Annual Natchez Bluff Blues Fest kicks off April 29
NATCHEZ — Natchez has the blues, and that is a good thing.
Eric Glatzer, producer of the Natchez Blues Heritage Association and coordinator of Natchez Bluff Blues Fest, said “the blues” was originally called, “chasing the blues away.”
The genre’s title was shortened somewhere along the way.
“People think it’s a depressing sound, but nothing is further from the truth,” Glatzer said. “Blues is a celebration of indomitable spirit of man. We can get over anything no matter what life throws at us.”
This year the Ealey brothers, whose musical legacy goes back a half a century in Natchez, and their contributions to the blues, will be celebrated at the annual Natchez Bluff Blues Festival beginning April 29.
“The fest will be a tribute to the Ealey brothers, a legacy of fine music in Natchez,” Glatzer said. “Out of a family of 11, four were musicians and three are still alive and still impacting blues music.”
The Ealey brothers are featured in a documentary produced and directed for Natchez TV by Glatzer.
“Natchez is a town where people have always enjoyed good music,” Y.Z. Ealey said in the documentary. “Natchez is an inspiration for people to play music. And I think most people expect to hear good music in Natchez.”
A Mississippi Blues Trail marker will be unveiled in honor of the Ealey brothers at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on Broadway.
“Natchez has always had a proud musical heritage,” Glatzer said. “The state is really stepping up to promote Natchez as musical destination, and we are seeing the efforts pay off. Music in Natchez, like old houses, go hand in hand.”
Glatzer said there is a wealth of talent in Natchez.
“Being a river town people can expect good music here,” he said. “The Ealey brothers set the standard.”
The talent performing on the UMB stage during the festival will include “Y.Z.” Ealey and the Natchez Bluff Blues Band, Hezekiah Early, Little Poochie, Harvey Knox, Tommy Polk, Grey Montgomery, Maggie Brown, Stan Smith, Alvin Shelby and the Pilgrim Baptist Church Choir, Changed, Digital Church, Apostle’s Creed, Last Band Standing, 20/20, Wedding Crashers, Vintage Jazz Band and the Blue Haired Mafia.
While the annual festival officially kicks off Friday, April 29, the rhythms will reverberate on both sides of the river throughout the weekend.
On Friday, a free concert featuring two bands and the spring market on the Mississippi will open in the area of Broadway and Main Street by the Natchez Grand Hotel for the Broadway Blues Bash.
“This is our 16th year for the blues fest,” Glatzer said. “I was already doing the flea market in spring, so I thought why not combine them? It worked extremely well last year, and I am expecting more vendors this year.
Glatzer said while some clubs will charge covers to hear live blues, the majority of events, including the market, will be at no cost to the public.
“It’s 25 acts, 30 shows and nine venues in two and a half days,” he said.
The NAPAC Museum has a permanent art exhibit dedicated to the Natchez Blues Fest and will be open all weekend for visitors to stop in.
Saturday’s events will begin at 10 a.m. with bands performing at the United Mississippi Bank stage until 7:30, and well into the night at select clubs.
“Sunday we will have a handful of blues brunches in downtown Natchez,” Glatzer said. “Listening to live music and having brunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon is a great way to wind down the festival.”
Reservations can be made for a number of blues brunches in downtown Natchez at The Natchez Manor, Eola Hotel, Biscuits and Blues or Club 601 and Under-the-Hill Saloon, each featuring regional recipes served up with “The Blues” starting at 11 a.m.
Also at 1 p.m., Sunday, will be a free concert called Mayor Hyram Copeland’s Blues Picnic on the Vidalia Riverfront featuring Mojo Mudd. Red beans and rice will be served with a drink for a $10 donation.
Club and brunch talent will include Li’l Jimmy Reed, Toni O. and Blue Haze, Vintage Jazz Band, Brian Silvis, Donna Schasser, Ronnie Cox and Blues Bayou, Maggie Brown, Darnell Sullivan and 1st Degree, W.J. Squall, Barefoot Tendencies and more.
Glatzer said the blues is the foundation of all modern music.
“It’s a mix of African sound and European instruments developed at end of the last century,” Glatzer said. “It was created in the African American community by people who were illiterate to structured music, but they played what they felt. That broke the mold of rigidly mathematic music and led to a specific formula that has been recreated with every other form of music — a combo of verses and chorus that reoccur.”
Glatzer said that music is the universal language, and the blues is something everyone has in common.
“It’s cliché, but do feel I am from a mission from God,” Glatzer said. “The universal appeal really draws me, and I enjoy producing a blues festival that bring everyone together.”
Glatzer extended an invitation to families across the Miss-Lou to catch the blues.
“Bring everyone out,” Glatzer said. “There is stuff for kids and families to do, and no one is required to do anything but just enjoy themselves. The lyrics touch us all, and you will hear something personal to you.”
The documentary will air Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Natchez TV, Cable One’s channel 9 for anyone who wants to know more about the Ealey brothers.
The Natchez Blues Heritage Association is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit production entity designed to enlighten Miss-Lou about blues heritage. For more information call Glatzer at 601-660-2792.