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Franklin Jazz Festival raises roof at Liberty Hall

Guitar legend Larry Carlton performs as the headliner at the Franklin Jazz Festival. Photo Courtesy of Robert N. Moore, Jr


Given one word to describe the Franklin Jazz Festival, the choice is “liberating.”

For two days and two nights, sounds streaming from the halls where laborers once toiled to create stoves and mattresses, music lovers commanded a day of rest and relaxation.

Churches even got into the mix Sunday with a stellar performance from the Clearview Jazz Orchestra (CJO) led by Ed Kee.

Only in Franklin, Tennessee could the historic hymn Rock of Ages be arranged with a sax solo.

The crowd on Sunday, ranging from young children to the retired, fell in love with the selections performed by this local treasure.

From standards like Fly Me To The Moon, Sweet Georgia Brown and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes to the romantic melody of Our Love is Here to Stay, Kee’s Orchestra set the tone for a great family afternoon.

The pleasant voice of Cindy Psanos, formerly of the all-girl Christian band Girls Next Door, just added to the ambience.
CJO and other talented artists were available for the listening free of charge in Jamison Hall.

But the headline shows were down the corridor at the acoustically rich Liberty Hall of The Factory.
Franklin’s Favorite

“A legend in my own backyard,” is how David Evans, longtime east Franklin resident, described guitar giant Larry Carlton’s performance to a packed house Saturday night.

Carlton’s signature sound is ingrained in the American music that has come to be cherished by music lovers of all ages, but especially baby boomers.

The talent that led to multiple Grammy Awards and Grammy nominations was heard loud and clear.

Longtime festival organizer and respected musician Ron Shuff applauded festival organizers for bringing Carlton back to the Festival.

With the silver anniversary just one year away, Shuff said the momentum from this weekend’s success should be captured and built upon over the next 12 months.

“I can’t wait until the 25th anniversary year next year,” said Shuff, who began working on the festival in 1989.
Rick Jackson, who toured with Carlton for ten years, praised the entire band, but sought out new drummer Darico Watson after the concert.

With compliments abounding for a climatic drum solo, Jackson congratulated the drummer. Watson most recently played with Victor Wooten.

“Man, we just played together for the first time as a band last night in Macon, Georgia. We had never even rehearsed before the show,” Watson, of Nashville, told Jackson about joining Carlton for Franklin fans.

Carlton exceeded the expectations when he pulled out favorites from the Steely Dan era, as well as Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness.

 And as usual, Carlton, a.k.a. “Mr. 335,” simply mesmerized the audience with his Gibson classic.
As a resident Evans said he is fond of having the festival outdoors on the Public Square, but he added emphatically this comment.

“There is something to be said for air conditioning and a roof.”

Jack Grant, of the Factory, marveled at the attendance this year, saying he hoped the 25th would generate an even bigger crowd.

“We invested a lot into getting the acoustics right (in Liberty Hall),” he said.

Cissy Crutcher: Gallatin Girl
Imagine having a local Middle Tennessean center stage with wit, wisdom and pipes of gold to lead the finale of an outstanding musical weekend.

Cissy Crutcher, with a voice like Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin, but a style all her own, performs for the crowd at the Franklin Jazz Festival.
Crutcher stepped out front fast with a cool blues number, but followed with a message for her loyal crowd: “You know the Blues is alright. …I like to sing a little Blues, and then I like to hit it and quit it. I don’t like to be put in a box.”

That was no understatement.

A gospel girl at heart, Crutcher, who is defying her industry by keeping her day job as an eighth grade English teacher in Gallatin, Tennessee, kept fans on the edge of their seats with each number.

She took command of Franklin’s center stage like she was born on Main Street but is headed to Carnegie Hall.

In between selections like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Anita Baker’s Sweet Love, Crutcher admitted sheepishly
“you know I’m a music theory dropout.”

This confident African-American daughter of gospel singers from Gallatin did not mince words about her passion for music.

She also had much to say about her childhood.

“There was no rewind. There was no download, you just had to let it play,” Crutcher quips of music before the digital era.
“I love to sing songs about love and the things I like.”

Like all good things, the weekend had to come to an end.

But with the lineup provided by festival organizer Scott Ducaj on behalf of the beneficiary Williamson County’s Cultural Arts
Commission there is no doubt the 2014 25th annual Franklin Jazz Festival will make history.


Posted on: 9/2/2013


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