Center City Jazz Festival takes over four venues in one day

Ernest Stuart is putting together the Center City Jazz Festival for the third year. / Provided

Shortly after graduating from Temple University, jazz musician Ernest Stuart packed up his trombone and headed to New York City. Soon he was gigging and touring with groups that veered close to the traditional, straight-ahead style in which he was trained.

But that all changed around 2008 when he was recruited by the Brooklyn-based band Red Baraat, a fusion of North Indian bhangra rhythms with everything from hip-hop to New Orleans jazz.

“They changed my perspective. And I came back to Philly wondering how I was going to incorporate this into what I do — on every level,” says Stuart.
These days his tastes have a global, experimental bent, with a hint of his old school roots for good measure. And he’s finally found a place to bring those eclectic sounds together — at least, for one day.

The third annual Center City Jazz Festival will pop up Saturday, featuring 16 performers at four venues all within five blocks of each other, and all organized and selected by Stuart.

“I just picked stuff that I want to hear,” he says, with a big laugh. “It’s not rocket science. I wanted it to be chaotic — like there’s too much going on at once to totally comprehend. I wanted people to look around at each other and realize how many people want to hear this music.”

The fest’s lineup is a mix of Philly luminaries and NYC scene leaders, from decidedly straight ahead acts, like Mike Kennedy and Tim Warfield, to the experimental leanings of Steve Coleman and the trio Thumbscrew.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that audiences don’t want to overthink things,” says Stuart. “I used to have all these ticket options. Now it’s just one ticket for the whole thing, so everybody can move around and taste a bit of everything.”

Center City Jazz Festival
Saturday, 1-7 p.m.
Chris’ Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St.
Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom St.
Milkboy Philadelphia, 1100 Chestnut St.
Time, 1315 Sansom St.
$15 online, $20 at the door

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