You won't find many high-end music events that offer free admission, but the Savannah Jazz Festival is one of those rare exceptions.
The Coastal Jazz Association will present the 33rd annual Savannah Jazz Festival from Sept. 21-27 and won't charge a dime. Not for the concerts, not for the movie night, not for any other events.
"By popular demand, we are going to kick off the first three nights at Habersham Village," says festival co-founder Teddy Adams, a CJA Hall of Fame trombonist. "We'll move to B&D Burgers on Wednesday, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we'll be at Forsyth Park."
Thursday night's headliner will be Shemekia Copeland.
"She's pretty big in the blues," Adams says. "The headliner Friday is Renee Marie and her trio. On Saturday, we have the Coastal Jazz Association Hall of Fame Savannah All Stars.
"We're inducting four people into the Hall of Fame this year," Adams says. "They are Dr. Julius 'Boo' Hornstein, Dr. Randall Reese, Delbert Felix and Eric Vaughn."
Atlanta vocalist Audrey Shakir also will perform Sept. 27, as will saxophonist Don Braden.
"In the finale, Jon Faddis will be featured with the Savannah Jazz Orchestra," Adams says.
The lineup for this year's festival is exceptional, says Howard Paul, a CJA Hall of Fame guitarist and president and CEO of Benedetto Guitars.
"We've got about 20 acts or more," Paul says. "One of our biggest headliners is Jon Faddis. He is one of the premier jazz trumpeters and has been for many, many years.
"He is a brilliant, brilliant trumpet player, one of the greats," Paul says. "We've had him here before."
Don Braden also is headlining.
"He runs the jazz program at Harvard University and is a Harvard graduate," Paul says. "He also teaches at Patterson University in New Jersey and teaches in Europe at a conservatory,
"He's had a very prolific recording career and has done extensive work with the Lincoln Center," Paul says. "He's a world-class saxophone player, and we are delighted to have him, as well."
As always, local musicians will take part in the festival.
"We have three schools participating this year, including the Savannah Country Day School Jazz Band, the Savannah Arts Academy Skylite Jazz Band and the Armstrong Jazz Ensemble, all in conjunction with our friends at the Habersham Village shops," Paul says.
"Last year was the first time we did the festival at Habersham Village and we tried to make it more of a family oriented destination," he says. "I think everyone was very happy and enthusiastic, and I think it was very well received by both the merchants and attendees."
In addition to concerts, the festival offers after-festival jam sessions and fun activities.
"Every day is something fun and different," Paul says.
One popular event, Movie Night, has been moved to B&D Burgers in City Market.
"We'll be able to use their outdoor projector and broadcast the movie in a large-screen format," Paul says. "The movie this year is called 'Killer B3: A Documentary About the Hammond Organ.'
"The Hammond organ came out around the late 1950s. It was originally designed to be a portable organ.
"It was mostly for inner-city churches and cities that couldn't afford a big organ," he says. "In the late 1950s and early '60s, it became one of the quintessential jazz sounds."
The film was written and produced by Murv Seymour, who will be at the screening to answer questions.
"We're bringing Doug Carn up from Florida and he's going to have an organ trio performing just before we show the movie," Paul says. "Doug is one of the great names in jazz organ."
The after-festival jam sessions traditionally on the final Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be at Rancho Alegre restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
"Juan Rodriguez Bustamante is the owner of Rancho Alegre and he has been a huge proponent of jazz for several years, with live music every Friday and Saturday night at his restaurant," Paul says. "We are delighted to have him again offer his restaurant for our sessions."
The Savannah Jazz Festival is regarded very highly by musicians.
"It's not hard to get them here, but it's hard to get money to bring them," Adams says. "There's an abundance of jazz musicians out there, but it's harder for the organization to raise money to bring them.
"Ours is one of the few remaining free jazz festivals in the country. The staff is all voluntary.
"It's an uphill battle to raise money," he says. "We ask for sponsorships and sell ads in the program booklet."
Major sponsors this year include Benedetto Guitars, TailsSpin and Magic Marc.
"The city of Savannah is our main sponsor," Adams says. "It gives 50 percent toward the cost of the festival.
"We ask for more money, but I'm sure they're doing what they can. None of the events cost admission.
"We draw international audiences," he says. "We're not a large festival, but we have had high quality artists for several years. People who have followed us for several years know that."
New members and donations are always welcome.
"We could do a much better job of raising awareness and raising money if we had more help," Paul says. "People can find us at our web page, www.savannahjazzfestival.org."
The festival began in 1982 after a jazz appreciation class was presented.
"The late Ben Tucker and I taught the class at Armstrong," Adams says. "After the class was over, everyone said, 'Let's get together and form a listening group.'
"We'd get together periodically and bring some music in. Within a year, we put on the first festival, a one-day festival at Grayson Stadium.
"We started a two-day festival and over the years, it's expanded to a week-long festival," he says. "During this period, we brought in some of the biggest names in jazz and it never was a paid event."
Adams hopes the festival will be continued for years to come.
"This is the 33rd festival, but the 32nd year," he says. "We did two the year the Olympics were in Atlanta.
"The yachting competition was held in Savannah, so we put on an early festival with Ray Charles. The city gave us more money to do the regular festival in September.
"That's why there were 33 festivals in 32 years," he says. "We work hard at it and we plan to perpetuate it."