June 20, 2018
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NYC musician takes top bill at jazz festival

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

HOPE, Maine — “Jazz not war.”

That’s the message broadcast by the Hope Jazz Festival’s Jazzmobile, a 1963 Chrysler Imperial parked on Route 1 and customized with a make-believe weapon: a plane’s wing fuel tank perched rocketlike on top.

The car is an attention-getter for the third annual festival, which takes place Saturday. Kathy Swift, this year’s president of Hope for Jazz, the group behind the festival, said people like to straddle the rocket as a photo opportunity, but the slogan has a deeper meaning for her husband, Andy Swift.

“His dad was in the Air Force in World War II. He did 30 bombing missions over Japan,” Swift said. “The way he would unwind was to listen to jazz. And that’s really what the message is. It’s not a statement against war. It’s more: We’d rather be playing music than going to war.”

There will be ample opportunity at the daylong festival to play and listen to jazz, a genre of music that Swift says is often underrepresented in Maine. Attendees will be in for a treat, she said, as the artistic director this year is musician Paavo Carey of Skowhegan. Carey’s quintet will back up the headliner, New York City-based vocalist Deborah Davis, at Saturday night’s concert at the Camden Opera House. He also will play during the day with his quartet at the outdoor festival at True Park.

“Paavo’s the son of a very famous jazz musician,” Swift said. “He’s amazingly talented and a really great guy.”

Other musicians featured at True Park will include the Matt Fogg Project, a 10-piece funk-jazz band, and Mary Anne Driscoll of Belfast, who plays piano jazz of many stripes — avant-garde, experimental and what Swift calls “regular.”

“We want to give people a little taste of everything,” she said.

The festival has made some major changes this year after founder Chris Rogers stepped down.

“People from the community were saying, ‘Don’t let it die, don’t let it die,’” Swift said. “We took some of the people from the group last year, brought in some other people, reorganized and applied for nonprofit status. We’re keeping it going.”

One change is to hold the headline event at the opera house. Last year, it rained too much to hold the headliner at the park, so the festival crammed into the Hope Library. Although the fire chief had to avert his eyes because the library was filled well beyond capacity, she said, the venue did have its charms.

“People loved that show in the library,” she said. “It was a real intimate, close-up show with a real artist.”

The Camden Opera House is the kind of venue that can replicate that feeling, Swift said, and keep what’s most important to her about the festival.

“It’s a great sense of community,” she said.

The Hope Jazz Festival starts at noon Saturday, July 25, at True Park in Hope. Tickets are $15, and children under 12 are free if attending with their parents. The evening performance by Deborah Davis starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Camden Opera House. Tickets are $20. For more information, go to www.hopejazzfestival.com.

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