By Chris Barylick
For the Diamondback
On a warm, breezy spring Sunday, the first ever College Park Jazz Fest took place at The Hall CP. The event, a collaboration between The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and The Hall CP, followed months of successful Jazz Jam events in which people interested in playing had come out and performed for audiences.
Hart GP Jazz opened the event, led by graduate student Hart Guonjian-Pettit. The group played several songs before transitioning to an open jam, in which the band invited others who had brought their own instruments.
Guonjian-Pettit defined it as “a way in which you learn, any jazz musician learns, that’s kind of like a method to go through learning this music.”
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From there, D.C.’s Crush Funk Brass Band took the stage, bringing a brass and drum-driven beat that caught the audience up in its energy and had people dancing where they stood. The band tore through their setlist, infusing a classic New Orleans feel with an energetic funk element prior to jumping off the stage and mixing into the audience while playing their instruments during a rendition of “When the Saints Come Marching In”.
The Julieta Eugenio Trio was next. The group, which seemed far more stripped down than the other acts of the day, opened soulfully and energetically.
Though less energy-driven than the Crush Funk Brass Band that had preceded them, the group drew continuous cheers with their warm, exploratory renditions that included incredible drum and bass combinations. The event turned into a slow, relaxed afternoon with the band playing on stage while kids ran around, playing pickleball, cornhole and drawing with chalk on the outdoor concrete.
Capping the event off, the JoGo Project, led by Elijah Jamal Balbed, took the stage and came out wailing with an incredible combination of brass and drums. The group kicked into high gear with a wandering, soulful sound and a perfect fusion of jazz with the legendary bass-driven D.C. gogo sound that makes the neighbors complain and the windows vibrate.
The end result had most of the audience on their feet and dancing. The JoGo Project blended in a reggae element with Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” before moving on to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)” and George Clinton’s “We Want the Funk” in a continuous stream of songs that flowed into each other and added both gogo and hip-hop influences as well.
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Despite being the inaugural year for the College Park Jazz Fest, the turnout was excellent.
250 people showed up to the event, said Alexandra Dreisch, director of events and media at The Hall CP and one of the managing partners of the operation.
Dreisch added that she’d like to see the event grow.
“I think it’d be [cool to see] maybe some bigger names, bigger acts. Not that the local bands aren’t amazing,” Dreisch said. “But you know, we would love to be able to showcase, with the space, some national acts that are really well recognized, just so we can bring a lot more attention to the area.”
“For College Park, because we’re so close to D.C. and Baltimore, which are two incredible storied music communities, for jazz and otherwise, it can be hard to carve out your own niche and your own identity,” said Austin Sposato, artistic planning coordinator of music at The Clarice. “[There are] tens of thousands of other residents of College Park, Greenbelt and the surrounding areas, and those people deserve to have music that isn’t a 40-minute car ride in traffic away.”