JazzFest on Jackson Avenue to bring authentic beats and foot traffic to local businesses

Knoxville businesses along West Jackson Avenue will team up for the first annual JazzFest on Jackson, a fresh music festival concept intended to bring locals to the other side of the Old City.

The free, family-friendly music and art celebration will take place along West Jackson Avenue on Sunday, April 26, from 12-7 p.m. Festival goers will enjoy an authentic and diverse lineup of American roots-inspired jazz, blues, soul and R&B music from local and national performers, along with food, drink and art.

“The road closings have impacted all of the businesses on West Jackson Avenue, and we decided to get creative,” said Chris Ford, owner of Sweet P’s Downtown Dive. “We started by talking about how to bring the community together, and a festival just made sense. We love a block party, and the best thing to pair with really good local food and drink is really good music.”

The festival will encourage people to visit the area of West Jackson Avenue affected by ongoing construction. The cobblestone Jackson Avenue ramps and adjacent sidewalk are being replaced, as is the Broadway Avenue viaduct, and the businesses are bracketed by both projects. The Downtown Knoxville Alliance has installed pedestrian-friendly messages, sidewalk directionals and a long fence screen with large icons to direct foot traffic.

While JazzFest will debut to help the businesses, the festival founders know the music will speak for itself.

“We’ve all talked about wanting a different kind of music experience in Knoxville,” said Ford, who was the lead singer for the Knoxville-based band Gran Torino and is now a proprietor of a nationally acclaimed barbecue restaurant. “Think about that New Orleans flavor; it’s jazz, but it’s also blues and R&B. It’s unpretentious and approachable, and there is something for everyone.”

The event grew from the idea of a concert to a full festival with seven hours of music, art exhibitions and an interactive kids’ area. The event will be annual, and the festival’s founders plan to expand upon the 2020 footprint.

Live music will be held at three locations along West Jackson Avenue, including Sweet P’s outdoor Trailer Park space and The Standard, along with a main stage, beer garden and food in the adjacent parking lot.

Additional activities include a jazz brunch at Balter Beerworks, a unique cocktail experience at Knox Whiskey Works, an art market located in the Sanders Pace Architecture parking lot and food and beverage tents near the stages.

Other supporters of the festival include Dogwood Arts, Downtown Knoxville Alliance, Lipman Brothers, Morris Creative Group and Status Serigraph.

A portion of the festival’s proceeds will be donated to BreastStrokes, a nonprofit combining women’s empowerment and art to provide financial support to cancer patients during treatment.

For more information and artist announcements, visit www.jazzfestonjackson.com.