Hot Springs Summerfest

Combining blues and jazz

By Steven Mross, photography courtesy of the Hot Springs Jazz Society

By Steven Mross, photography courtesy of the Hot Springs Jazz Society


It isn’t known if they plan to kiss, but two musical cousins will be joining forces this Labor Day holiday to bring Hot Springs its newest festival to close out the summer and get residents and visitors alike out on the dance floor.

Hot Springs Summerfest will combine the 25th Hot Springs Jazz Festival, which runs Aug. 31 to Sept. 4, with the 20th Hot Springs Blues Festival, running Sept. 3-4, with only one short two-hour overlap on Sept. 3, where both will have events going at the same time.

“Jazz and Blues definitely complement each other,” Gretchen Taylor, executive director for the Hot Springs Jazz Society, said. “They are musical cousins, so to speak, having been created from the same roots. Both are original American art forms that were born from the same influences.”

Taylor said this is actually not the first time the two genres were combined locally, having shared a joint festival many years ago, simply called the Hot Springs Blues and Jazz Fest, but what brought them back together this year was “a happy coincidence” of both festivals having interest in the Labor Day weekend.Summerfest 1

“We sat down together and decided this could be something really special,” she said, noting that neither festival had to adjust their schedule and even the one brief overlap was worked out between them.

“We have collaborated on the style of music being performed at that time so one festival doesn’t overwhelm the other with dueling music lingering in the air downtown. Though that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”

Taylor said because the idea to join together came late in the planning process there was no opportunity to create a combined event, but “there have been many discussions that should this year prove to be the success we expect, then next year we will work more closely together to schedule and create a combined event.”

She noted everyone should make certain to be in town Saturday, Sept. 3, when there will be continuous music downtown from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., both jazz and blues.

JazzFest will kick things off at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31, with the high-energy Rodney Block Collective playing upbeat jazz dance music in the ballroom of the Hotel Hot Springs and Spa, 305 Malvern Ave. On Sept. 1, the Ohio Club, 336 Central Ave., will be hosting ATM featuring “The Diva Chicks” from 7-10 p.m. and then on Sept. 2, the innovative “Classical and Jazz Blow Out,” a fusion of classical music with jazz, will be presented at the Five Star Theatre, 701 Central, at 7 p.m.

JazzLogoOn Sept. 3, stop by for lunch and some powerful jazz under the Regions Bank sky bridge on Broadway Street from noon until 6 p.m., as a mix of local and regional artists will perform, including the stupendous New Orleans Brass-A-Holics.

That same day, the Blues Festival will get underway in Hill Wheatley Plaza from 4-10 p.m. with a combination of local acts and talented national performers including the Spa City Youngbloods (the society’s Blues In The Schools band), the keyboard/drum duo Stuart Baer and Lance Womack, of Little Rock, the Chiller Blues Band (the society’s jam band), Cedell Davis with the Brethren, “one of the last living bluesmen from the Muddy and Wolf era,” and the Delgado Brothers, of California, winners of the 2016 International Blues Challenge.

Both festivals conclude on Sunday, Sept. 4, with the JazzFest taking over three venues: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for a jazz mass, the Grand Avenue Methodist Church for “Jazz After Church,” and the Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa for a jazz tea dance by the Stardust Big Band.

The final evening of the Blues Festival will take place in Hill Wheatley Plaza from 4-10 p.m., featuring the Noah Wotherspoon Band, Trey Johnson/Jason Willmon, the Akeem Kemp Band, Unseen Eye and Barbara Blue, “the reigning queen of Beale Street.”

The Delgado Brothers

The Delgado Brothers

Asked why Hot Springs gets so many great musicians performing here, Taylor said, “This is a city that encourages and wants artists of every and any genre. They just can’t seem to get enough. The music festivals are a great way this community brings culture to our lives making a perfect place for family and friends to visit as well.”

Visit the Blues Society website for the most up to date listing of scheduled artists For JazzFest details, visit or call 501-627-2425.

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