Your Guide to Charlotte Jazz Festival 2019

 By Matt Cosper

April 24, 2019

Back for its fourth year running, Charlotte Jazz Festival has become something of an institution in this city. Funding from both Blumenthal Performing Arts and the Leon Levine Foundation allows for the biggest names in jazz to play shows in state-of-the-art facilities. Performances in the Knight Theatre and The Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park are complemented by more off-the-cuff happenings in the plaza spaces surrounding the Levine Center for the Arts. This year, Charlotte Jazz Festival boasts big time talent including the Lincoln Center Orchestra, a world-class collection of 15 sorcerous jazz musicians led by the legendary Wynton Marsalis. The Orchestra and its components will be playing at various venues throughout the festival and, while the scheduled performances are sure to be hot, it’s the impromptu jam sessions that are where the real fire is during the festival. Musicians from around the globe getting together to sweat it out late night exploring new realms of sound is what jazz is all about. Be sure to get tickets for the big shows, but don’t forget to do a little exploring. You are sure to be rewarded.

Courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts


Lunch Hour Jazz: (FREE Event at the Levine Center for the Arts every day from April 29 – May 3)

Schedule of Performances:

April 29 at 11:45 a.m. – Calvin Edwards Trio
April 30 at 11:45 a.m. – Airstream
May 1 at 11:45 a.m.- Ariel Pocock Quartet
May 2 at 11:45 a.m. – Shrimp and Grits
May 3 at 11:45 a.m. – Pharez Whitted Group

The Jazz Pavilion on the Levine Center for the Arts plaza is the place to be for an al fresco lunch with musical accompaniment. The Pavilion stage will host a handful of Charlotte’s jazz luminaries (with special guests) Monday, April 29 – Friday, May 3, 11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. with food trucks on site.

Lunch Hour Jazz. Couresty of Blumenthal Performing Arts

Camille Thurman and The Darrell Green Trio with special guest Wynton Marsalis:  7:30 p.m. on Wednesday May 1st in The Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park (Tickets: $24.50-$44.50)

Camille Thurman teams up  with The Darrell Green Trio to kick off the 2019 Charlotte Jazz Festival in The Jazz Garden Tent at Bearden Park. Led by phenomenal tenor saxophonist and vocalist Camille Thurman this combo promises a night to remember.  If that wasn’t enticement enough, they’ll be joined by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis.

Havana Nights with Gino Castillo & The Cuban Cowboys: 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 2nd in The Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park (Tickets: $10 General Admission)

Gino Castillo and the Cuban Cowboys host the ultimate Latin Jazz dance party, heating things up for the second night of the festival. The Cuban Cowboys are a posse of talented musicians from all over the globe. Famous for high-energy performances that fill the dance floor, Gino Castillo currently hosts Havana Nights as a permanent residency at Prohibition in Charleston, SC.

Wynton Marsalis. Courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts

The Future of Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Ellington Through the Ages: 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 2nd at Knight Theater (Tickets: $25 – $92.50)

Over at the Knight Theatre on Thursday night, The Future of Jazz Orchestra (Wynton Marsalis, bassist Rodney Whitaker, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, and saxophonist Dan Block) will be showcasing the work  of Duke Ellington with a group of young rising jazz stars. Sixteen of the best young professionals in jazz and a handful of seasoned veterans all passionate about Ellington’s exquisite compositions will reveal the elegance and magic of the master. Covering all the era’s of Duke Ellington’s career, this is an evening no music lover can afford to miss.

Jazz at the Pavilion: FREE Events at the Levine Center for the Arts

Schedule of Performances:

  • Thursday, May 2 – 5:30 – 8:15 p.m.
  • Friday, May 3 – 5:30 – 11 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 4 – 1-10:15 p.m.

The jazz won’t stop at these free concerts on Friday night (and all-day Saturday). The Jazz Pavilion on the Levine Center for the Arts plaza hosts this riot of totally free music for the adventurous music lover. Grab your friends and loved ones and go see what’s what. This is the improvisatory heart of the festival.

Ladies Sing the Blues:  6-11 p.m. on May 3rd in The Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park (Tickets: $24.50-$44.50)

Full-length sets from three queens of the blues. Donna Hopkins, Deva Mahal (daughter of the legendary Taj Mahal) and Maria Muldaur (of “Midnight at the Oasis” fame) will be bringing the blues to this jazz festival in a triple header that is not to be missed. The Donna Hopkins Band starts things off at 6 p.m., followed by Deva Mahal at 7:45 p.m.. Maria Muldaur finishes the evening at 9:30 p.m. One ticket gets you in for all three sets.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra presents Wynton Marsalis’ Spaces: 7:30 p.m. on Friday May 3rd at the Knight Theater (Tickets: $25-$74.50)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra presents a brand new composition by Wynton Marsalis for orchestra and dance. “Spaces” combines big band jazz and modern dance to explore and celebrate the animal kingdom. Each of Spaces’ ten movements is devoted to a different animal, from “King Lion” to “Bees, Bees, Bees,” expressing  the grace, majesty and kaleidoscopic diversity of the natural world.

On the evening of the 3rd, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be joined by award winning Jook and Tap dance artists Myles Yachts and Jared Grimes.  Wynton Marsalis does not appear in this performance.

Late Night Jams: 11 p.m. on Friday May 3rd and Saturday May 4th in the Knight Underground (Free Admission with limited space)

The Knight Underground is a speakeasy-themed hideaway located below the Knight Theater where musicians performing in the Charlotte Jazz Festival keep the jazz going into the wee hours of the night. These late night jam sessions are a highlight of the festival; they are free wheeling, improvisatory and you never know which combinations of world class players are going to drop in and blow your mind.

Late Night Jams. Photo: Phillip Hoffman

Saturday Morning Jazz Brew: 11 a.m. on Saturday May 4th in The Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park (Tickets: $19.50-$29.50)

Master jazz drummer (and Charlottean) Ocie Davis sets the vibe for a chill morning event with special guests out of New Orleans, vocalist Stephanie Jordan and trumpet player Jamil Sharif. All guests will have access to a cash bar and snacks.

Loonis McGlohon Young Jazz Artist Competition: 2 p.m. on Saturday May 4th in The Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park (Free event)

This competition is a tribute to a Charlotte legend. Loonis McGlohon was a visionary, a composer and a virtuosic musician. Ten of the area’s best young jazz artists will perform for a panel of judges from the world renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, receiving critiques from master musicians and competing for a mix of cash and compensated performances designed to enhance the winners music education and help launch their careers. Come out to support some young artists and hear the future of Jazz. 

Second Line Parade. Courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts

Second Line Parade: 4:30 p.m. on Saturday May 4th, Starting at Levine Plaza (Free event) 

Second Lines are the beating heart of jazz as living culture, where the music leaves the clubs and hits the streets. A staple of life in New Orleans for as long as anyone can remember, you don’t want to miss out on the experience.

The Gentlemen of Jazz:  6-11p.m. on Saturday May 4th inThe Jazz Garden Tent at Romare Bearden Park (Tickets: $34.50-$59.50)

Paul Nedzela, Kenny Rampton, and Carlos Henriquez are veterans of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and will be leading three performances in a triple header called “Gentlemen of Jazz.”  Baritone saxophone player Nedzela starts things off at 6pm, followed by trumpet player Kenny Rampton and his octet at 7:45. Bassist Carlos Henriquez finishes things off at 9:30 with a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. One ticket gets you in for all three sets.

Patina Miller. Courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts

Patina Miller Sings Nina Simone: 7:30 p.m. on Saturday May 4th in the Knight Theater – (Tickets: $34.50-$74.50)

Tony Award winner Patina Miller closes out the festival with a tribute to the iconic and iconoclastic vocalist Nina Simone. Miller won the Tony Award for her portrayal of The Leading Player in the 2012/2013 Broadway revival of Pippin. She was equal parts fearsome and seductive in the role and promises to shine as Simone, a legendary siren of those American of art forms, Jazz and the Blues.

Check out more on Charlotte Jazz Festival 2019.

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