A Week of Music: The Chestertown Jazz Festival Returns


The Chestertown Jazz Festival, organized by Garfield Center Board Member and local radiologist Dr. Mel Rapelyea, will spread jazz, blues and gospel around Kent County from September 5-10, with performances scheduled at the Garfield, Sumner Hall, Wilmer Park, The Mainstay and Crow Vineyards.

Conservatory Classic Jazz Band

The festival kicks off on Wednesday, September 5th with The Peoples Dance Party at the Garfield Center, featuring the Conservatory Classic Jazz Band of Washington, D.C..

Formed in 2003 to present the sounds of traditional jazz to D.C. audiences, the Conservatory Classic Jazz Band plays New Orleans style, Chicago style, small-group swing and mainstream jazz. The seven-piece group is made up of highly accomplished performers and their repertoire encompasses the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, Bessie Smith, Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman and other early jazz pioneers, in addition to the Great American Songbook of such composers as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Hoagy Carmichael.

The event is sponsored by the Peoples Bank of Kent County, and admission is free. The doors open at 7:30pm, and local dancers Darryl and Lucia Calloway will be leading the dancing when the band starts playing at 8pm.

Joshua Espinoza

The music then moves to The Mainstay in Rock Hall on Thursday, September 6th, with a performance by the Joshua Espinoza Trio. An avid performer and educator, pianist Espinoza has played with renowned artists including Warren Wolf, Paul Bollenback, Dezron Douglas, Jerome Jennings and Miho Hazamaand on national stages including the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, The Kennedy Center, the Barns at Wolftrap, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the DC Jazz Fest. Espinoza was a finalist in the 2018 Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition and was named “Most Promising Semi-Finalist” in the 13th UNISA International Jazz Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa (2016). His musical output was recognized by the Maryland State Arts Council in 2018 when he was awarded an Individual Artist Grant for two of his original compositions. The concert begins at 8pm and general admission is $15.

Fade to Blue and Wen DeVear

On Friday, September 7th the festival returns to the Garfield Center for a performance by the Fade To Blue band and featuring local singer Wendy Johnson Blake of Big Woods (aka Wen DeVear). Blake began singing at an early age with her Sunday school choir and at school plays, banquets, weddings, private parties and women’s empowerment conferences. She is best known to have been with several gospel groups in Kent County; The Melonaires with Sylvia Frazier, Karen Somerville and Lester Barrett, The Bethelites of Chestertown and N.I.A., a group of seasoned vocalists under the direction of Marlon Saunders.

Blake has participated in past Chestertown Jazz Festivals, A “Divas and Tenor” concert, Doo Wop in the Park, a Love Cures benefit concert as well as paying tribute to Billie Holiday with accompanists Tom Anthony, Dick Durham and John Doughten. She has been featured with various Gospel, R&B, and Jazz groups in Maryland, Delaware and around the Tri-State area, and was a past member of the Kent County Arts Council.  After Moving to Virginia she joined The Virginia Choral Society, singing with The Nick Subasic Trio, The Reggie Leatherberry Jazz Band, Bobby (Black Hat) Walters Blues Band and other musicians in the Hampton Roads area.

Fade to Blue is an electrifying blues-based band conceived by bassist Brian Eubanks and is comprised of some of the most seasoned musicians in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. The band’s repertoire is not limited to blues tunes, and includes soul, classic rock and jazz. Doors open at 7:30 and the concert starts at 8pm. Tickets are $20 general admission.

On Saturday, September 8th there will be an invitation-only concert at 10am featuring Capital Focus performing “Roots of Music of New Orleans” at Sumner Hall on Queen Street. This performance is sponsored by Arts in Motion, a program launched a few years ago by Mainstay founder Tom McHugh and Kent County Public Schools’ Gina Jachimowicz to give local young people a chance to see, hear and meet outstanding professional performers and artists.

Capital Focus

The main event of the week will take place on Saturday, September 8th  with Jazz in the Park from 11:30am-6pm. Food, drink and other vendors add to the event which takes place under a tent by the beautiful Chester River in Wilmer Park. This year’s event begins with local star Karen Sommerville’s gospel opening at noon, and then Capital Focus is back by popular demand at 12:30. The Capital Focus Jazz Band (formerly known as the Federal Focus Jazz Band) is the Youth Learning Program of the Potomac River Jazz Club. Since 1988, this nationally acclaimed program has provided promising young musicians with a grounding in the fundamentals of jazz, as well as specialized training in the traditional New Orleans styles and their offshoots. The Capital Focus Jazz Band learning program was formed to continue the legacy of such giants of American music as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, and Jack Teagarden.


At 1:45pm AJOYO takes the stage. Performer Yacine Boularès blends African tradition, jazz and soul for a fuller experience that brings musicians and audience close together. AJOYO chants in the name of Tony Allen, Oum Khalsoum, Charlie Parker and Donnie Hathaway. Originally from Tunisia in North Africa (by way of Paris), Boularès has played sax, composed and arranged music for Cameroonian musicians such as former Fela Kuti drummer Jojo Kuo, for the late Martino Atangana, for the Haitian Kompa legends Tabou Combo, and for Placido Domingo’s latest album Encanto Del Mar.

Sharón Clark

Then at 3:00 past Jazz Festival performer Sharón Clark returns.  The Washington, D.C. standout has brought festival and concert audiences to their feet across the U.S. and Europe. Clark has made multiple international tours in recent years, making her debut in Israel and returning to Russia, where she has developed a major following. Her most recent release, “Do it Again — My Tribute to Shirley Horn,” is on its third printing, and she grabs top honors wherever she goes.

A featured soloist with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony, and the Baltimore Symphony, Clark has headlined the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, the Cape May Jazz Festival and the Savannah Music Festival.

Sean Jones

Headliner Sean Jones takes the stage at 4:30pm with the Sean Jones Quartet. Singing and performing as a child with the church choir in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, Jones switched from the drums to the trumpet upon his first exposure to Miles Davis at the age of 10. Influences over the years of his career include John Coltrane, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard and Clifford Brown. After receiving his Master’s Degree from Rutgers University, Jones performed as the lead trumpeter with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Jones has been prominently featured with a number of artists, recording and/or performing with Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson and Marcus Miller. Jones was later selected by Miller, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter for their Tribute to Miles tour in 2011. Jones has recently joined the Berklee College of Music faculty as the Chair of the Brass Department, taught at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, while regularly offering master classes and clinics all around the world. In addition, Sean also serves as Artistic Director of both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Jazz Orchestras and is working toward organizing the various Jazz orchestras all over the country. Sean is current Artist-in-Residence at San Francisco Performances and is a member of The SF JAZZ Collective. Tickets to this amazing multi-performance event are $25 advance at $30 at the gate. This event is sponsored in part by the Hedgelawn Foundation.

Then on Sunday, September 9th head over to Kennedyville for CrowFest 2018! This farm & vineyard festival features live music, vendors, wine, food, tours, grape stomping, games and hayrides. Come and spend the day or just a few hours out on the farm. VIP Tickets are limited and include 3 seminars: a special pairing of Crow Wine and food prepared by a celebrity chef; Robbie Jester, a yoga demonstration by River Warrior Yoga and a tasting and discussion of wines from the Eastern Shore, led by the Rivers to Canal winemakers! Tickets are $25 for VIP, $12 advance general admission ($16 at the gate), $10 for designated drivers and under 21, and children 5 and under are free.

Mainstay Monday

The festival week ends on Monday, September 10th back at The Mainstay in Rock Hall, with a Mainstay Monday. These eclectic evenings happen every Monday night and are hosted by Joe Holt at the piano, partnering with a special guest. Each week is a unique, one of a kind show. The featured performers joining Holt are Tom Baldwin and Aggie Brown III. Baldwin is among the most respected and in-demand jazz bassists in the Baltimore/D.C. region, performing and recording with dozens of groups and artists. Brown is a highly accomplished young drummer with years of professional experience. He has performed on major stages from Huston to New York. Doors open at 6:30 pm with the show starting at 7:00 and tickets are $10.

For more information about events at the Garfield Center, Jazz in the Park or to purchase tickets, please call 410-810-2060 or visit www.garfieldcenter.org. For more information about events at the Mainstay or to purchase tickets please call 410-639-9133 or visit www.mainstayrockhall.org. For more information about CrowFest or to purchase tickets please call 302-304-0551 or visit www.crowvineyardandwinery.com

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