Eric Benet, Kirk Whalum, Dianne Reeves headline 34th Clifford Brown Festival in Wilmington
The 34th annual Clifford Brown Jazz Festival will switch gears back to its pre-pandemic roots when it returns with a trove of rich musical talent to Rodney Square in Wilmington next month.
The lineup, announced Thursday afternoon, includes notable performances by Grammy-nominated singer Eric Benet, Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum and jazz legend Dianne Reeves.
The festival's Rodney Square main-stage concerts will be held Wednesday, Aug. 4, through Sunday, Aug. 8, with performances starting at 5:30 p.m. on the weekdays, at noon on Saturday, Aug. 7, and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8.
The premier event is the largest free jazz festival on the East Coast.
On Aug. 4, the schedule features a headline performance by Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum. On Aug. 5, Eric Benet will headline. The famed singer is also known for being the former husband of Hollywood Walk of Fame actress Halle Berry.
On Aug. 6, the headliner is jazz legend Dianne Reeves with John Beasley, Romero Lubambo, Reuben Rogers and Terreon Gully. On Aug. 7, highlights include Wilmington songstress Nadjah Nicole and the sizzling Kenny Barron Trio.
On Aug. 8, renowned Wilmington dancer Raphael Xavier will show off some moves.
Brownie remembered on day of his death
The Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is a tribute to Wilmington’s own Clifford Brown and is held in the city’s main public square, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation to make it more attractive and comfortable for residents and visitors.
The 65th anniversary of the late-great trumpeter's death was June 26.
Last month the Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware, in conjunction with East Side Pride-We Matter, celebrated Brown's life with a memorial concert at Kirkwood Park. It included local musicians such as Tony “Big Cat” Smith, who’s playing the jazz festival next month.
Although the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival was right around the corner, it was important to the organizers of the memorial concert that they paid tribute to Brownie on the anniversary of his death.
“Clifford was just too great a trumpeter and artist to just shove to the side like this. I just felt as a community we owe to his legacy to remember him,” said Harmon Carey, CEO of the Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware.
Tina Betz, director of Cultural Affairs for the city of Wilmington, is looking forward to a return to normalcy with the 34th annual festival.
"While we very much regretted having to cancel the Rodney Square staged event last summer, our virtual event still showcased the amazing talents of our own local musicians, which made it an even more special event,” Betz said.
“Still, there’s nothing quite like gathering together to experience live jazz in person, and we are ready to do it again this year.”
For more information about the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, visit cliffordbrownjazzfest.org.
Clifford Brown Jazz Festival Schedule
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at email@example.com.