The lineup is set for the 30th annual Alexander City Jazz Fest which is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 7 in downtown Alexander City’s Strand Park and Saturday, Aug. 8 at The Amp on Lake Martin.
Kicking off Jazz Fest on Friday night at Strand Park is the Benjamin Russell High School Jazz Band. They will be followed by Tragic City and headlining Friday night’s festivities is Sweet Lizzy Project. Saturday night at The Amp will open with John Bull Band, who will be followed by Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics. Headlining Saturday night and closing out the 30th installment of Jazz Fest is Heather Gillis Band.
This two-day music festival is free to attend and presented by Russell Lands On Lake Martin.
“We are thrilled with the diversity and talent we’ve recruited to perform at this year’s Jazz Fest,” Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ed Collari said. “This is the signature event for Alex City and the Lake Martin community and it’s exciting to have this caliber of musicians performing to the attendees Jazz Fest attracts over the two days. I would like to thank Russell Lands On Lake Martin for serving as the presenting sponsor as well as all of our sponsors and the City of Alexander City for allowing us to host this event each year.”
In compliance with Gov. Kay Ivey’s current mask mandate, all Jazz Fest attendees are encouraged to wear a mask and abide by social distancing protocols. Social distancing circles will be created throughout Strand Park on Friday night and at The Amp on Saturday for attendees to safely enjoy the festivities.
Kicking off the 30th year of one of Alabama’s longest-standing free music festivals is the Benjamin Russell Jazz Band, which is led by BRHS band director Dale Bloodworth. The Jazz Band meets during the spring semester and performs a spring concert and represents the school and Pride band program at numerous events each year. The ensemble is open to all students who are interested and dedicated to the challenge of performing a great and vast selection of material in a short amount of preparation time.
Friday night’s second act is Tragic City, an instrumental sextet from Birmingham that blends elements of funk, jazz, hip-hop and rock to create their own unique sound. Tragic City has recently played alongside the likes of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks), FlowTribe & Miss Mojo.
Wrapping up the festival’s opening night is Sweet Lizzy Project. One of the most culturally significant bands to emerge from Cuba in recent years, Sweet Lizzy Project has a distinctive sound imbued with overtones of classic American indie-pop-rock suffused with an intoxicating Latino flair. Lead singer Lisset Diaz’s incomparable voice, which has been likened to that of a long-caged sparrow finally set free, captures listeners’ imaginations, note by note, leaving fans enthralled as they surrender to the group’s mesmerizing force field of sound.
Opening Saturday night’s show at The Amp is John Bull Band. On lead vocals and harp, Bull is a member of the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame. As a former riverboat captain he used to entertain guests on the riverboats in Montgomery. John gave up the river for the road years ago but you can still catch him and his band most Sunday evenings on the Blues Cruise he began running on his own riverboat almost 30 years ago in Montgomery.
The second act of the second night will be Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, who have made a name for themselves captivating audiences with their stirring live performances. They’re a world-class modern soul revue topped off with the cherry of Velle’s sultry voice, as she deftly toggles between sweetly crooned R&B tunes and expertly belted barn-burning get-downs that can instantly jolt a roomful of wallflowers into a wild dance party.
Rounding out the 30th edition of the Alex City Jazz Fest will be the Heather Gillis Band. Gillis is the complete package as a guitar player, lap steel player, songwriter, singer and arranger. She and her band have the stage presence and confidence to appeal to a variety of musical tastes be it rock, soul, jazz, roots or gospel. At 23 years old, Heather has not only formed a following at a local level, but has played alongside and befriended members of The Allman Brothers Band, Col Bruce Hampton, The Lee Boys, North Mississippi All-Stars, Matt Schofield, and many more.