016
See you in Rodney Square!