About four years ago, East End Arts Council Executive Director Patricia Snyder decided the North Fork’s Winter Festival could use a little more pizzazz, so she and the Executive Director of the Long Island Wine Council, Steve Bates, turned what appeared to be a general plea for winter tourism on Long Island’s East End into a month long celebration of international music and local wines called “Jazz on the Vine.”
What Jazz on the Vine has become since its inception is a free world-class jazz festival featuring the music of Grammy nominated and award winning performers such as stride-piano player Judy Carmichael, South African bass guitarist Bakithi Kumalo and Brazilian bassist Nilson Matta. One that has succeeded in luring both musicians and audiences from all over Long Island and New York City.
The popularity of the festival once it became jazz-focused has surpassed even the festivals expectations. Snyder explains “The Winter Festival was just moderately successful, but once we decided to ramp up the program by including live music it turned around immediately. We had a 400% increase in attendance the very first year we made it a jazz festival.”
When asked why Snyder chose jazz as the key ingredient in the East End’s Winterfest programming she responded, “The reality of jazz is that it is so diverse and so broad that people can go to the schedule and find something that appeals to them whether its Dixieland jazz or more improvisational modern jazz.”
Snyder believes Jazz on the Vine’s continually growing success is due to “the amazing local talent” on the East End as well as the competition among additional international musicians vying for spots in Jazz on the Vine’s diverse music program.
Carmichael, an East End resident, whom among other things has a radio show on Sirius satellite radio’s NPR Now and a non-profit called Jazz-inspired, which was set up to bring professional musicians into public schools, relates that her show last year at the Wölffer Estate in Sagaponak was so popular that over a hundred people had to be turned away. “It was so magical. Everyone came dressed up to the show and there was snow on the ground. It was just an incredible venue.” She enthuses.
This year’s festival, which will take place from February 12 through March 30, will include several favorite performers from previous years such as the Michael Jazz Trio, whom the festival’s de facto music director Steve Bard refers to “as a wonderful group of very professional youngsters” (they are in fact children), and Stony Brook University’s Jazz Director Steve Salerno on Django Reinhardt inspired jazz guitar. He also hopes to continue including the Latin-influenced jazz music he has grown to love through his work with the Latino community on Long Island.
However there isn’t a completed list of this year’s performers published yet therefore Bard, who is not only the music director but also an East End Arts Council Board member and jazz connoisseur, refers interested parties to the program’s website, which will be continually updated with the latest performers and their venues this winter. liwinterfest.com.