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Rootabaga Showcases the Many Moods of Jazz

T.J. Carson
Matuto jazzed the crowd at the Fat Fish Pub, playing an upbeat style that people danced and clapped to.

The Knox Rootabaga Jazz Festival celebrated its 36th edition this year. And it used the opportunity to showcase styles that you might not immediately consider when you think of jazz.

“It’s kinda like when you talk about classical music and Mozart is a lot different than Beethoven, who’s a whole lot different than say the minimalists of the 1980’s. So jazz has become a term that means a lot of different things different people,” said Festival Director Nikki Malley, who's also Director of the Knox Jazz Ensemble.

The Friday night show at the Fat Fish Pub featured the Knox Alumni Big Band followed by headline act Matuto.  Matuto’s high-energy songs featuring global influences got the crowd clapping and dancing as they played late into the night.

The jazz festival continued Saturday night at the historic Orpheum Theater with performances by the Knox Jazz Ensemble and headliner Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band.

Malley said Rootabaga is like a Senior Night for her ensemble and she chooses pieces to showcase her top performers.

As for Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, Malley said the band features loose improvisations that have Southern American influences.

“The pieces kind of develop and transform over time. A lot of it is really mellow and reflective music, which I think surprises people when they think of a band that’s lead by a drummer. You think it’s going to be loud and fast the whole time, and he can go there. But, nothing about that band is meant to kind of showcase what virtuosos they are. It’s all this real subtle, beautiful stuff,” Malley said.

Next year’s Knox Rootabaga Jazz Festival is scheduled for April 6-8.