If you're looking for the place to be in town Sunday, look no further than the first annual Easton Jazz Festival at the Easton Community Center gazebo. Rain or shine, over 70 musicians will grace the two stages between 2 and 8 p.m.
"This is all about introducing a summer concert series to the town of Easton," said Gene Leone Sr., a member of the Jazz Guild of Fairfield, who helped organize the free event. The festival will kick off a series of seven concerts this summer.
Leone took the week off from work to build the second stage, which will be used by such artists as Jonathan DuBose Jr. (Harry Connick Jr.'s guitarist), a gospel star who has performed with the likes of Mary J. Blige and Shaka Khan. Broadway singer Michael Jovovich, whom Leone calls an "incarnation on piano of Liberace," Joe Carter, the Bassix Trio, Carl DeVellis, Harold Zinno Jr., Nicole Zuraitis, Peter Valera and Joe Utterback are just a few of the other big names who will perform Sunday. The Jazz Guild of Fairfield County, started by Leone's son, Gene Jr. in 2004, will also perform.
"Our ultimate goal is to try to provide a forum to showcase the area's music," said Leone, who added he hopes that when people hear the musicians, it will open up opportunities for them to play at local restaurants and clubs. "We're trying to show the public the music."
In the spirit of the Newport Jazz Festival, after which the Easton festival is modeled, food will be sold throughout the day. Two pizza booths, Jules Mediterranean Restaurant of Monroe and other vendors will keep the crowds from going hungry. Massage Works of Trumbull will help keep everyone relaxed and happy. The ECC Teen Center will also be open for the day if anyone needs to take a break from the hot weather.
The emcees will be Leone himself, who hosts the "Friday Open Jazz Jam" at Two Boots in Bridgeport, Phil C. Bowler, host of WPKN's "Jazz Adventures."
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