All That Jazz: Annual Event Benefits Arts Council
A perfect way to celebrate the Valentine's Day weekend! That's what area jazz enthusiasts are eagerly anticipating, as the annual Heart 'n Soul of Jazz festival returns to Pinehurst.
The weekend gets under way at the Cardinal Ballroom of the Pinehurst Resort Friday, Feb. 13, with the John Pizzarelli Quartet and vocalist Jessica Molaskey, and continues Saturday, Feb. 14, with the Marcus Belgrave Jazz Experience.
The event, now in its 24th year, benefits the Arts Council of Moore County.
In the elegantly transformed cabaret setting of the Cardinal Ballroom, the John Pizzarelli Quartet and Broadway vocalist Jessica Molaskey appear as the opening night headliners. Husband and wife offstage, the pair have a penchant for the great American songbook that has delighted audiences with their focus on familiar favorites. The New York Times, in a recent review, reported, "The Pizzarelli-Molaskey duo is as good as it gets in any entertainment medium."
Pizzarelli, a jazz guitarist, following in the talented tradition of his father, the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli, is a vocalist and band leader as well, recognized for his dedication to the celebrated classics. Exposed to great jazz from an early age by musicians like Erroll Garner, Les Paul and Django Reinhardt, Pizzarelli began playing with his father at age 20, before going out on his own. He and his band have earned rave reviews, often being compared to jazz icons like Nat "King" Cole, a tribute which he says is the highest of compliments.
Pizzarelli's vocal style meshes flawlessly with that of Jessica Molaskey, a veteran of a dozen Broadway shows, including "Crazy for You," "Les Miserables," "Cats" and "Oklahoma!"
"It's a joy to hear two entertainers who know each other's nuances and 'vibes' so well that they can play off each other," says Jan Schnell, chair of the event.
"Their singing together has a spontaneous quality. And I understand that for this performance they've got some incredible tunes that we haven't heard before."
Schnell says that selecting the guest musicians for the Heart 'n Soul of Jazz programs is an ongoing, year-long process. In the case of John Pizzarelli, she mentions that she was a fan of his father's music, and watched John grow and develop into a fine artist in his own right. She saw him perform at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville a couple of years ago and knew that he would appeal to the Pinehurst audiences.
"I am very careful in choosing the artists who appear in Pinehurst," Schnell says. "I try to bring a unique slant for each night of the festival."
In choosing Marcus Belgrave, she began by looking for a group or an artist who had done a tribute to one or more of the New Orleans jazz musicians.
By talking to agents and searching the Internet, Schnell found Marcus Belgrave, noting that he had been chosen by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to be a part of the Lincoln Center Motor City Jazz Masters tribute. And he is especially known for his unparalleled tribute to Louis Armstrong.
Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who played with Ray Charles, is also a composer, arranger, educator, recording artist and producer. Appearing with him at the Heart 'n Soul of Jazz concert in his seven-person Jazz Experience are multi-talented Charlie Gabriel, who plays tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute, and Leroy Cooper, another original member of the Ray Charles band.
The annual celebration began as a single night event at Southern Pines' Performing Arts Center, now known as the Sunrise Theater. In 1992 it was moved to the Pinehurst Resort and expanded to a weekend event.
Jan Schnell and her husband, Ed, co-chaired the local jazz happening for more than 20 years, until his untimely death 18 months ago.
"Our relationship was so tied in with music, and he loved good jazz," says Jan Schnell. "His many valuable contributions to the festival were reflected in the genuine interest he took in the musicians we met."
Heart 'n Soul of Jazz is one of the commitments of Pinehurst Resort to the Arts Council and to the community, and the Resort is joined by Progress Energy, American Airlines and Belk as the major sponsors of the festival.
Schnell says that the Pinehurst Resort has been an incredible partner over the years and that the entire staff at the hotel plays a key role in the festival's continuing success. .
On both Friday and Saturday evenings, "Meet-the-Artists" receptions round out the festivities. Sponsored by First Bank and Wachovia, the affairs feature a sumptuous dessert buffet, and are held in the Grand Ballroom.
The dcor for the post-performance receptions is enhanced by beautiful Japanese-style red lanterns, suspended from the ceiling. Recently acquired by the hotel for special occasions, they add a dramatic ambience to the occasions.
Pinehurst Resort Executive Chef Thierry Debailleul, together with Executive Pastry Chef Todd Richter, have created a fascinating array of desserts and Irish coffee for the post-performance receptions. Among the delicacies offered will be chocolate fountains, pecan pralines, peach flambe, and strawberry cheesecake ice cream.
Recently appointed to his position, Debailleul brings over 20 years of experience to the Pinehurst culinary team. A native of France, he is a graduate of the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise in Paris, and he has been associated with Michelin-ranked and highly rated restaurants and resorts around the world.
Debailleul has included several showstoppers of his own on the menu offered exclusively for concert ticket holders in the Carolina Dining Room each night.
Only those with ticket in hand can take advantage of the special $35 inclusive special pre-concert dinner seating, which includes three courses of homemade soup and choice of both salad and entre.
On Friday evening, diners can choose between pan-seared salmon, beef top sirloin Diane or a special rotisserie Cornish game hen as their entre. Selections for an entre on Saturday evening are pan-seared Carolina mountain trout, steak au poivre with crispy tobacco onions or grilled pork loin chop with baby Portobello mushroom hash.
Reservations for early seating prior to each evening's 8 p.m. concert can be made now by calling (910) 235-8434. Concert tickets must be presented at the restaurant to receiving special pricing, and can also be purchased in advance at the Pinehurst Resort Services desk.
Pinehurst Resort welcomes Valentine's Weekend guests at a $189 per person per night rate, which includes accommodations, gourmet dinner, a traditional breakfast buffet, a bottle of champagne delivered to your room upon arrival, one ticket of admission to the jazz concert per night's stay, and entrance to the Meet-the-Artists Dessert Reception following the performance.
Reservations for the weekend package may be made by calling 1-800-ItsGolf.
Tickets for the Heart 'n Soul of Jazz individual performances can be purchased by calling the Pinehurst Resort at (910) 235-8415. The $65 ticket (or $110 for both performances) includes the "Meet-the-Artists" dessert buffet and a chance for a door prize.
Lyne's Furniture Gallery is furnishing a $1,000 shopping spree as Friday night's door prize. The winner of the door prize on Saturday night will enjoy a weekend stay at The Homestead, in Hot Springs, Va., provided by Pinehurst Resort.
The proceeds of Heart 'n Soul of Jazz benefit the Arts Council of Moore County, enabling it to continue with its many programs and services.
Jan Schnell questions just how many county residents realize the real value that the Arts Council brings to many facets of community life.
"The Council provides so much for the community -- whether it is through the schools, for the youth and senior citizens, and for all the artists in the area who gain greatly from its presence," she says. "It touches all of us in some way. So come and enjoy an evening or two of great jazz and know that you are doing your part to keep the arts alive and well in Moore County!"
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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