Women lead at the Wall Street Jazz Festival

Ingrid Jensen (photo by Scott Macleod)

The ninth annual Wall Street Jazz Festival is set to kick off in Kingston this weekend, featuring another bill assembled with the following credo in mind: “Where the traditions meet the progressives, and all the leaders are women.” Organized by legendary jazz pianist Peggy Stern, the Festival is slated as a two-day event, with the first night indoors and – weather permitting – the second on the street.

According to Stern, as the lineup comes into focus for another Festival, she looks to the past as well as the present. “We always include some people who have been there in past years, because the audience loves to see them,” said Stern. “For instance, the last set has the salsa – that actually includes some of the headliners and some of the old favorites among the musicians. That’s sort of a blow-it-all-away set.”

The all-star cast that closes out Saturday night – that “last set” to which Stern was referring – includes “Sweet” Sue Terry, Claire Daly, Lew Scott, Pete O’Brien and Stern herself. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, because the Festival really gets started on Friday, August 31 with “The Art of the Duo,” a mixed-duos concept featuring headliners Ingrid Jensen and Natalie Cressman, along with Dena Derose and Rich Syracuse. Friday night’s performance takes place at Backstage Studio Productions on Wall Street.

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If it doesn’t rain, Saturday’s showcase featuring Chris McNulty, the Natalie Cressman Band, the Ingrid Jensen Band and the Estrella Salsa Band will take place at the corner of Wall and North Front Streets. In case of inclement weather, the Festival moves indoors to Backstage’s theater space. Admission to Saturday’s performances is free of charge.

“In terms of the headliners, I like to change it up each year,” said Stern. “I like to include women who haven’t ever performed with us before. This year’s Festival was a coup, because Ingrid, Natalie and Chris, the headliners, are all very big jazz stars.”

While female performers are at the fore at each installment of the Wall Street Jazz Festival, don’t get the impression that it’s a women-only celebration. “It’s not a women’s festival, because there’s always plenty of men playing,” said Stern. “But the women are in charge.”

The Wall Street Jazz Festival is scheduled for Friday, August 31 beginning at 8 p.m. and Saturday, September 1 at 6 p.m. Tickets to Friday night’s performance cost $15. For more information, visit www.wallstreetjazzfestival.com.

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