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Annual Jazz Festival Comes to Easton

EASTON, Conn. – For Gene Leone, jazz music is an addiction. He gets his fix not as a musician but by providing more than 250 young jazz musicians with an opportunity to play with professionals and before live audiences.

"We hear the same songs over and over again. What makes it addicting is the musician performing. They create an idea in their mind and express it. In that expression – you can get high – as I do," said Leone.

The second annual Easton Jazz/Music Festival will be Aug. 28 from noon to 7 p.m. on Pond Field. Last year, the event drew nearly 1,500 people and 70 professional musicians performed. This year, Leone expects nearly 100 musicians. The Easton Village Store will provide food, and an art show will feature local artists. Ice cream will be served, and vendors will sell items such as T-shirts.

Two stages will feature non-stop music. So, bring a beach chair and blanket, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. The event is free to the public. It is a rain or shine event, so bring an umbrella. There will also be tents with chairs.

The event will also feature blues, rhythm and blues, gospel and funk genres. Headliners include Howard Alden, who performed all of the solo parts in the film "Sweet and Low Down." Tuffus Zimbabawe, the house pianist for "Saturday Night Live," will also perform, as well as Warren Chaison, a top vibraphone player.

Leone had taken his son to the Newport Jazz Festival since he was an infant. At the age of 14, his son told him he wanted to play jazz in a band. In 2004, Leone and his son, Gene Jr., started the Fairfield County Jazz Guild.

"We wanted to get very proficient young musicians together an enable them to meet and network – to make friends and connect with people who share common interests," said Leone.

Members of the jazz guild perform at Two Boots in Bridgeport from 6 to 8:30 p.m. each Saturday and at O Bar and Grill in Trumbull from noon to 3 p.m. each Sunday. In the fall and spring, a program is offered at the Easton Community Center for musicians to learn songs on the jazz guild's playlist and perform with the guild.

"Every so often, I meet a kid who had something given to him by God – this music thing – either born with or it able to nurture it," said Leone. "I feel so lucky, every once in a while, to uncover that treasure/jewel of a talented person – and I want to share that talent with the public."

Did you attend last year's jazz festival? What did you think? Leave your comments below.

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