The first-annual Frederick Jazz Festival is set to take place Saturday at the Carroll Creek Amphitheater in downtown Frederick. Beginning at 12:30 p.m., the event will feature five artists, including headliner Chelsey Green. We recently caught up with half of the festival’s organizing team, Kenny Darby, to talk about how the idea for the festival came together, if they have a long-term plan to make sure it comes back for a second year, and, of course, what we can expect from this year’s event.
First, how did this festival come together? Who had the idea and how long ago did you start to execute?
The festival came together with one phone call. John Maestri [co-production manager/executive producer] contacted me and asked me what I thought about bringing jazz to Frederick on a grand stage. My answer to him was, “Yes, let’s make it happen.” So from there, we started the blueprint of this amazing festival.
Who decided on the roster? Were there any artists out there you were hoping to get and they didn’t come through?
John and I both decided on the roster. Three out of the five artists, I chose, and John picked the other two. Two out of the five are from the Frederick area, which is amazing, and they are stellar musicians. As far as artists that we were hoping to get, we really got everyone we wanted this go around. We do have some artists in mind for next year that we are excited about, but you will have to come next year to see what we have in store.
If someone only had time to catch one artist at the festival this year, who would you suggest they check out and why?
Wow, that’s a good question, and hard one at the same time. Every artist is amazing and unique at the same time. I would say this: I’m excited to see Howard Burns, Marcus Mitchell and Chelsey Green. But I would definitely stay to watch Trey Eley and Darryl Brenzel, too.
What do you think is the current state of jazz music locally, here in Frederick? How could the jazz scene improve and/or grow?
The music scene in general could be better, but it’s improving. Knowing that Frederick is growing now at a rapid rate, there aren’t that many venues people can experience live music at, let alone jazz. But the venues that are here are amazing and really paying attention to the jazz scene and other music as well. Cafe Nola has a really great jazz scene. Also, the Weinberg Center has been doing an amazing job by booking some of jazz’s finest artists, like Cory Henry, Snarky Puppy and many more.
Why did you decide to go with Carroll Creek as the venue? Did you consider any other places around Frederick to hold the event?
We’ve checked out other venues — like the bandshell in Baker Park. But being that this is the first annual Frederick Jazz Fest, we wanted to be in the center of the city. Also, it’s a prime venue to draw people in that really love music.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Wow, that is a loaded question. Man, I listen to everything. You should check out Shaun Martin — he is an amazing pianist. Also Nelly’s Echo — they are an amazing band located in the DMV. You also have to check out Carolyn Malachi. She’s an amazing songstress.
Do you play anything? If so, can you tell us a little about whatever project in which you’re currently involved? If not, what drew you to putting a festival together in the first place?
I play the piano and the drums. I’m currently working on a project called First Light produced and created by Matthew Shell, a producer out of the DMV. The concept is an hour-long work with continued transitions. I play the Fender Rhodes for it.
What has to happen for you to consider this installment a success?
Ticket sales [laughs]. We want as many people there to experience great music and bring the community together to experience something special.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
I really couldn’t answer that because there is so much music out there and I really go by the mood that I have. But I would say the most perfect album is “Thriller.”
And finally, in five words, what can we expect from the first-ever Frederick Jazz Festival?
Excitement, good music, great vibes, summer fun and a great time.