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Cherokee music festival fights the winter blues with blues

Hector Anchondo


Jim Adamson, a volunteer with the Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival, paid more attention to rock ‘n’ roll when he was growing up.

“I’m old,” he said. “I’m 73. I graduated high school in 1961 so I remember rock ’n’ roll names like Bill Haley and the Comets; the Beach Boys; the Beatles; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — just working my way along and learning what is out there. When RJ Baker started this festival in 1992, he came up here from the Kansas City area and helped recruit musicians from Kansas City. That opened me up more than I had been opened up to that music before. It was new to me even then.”

For being someone so involved in the Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival, taking place on Friday and Saturday, it may come as a surprise the Adamson was a latecomer to the jazz scene, but once he heard the swinging rhythm and sweet harmony, he became an active listener.

“I think it was the lively music, the full range of music because it can be mellow and soft and quiet, and it can be upbeat and fast, like a rock ‘n’ roll tune. It runs the full range,” he said. “It’s been with us for generations.”

Part of the Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival focuses on inspiring the next generation of listeners.

“One thing I’ve noticed for years — you know, this is our 17th festival — consistently, these professional musicians are generous with others who are getting started and would like to join in on stage,” Adamson said. “They’re very generous with them and encourage them, welcome them to join in with them so it’s fun.”

Hector Anchondo, a blues musician from Omaha, Nebraska, will be leading a Jam Session from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Gathering Place. Young and emerging musicians will be invited to perform on stage with the pros.

The two-day festival also includes performances by alternative-folk singer-songwriter Damon Dotson, roots and country singer-songwriter Chad Elliott, modern country rock artist Shane Martin and Australian singer-songwriter Harper, who’s known for playing roots music mixed with the haunting drone of the didgeridoo.

The Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival wraps up on Saturday night with a big band dance, featuring music by the Mearl Lake Orchestra.

“You see people that have been together as couples for years. They get out there on the dance floor. They move as one. They’ve been doing these dances for years. It’s fun to watch them gracefully move around the dance floor,” Adamson said. “I’m pleased that my hometown has this event.”

More information about the festival can be found online at cherokeejazzbluesfestival.com.

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