by Jarrett Hoffman
The Tri-C JazzFest kicks off its all-virtual 41st edition this weekend, August 21-23, with a focus on local acts and a schedule that’s designed like a variety show. Each night’s free 7:00 pm presentation will be made up of recent pre-recorded performances, live music, interviews, and features from the archive.
Of course, precautions around COVID-19 played a large part in how it all came together. “If we were going to try to honor our local musicians and our local scene, we needed to make something that would be as safe as possible,” director Terri Pontremoli said by Zoom.
During the month of July, one band per day recorded a short set inside the 600-seat Simon and Rose Mandel Theater on the eastern campus of Cuyahoga Community College. “Because we’re part of a big institution, the COVID safety guidelines were very serious, and the musicians felt really good,” Pontremoli said. “We got them in and out, and kept it all as clean as possible.”
Those sessions proved to be a powerful experience for everyone involved. “I have to tell you, it was so heartwarming to see the musicians play together, because it had been such a long time, and they were so grateful.” She recalled one message that bassist Kip Reed delivered backstage. “He said, ‘Playing means so much to me that I literally dream about it these days.’”