Driving through downtown Bellevue, it is easy to tell that it is a city in transition. “Out With The Old, In With The New,” seems to be the city’s new motto with new hotels, restaurants and towers sprouting up throughout the downtown core. But when rumors of the return the Bellevue Jazz Festival, which has been on a 15-year hiatus, began to circulate, it was obvious that the city of Bellevue is looking to preserve its past while moving forward.
“Bellevue is growing and maturing as a destination and we are asking ourselves how to make Bellevue memorable, [how] to be a cultural leader for the Eastside.” said Leslie Lloyd, president of the Bellevue Downtown Association and organizer of Bellevue Jazz Festival. “We have to do events like a jazz festival to broaden the horizons of our city.”
The new Bellevue Jazz Festival debuts this weekend with two spectacular headliners. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis performs with his quartet at The Meydenbauer Center on Friday, May 23rd. The following night, (Saturday, May 24th), Meydenbauer will be transformed into a dance hall for a performance by The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Free dance lessons will be given prior to the performance so there is no excuse to not get yourself out on the dance floor.
In addition, there are plenty of free shows throughout the weekend featuring many familiar northwest artists. “We’ve got a real festival already. There are 22 free shows in 9 venues, all within walking distance of each other,” says Lloyd.
Music on Friday starts right after work at 4:30pm and runs up to the Marsalis show. On Saturday, the music kicks off at Noon and runs all day at various venues.
Both Friday and Saturday conclude with the Origin Records Jam Session, which will feature the trio of Bill Anschell, Jeff Johnson and John Bishop backing up various musicians and giving jazz fans a late-night hang to cap off their evenings.
This will be a great weekend of music for both the city of Bellevue and the entire Northwest jazz scene.