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Richmond jazz festival returns to Maymont

Three women stand at microphones with their back to the camera while performing outdoors on a stage.
Darryl Wingo
For the Richmond Jazz and Music Festival
Vocalists perform during an earlier iteration of the Richmond Jazz and Music Festival.

Vocalist Chaka Khan is headlining the fest's first event since 2019.

The Richmond Jazz and Music Festival hasn’t been held since 2019. But this weekend at Maymont, a raft of performers ranging from vocalist Chaka Khan to keyboardist Robert Glasper are set to perform.

VPM News Editor Dave Cantor recently chatted with Whitney White, who helped organize the festival for local marketing company JMI.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Dave Cantor: This is the first year that the festival's come back since the pandemic. Can you kind of walk me through hitting pause in 2020 — and how it was rebooted this year?

White: In 2020, we were holding out, like many of the other festivals that had gone through the preparation process. And we're teeing up for that 2020 festival performance and we held out as long as we could, of course, before making the announcement that we weren't going to be having that year's festival.

It did hurt our hearts a little bit to have to take this event that we know people were looking forward to. But of course, we were thinking about the safety of our patrons, our music lovers. And so, we just made the responsible decision to hit pause.

But now, it's been three years and here we are, we're back. This is our 11th year doing the Richmond Jazz and Music Festival. We know this has been something that people have been waiting for; we definitely see it as a key piece to the summertime experience here.

The event’s full name is the "Richmond Jazz and Music Festival." So, how are you looking at definitions of “jazz” and “music” here? We're differentiating between genre, I guess.

One thing about jazz that we can attribute to it is the fact that it's the foundation for a lot of different music genres. That was something that we always acknowledged as we were putting on the festival.

Us being a jazz festival — having some New Orleans–style brass bands, bringing in some R&B, bringing in smooth jazz — we understood the extension that jazz makes into those other genres. But just in case there was any kind of confusion from any of our patrons — or maybe those on the fence, trying to decide if they wanted to attend the festival — we wanted to make it just a bit clearer.

Is there someone you’re excited about seeing at the festival?

Actually, I am very excited to see [percussionist] Pedrito Martinez. I say that because I just love Latin beats. He's a Cuban bandleader, and it just is pretty amazing when you hear all of the horns.

It reminds me of some of my memories [from] high school with marching band. One of our shows one year was based on the Latin music culture. … Then also, I spent a little bit of time in Miami. And so my two years while I was down there, I felt like I was able to get really immersed in the music culture there — there's a large Cuban culture presence there. And so, when I hear Pedrito, it takes me back to those moments.

Updated: August 11, 2023 at 10:43 AM EDT
A reference to performers in the opening paragraph was changed following an artist cancellation.
Dave Cantor has been an editor with VPM News since 2022, juggling daily digital and broadcast stories.