OGDEN — All that jazz might finally begin getting the recognition it deserves around here.
A little over 21 years ago, a new concert series called Jazz in the Skyroom got its start in a banquet room at Weber State University. Local jazz musicians would get together and play the music they love to small, appreciative audiences.
Eventually, the monthly jazz concerts moved to Ogden’s Union Station and were re-christened Jazz at the Station.
These days, the free monthly shows play to what is almost always a standing-room-only crowd. And now, the small series is taking a giant leap this week with the first Heritage Jazz Festival.
Caril Jennings, who founded Jazz in the Skyroom and is now co-producer — with her son Benjamin Jennings — of the popular Jazz at the Station, has put together an entire afternoon/evening of jazz that will be performed in the heart of the city’s three-day Heritage Festival 150th Anniversary. The street festival will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday on Historic 25th Street in downtown Ogden.
“Our Heritage Jazz Festival is nestled in the middle of that festival,” Jennings said.
Music begins at 1 p.m. Friday on the Heritage Festival 150’s main stage at Grant Avenue and Historic 25th Street. The jazz will continue through 9 p.m. that evening.
The schedule for Friday’s jazz fest includes:
• 1 p.m. — Ogden High School and Mount Ogden Junior High School Jazz Ensembles will
• 2 p.m. Davinci Jazz Ensemble
• 3 p.m. METRO, made up of members of the WSU Jazz Ensemble
• 4 p.m. — Jazz Jam, a student jam session
• 4:30 p.m. — (Intermission)
• 6 p.m. — Lars Yorgason Singers, a Manhattan Transfer-style local vocal jazz group
• 7 p.m. — Joe McQueen Quartet and Friends
The jazz fest will feature a combination of young jazz musicians and local professionals. And while everyone will enjoy music from the professionals, Jennings said she thinks people will be pleasantly surprised by the music produced by the young students.
“These kids are excited to play on a stage,” she said. “And the audience eats them up, because they’re just so darn cute.”
The Jazz Jam should also be interesting, according to Jennings, with those young students who are brave enough invited to join some of the faculty members on stage for 30 minutes of mostly improvised music.
“That’s how jazz works,” Jennings said. “You meet strangers, and you make music with them.”
Jennings said Friday’s event is part of a week of jazz music that started on Monday with Don Keipp’s Crosstown Big Band playing at the free Excellence in the Community concert series at Peery’s Egyptian Theater and will conclude this Saturday night with the free Jazz Arts Celebration 2019. This last event will feature the Salt Lake City big band Night Star Jazz Orchestra playing a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Ogden High School auditorium, 2828 Harrison Blvd.
When officials first started talking about the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, Jennings was there to put in a good word for jazz.
“When they started talking about this sesquicentennial stuff, I attended a public meeting and told them, ‘I’d like to make sure if you’re talking about the history of Weber County that you also talk about jazz.”
Because jazz, Jennings insists, was an integral part of the development of Ogden — and a key component in helping to desegregate the town’s 25th Street.
Jennings hopes to make her Heritage Jazz Festival an annual event, held in conjunction with Union Station’s yearly Heritage Festival.
“In some ways I’m a missionary for jazz,” Jennings said. “I don’t play, I’m not an expert, but I just love jazz. Classical I love, too, but jazz is playful — it’s a lot freer.”