Famed jazz pianist Gene Harris was a longtime leading figure among America's jazz legends, known for his classic tune, "Ode to Billie Joe." Though Harris died in 2000, the festival created in his name has secured his legacy by bringing great musicians to Boise.
This week, jazz lovers and big band performers reunite once more at the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, now in its 16th year, Wednesday, March 20, and Thursday, March 21.
Jazz education activities, clinics and a roster of live music fill out both days of the festival, centered on a big band theme. That includes performances by 30 big bands made up of Idaho students, playing from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. both days in the Jordan Ballroom of the Student Union Building at Boise State. The Boise State Big Band performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday in the university's Special Events Center.
Visiting performers include trombonist Scott Whitfield and saxophonist Mark Taylor, playing as part of the headlining Gene Harris Festival Superband. Whitfield hails from Los Angeles and has worked with big bands, including the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra. Taylor, who lives in Seattle, has played for audiences across the United States and Japan. Both join other members of the Superband at 8 p.m. Thursday, performing rarely heard charts from the Gene Harris Superband library.
Just $15 nets jazz fans a one-day all-event pass, available from the festival's website. Parking in the nearby Lincoln Garage is free with festival tickets.