Musicians jam Friday afternoon at the courthouse during the sixth annual Roswell Jazz Festival Kick-Off Concert. (Mark Wilson Pho to)
Although the jazz and the fall breeze were cool, the sixth annual Roswell Jazz Festival kicked off with a warm New Mexico welcome at the Chaves County Courthouse lawn, Friday.
The brief, lunchtime concert, which featured a sampling of several of the artists who will be playing throughout Roswell this weekend, also began with a few words in memory of the person who helped make the festival possible.
Frank Schlatter, who started what was first called the Pecos Valley Jazz & Arts Festival with longtime friend and fellow musician Roger Dickerson, passed away earlier this year. Paula Grieves, a Roswell Jazz Festival committee member, offered a welcome to the crowd and artists as well as a few words in Schlatter’s memory.
“Mi casa es su casa,” she said. Spanish for “my house is your house,” Grieves said the phrase is locally known as a welcome for someone with whom one shares a strong bond.
“It’s the kind of friendship that expresses you are family,” Grieves said. It was this same kind of invitation and welcome, Grieves said, that Schlatter expressed when he asked Dickerson to come to Roswell when Dickerson’s native New Orleans was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“The seeds of this jazz festival were planted,” Grieves said, adding that the Roswell Jazz Festival celebrates Schlatter’s life.
Mayor Del Jurney also helped welcome the crowd and musicians.
“For the next three days, Roswell is going to have an opportunity to show the world what we’re really about,” Jurney said. “Roswell is a pretty jazzy place.”
Nicki Parrott, this year’s Roswell Jazz Festival guest of honor, shared her smooth voice and a rare talent for scatting when she sang “The More I See You,” perhaps more popularly known as a Nat King Cole song.
Dickerson, referred to as the “guiding light of this festival,” took the makeshift stage at the steps of the courthouse for a brief moment. His style of playing jazz piano is so effortless he appeared to be merely waving his fingers above the keys while staring into space, as if in a far away but pleasant daydream. The only way to know he was actually playing was by the sound he produced — which was nothing less than pure, unadulterated jazz — and the look of those in the crowd, who appeared to be just as entranced as Dickerson.
Rob Rio, also a pianist as well as a vocalist, took the stage. He said he loved the festival’s commemorative T-shirt and Roswell, but most of all, he said he loves to boogie-woogie.
A member of the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame, Rio took the audience on a ride that began with a rhythm simple enough to be recognized as boogie-woogie but fast enough to get everyone’s heart beating to the rhythm of eight beats in every measure.
“It’s just a simple eight to the bar,” Rio explained. He then added some syncopation — a melodic deviation typically done with the right hand when playing boogie-woogie on the piano. Finally, Rio “set it in the groove,” or combined all the elements in a rollicking, toe-tapping, finger-snapping boogie-woogie.
“If you know your music history, you see rock ’n’ roll is directly related to boogie-woogie,” Rio said. “It is from boogie-woogie that rock ’n’ roll evolved.”
Lynetta Zuber was one attendee who couldn’t help but dance, not only through Rio’s boogie-woogie demonstration but also during Michael Francis’ Latin jazz performance. She said she played the flute and alto saxophone when she attended Goddard High, and hopes to pick up the alto sax again soon.
Zuber has been to every Roswell Jazz Festival. An avid fan of the genre, Zuber said what she likes most about jazz is its improvisational quality.
“There’s not a set music to (jazz),” she said. “It can go anywhere.”
The 2011 Roswell Jazz Festival continues today with free School of Jazz seminars at Ginsberg Music Co., 201 N. Main St., starting at 10 a.m. There will be a free outdoor block party at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, 11th and Main streets, featuring Latin jazz, at noon.
Rob Rio will once again boogie down at the Best Western Sally Port Inn & Suites, 2000 N.Main St., at 7:30 p.m. Entrance is $25; for students with I.D., $10.
On Sunday, there will be a free community worship in jazz event at the Pueblo Auditorium, 300 N. Kentucky Ave., at 10:30 a.m. This will be followed by a New Orleans gumbo luncheon at First Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Third St. Entrance to the luncheon is $10.
The Roswell Jazz Festival will conclude with a performance Sunday at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, 409 E. College Blvd., from 2-4 p.m. Entrance is $25.