Chestertown Jazz Festival Weekend 2016


Mel Rapelyea’s Chestertown Jazz Festival has collaborated with The Mainstay’s new director Rory Trainor, with the Blues Series at the Garfield Center for the Arts, and with Crow Vineyards to ensure that jazz and blues lovers can fill their souls with great music and get a chance to fill their bellies with quality local food and wine, from Thursday through Sunday, September 8 to 11. Click for tickets.

Rapelyea and his jazz festival board are calling the fall extravaganza a Four-by-Four—four days of music in four Kent County venues, chock-full of headliners.

“I’ve been dreaming of expanding beyond a one-day jazz festival in Wilmer Park for years,” says Rapelyea, “and this year it’s finally happened.”

The superb percussionist Chuck Redd, who always wows audiences on the vibraphone, will be back at The Mainstay, teaming with La Lucha, a Latin-leaning jazz trio to kick off the Four-by-Four on Thursday, September 8th.

On Friday, the Sherman Holmes Project with Brooks Long will rock the Garfield Center to its rafters with the soul, blues and gospel that won the group “Band of the Year” honors from The Blues Foundation.

Then, on Saturday, hundreds of Rapelyea fans from all over the Eastern Shore and from DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia, will descend on Wilmer Park ahead of the Jazz Festival’s opening act at noon on Saturday so they can place their lawn chairs in a good spot in the tent. There will be local food vendors in the park, along with Crow Winery and a beer truck, so festival-goers will be able to enjoy the entire day. It will be Dr. Rapelyea’s 16th jazz festival, and he never disappoints.

Vocalist Lena Seikaly will open the Jazz Festival, using her rich, powerful voice to give the audience a gift of vintage jazz standards. Still in her twenties, Seikaly has earned an excellent reputation in and around DC. The Washington Post called her “one of the local jazz scene’s most promising performers.”

Classically trained jazz violinist Gregor Huebner and his Charanga Band will take the Jazz Festival stage next, showing off Huebner’s brilliant Cuban- and Brazilian-jazz compositions. This will be a return engagement for the German-born violinist and pianist who now makes his home in New York City. It will be his first time in Chestertown since releasing his CD, “El Violin Latino-vol 2.”

Next up will be “the master of vocalese and certainly not your everyday jazz singer,” according to Rapelyea, Giacamo Gates, who will be returning to The Chestertown Jazz Festival for the fifth time in 20 years. When he last appeared by the Chester River, Gates had just released “Miles Tones,” a CD of Miles Davis songs, and last summer he released “Everything is Cool.” Says Rapelyea, “Gates is surely one of the coolest that has sung from our stage.”

The Jazz Festival’s final act on Saturday, as the sun heads toward the horizon, “will pull everyone from their seats,” predicts Rapelyea. “Greg Hatza rocks one of the meanest Hammond B3 organs in the Mid-Atlantic. He’s influenced by Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Ray Charles and Johnny Hammond Smith, and he’s one of today’s premiere Hammond B3 organ players.”

On Sunday, Crow Winery will host its second all-day Crowfest, from 11 to 5, at the Crow Vineyard and farm in Kennedyville. Philip Dutton and The Alligators will add a range of music to the fun, offering everything from Cajun to Zydeco to funk.

Rapelyea says Mainstay founder Tom McHugh and Kent County Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Raimond have been urging him to connect the Jazz Festival with other venues to turn the stand-alone event into part of something bigger, and when he approached The Mainstays new director Rory Trainor, thing started to click.

“The Mainstay is very excited to have an official partnership with the Chestertown Jazz Festival,” said Trainor. “Both the Mainstay and the Jazz Festival have been bringing incredible jazz to the county for years, and together, this year, we get to bring a very special project in Chuck Redd and La Lucha, a show that The Mainstay would not be able to make happen on its own.”

Chuck Redd has been a top-tier performer for many years, and has played with scores of big-name musicians, including Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, Dizzy Gillepsie, Mel Torme, Tomme Flanagan and Monty Alexander. His collaboration with La Lucha, a trio of best friends from Colombia, Mexico and the U.S., is relatively new. Trainor says the Tampa-St. Petersburg-based La Lucha has extensive national and international performance experience, including the Umbria (Italy) Jazz Festival, and he’s looking forward to hearing Redd blend his sound with their jazz standards and the Latin-inspired rhythms.

Tickets for Chuck Redd and La Lucha can be purchased from The Mainstay by calling 410-639-9133.

Tickets for the Sherman Holmes Project, the blues concert on Friday as well as for the Jazz Festival in Wilmer Park on Saturday can be obtained online at or by calling the Garfield Center at 410-810-2060. The advance individual event ticket price for the jazz Festival is $25; the price at the gate is $30. Students with an ID pay $15 and children under 12 are free. There’s more information on the Jazz Festival’s Facebook page.

The Crowfest on September 11 will run from 11 am to 5 pm and admission is $12 per person in advance and $15 on Sunday. Admission includes a complimentary wine glass and tastings. Call 302-304-0551 for details and for information about a VIP pass. The Crow website is

Listen for interviews, updates and samples on WPFW in Washington, D.C. and WEAA in Baltimore.
Organizers remind you to bring chairs and umbrellas as it’s a rain or shine event. Please leave your pets at home.

Sponsors: Special thanks to the Chestertown Jazz Festival sponsors, including The Hedgelawn Foundation, The Kent County Arts Council, and the numerous individual and corporate underwriters and those who have donated in-kind support to help revive the Chestertown Jazz Festival!