Festival highlights jazz, business

David Martin and Mike Doolin will perform at the Winter Jazz Festival this weekend. Other scheduled performers include Todd Burge and Kung Fu Matsters.

The West Virginia Jazz Society is hosting a Winter Jazz Festival this weekend in Bridgeport, W.Va., titled "The Business of Music."

Starting Thursday at 7 p.m., people can enjoy a free preview event at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Bridgeport.

Bands playing Friday night include C.C. Booker III and Kung Fu Masters.

Eric Spelsberg, coordinator of the Winter Jazz Weekend, was excited to book Dana Leong from Kung Fu Masters.

"I specifically intended to market the Kung Fu Masters, where Dana plays a leading role, to the University community because he bridges cultures," Spelsberg said. "He's half Japanese, half Chinese, connects musical genres and adds a hip, urban element to the traditional jazz grooves."

Spelsberg wants high school and college students to experience and connect with this style of music and the "new young lion of jazz" Dana Leong.

Friday, the doors to the Bridgeport Conference Center will open at 6 p.m. to admit the public.

Groups like the Jenny Wilson Trio, Sean Nowell Quintet and Kung Fu Masters will play at a gourmet dinner session beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The Jenny Wilson Trio, based in Morgantown, performs a wide variety of jazz music and features pianist Jenny Wilson, her husband Nathan Wilson, and drummer Mic Fries.

Mike Doolin and David Martin are guitarists from Portland, Ore., and Charleston, W.Va., respectively.

Martin always looks forward to playing in West Virginia.

"I'm very excited. The people in charge have been great to work with," Martin said. "I am especially excited that Mike will be making the trip all the way out here to play with me from Portland."

Martin also enjoys that jazz music has a growing audience.

"It's really encouraging that this kind of music is gaining in popularity all the time," Martin said.

The Sean Nowell Quartet features tenor saxophonist and composer Sean Nowell. The group performs jazz mixed with blues, gospel and funk.

The Kung Fu Masters will also play Friday.

Todd Burge, the Appalachian Jazz Project and C.C. Booker will perform Saturday.

Burge is a West Virginia native and has played music of almost every genre during his career, from alternative rock to bluegrass.

During the day on Friday and Saturday there will be several workshops patrons can attend.

There will also be events at three different schools where high school and college students can have lunch with and introduce themselves to 60 of the area's business leaders.

Spelsberg thinks this workshop may be interesting for many students.

"The Wingate ‘Too Cool For School' Mentoring and Invitational Student Jam session is a neat thing on Saturday morning," Spelsberg said. "Because it gives selected music students the opportunity to interact closely with the touring jazz professionals as mentorees and as peers playing on stage with them, the same stage and environment as the evening nightclub shows."

Spelsberg was not surprised that this weekend's events have generated so much interest but does make him want to create more long-term goals.

"Our long-term goal is to establish a destination for jazz music fans from all over the eastern United States," Spelsberg said. "Look at a map and you will note that we are located in the middle of the East Coast jazz market, the biggest market for jazz in the world."

The Winter Jazz Weekend is not just for listening to jazz music, but interacting with the business aspect of music and the performers.

For more information about the Winter Jazz Festival or tickets, call the Bridgeport Conference Center at 304-808-3800.