BARRY COURTER: Lisa, did you know Bessie Smith was almost as well respected in jazz circles as she was in blues circles? That’s partly because there was a little more crossover between the two genres back in the day, but primarily because she was just a great vocalist. A bit on the randy side sometimes, but so are you, so that’s OK by me.
LISA DENTON: High road. Low road. I just enjoy the ride. Besides, I’m proud to claim any comparison to the “Empress of the Blues.”
Imagine what Chattanooga’s music scene would be like if she were still alive. Shane Morrow is trying to capture some of that glory with his monthlong Jazzanooga festival, and I’m really amazed by the depth and breadth of the events he’s put together. Today, for instance, starts the Boulevard Hub, a community listening lab at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
BARRY: I got to spend some time with Morrow, and he’s just a regular guy who wanted to do this. It is an ambitious schedule, and the Bessie is a good place to start. There is also a photo exhibit there, and on Friday they will host JazzReach featuring the Metta Quintet. It’s the resident ensemble of the JazzReach Performing Arts & Education Association, a nationally renowned outreach program that has been around since 1997.
The quintet will be doing some stuff with school kids that day, then performing at 6:30 p.m. at the cultural center. It’s all part of the Big Nine Jazz Series, a subset of the overall Jazzanooga program designed to bring music and people back to The Big Nine as M.L. King Boulevard was once known.
On Sunday, Barking Legs will host Gospel Meets Jazz as part of the festival as well. Those are just the events this week.
LISA: Even without all the Jazzanooga events, April is looking to be a busy month. This coming weekend, we can go to the Association for Visual Arts’ 4 Bridges Arts Festival at First Tennessee Pavilion, see a production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre or “Titanic: The Musical” at the Tivoli Theatre, get ready for spring planting at the Master Your Garden expo at Camp Jordan or the Spring Plant Sale and Festival at Crabtree Farms, borrow a Beetle for Bug-a-Paluza at Camp Jordan or be first in line for the opening of Lake Winnepesaukah.
BARRY: Yowsa, that’s a lot of stuff. We will definitely visit 4 Bridges, and Bug-a-Paluza is a lot of fun. You get to see bugs and hippie vans in all kinds of repair and disrepair. They bring tricked-out ones and some that need a lot of love. It’s entertaining just to go and walk around and talk to the owners.
LISA: My Aunt Tee had a Bug when I was a kid. That would have been back in the late ’60s, early ’70s, when beehives were big, so to speak. She needed that rounded top to fit her hair in. I can still remember the sound of all that power in the engine (ha ha) and the speeds she buzzed around in it. It was a fun ride.
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Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354. Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...
Lisa Denton is deputy features editor and content editor of Current. She previously was a lifestyle, entertainment and region reporter/pod leader for The Chattanooga Times, which she joined in 1983. Lisa is from Sale Creek and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from Chattanooga State Community College. Contact Lisa at 423-757-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.