Home Featured Events West Georgia Jazz Festival is this weekend in Villa Rica

West Georgia Jazz Festival is this weekend in Villa Rica

Photo courtesy bigsamsfunkynation.com

Jazz is the one American art form that is enjoyed by people of all tastes; those who enjoy a sophisticated blend of improvised melodies to those who just like a rockin’ good time.

The many flavors of jazz – Dixieland, New Orleans, modern among them – will be flowing from The Mill amphitheater in downtown Villa Rica this weekend as the West Georgia Jazz Festival swings into town on April 30.

The rain-or-shine event will feature four acts and will begin at 4 p.m. at the amphitheater, located at 106 Temple Street.  The event is free, but reserved seating is still available and can be obtained at freshtix.com .

This is the fifth year for the Jazz Festival, which was launched in 2016 but was cancelled during the pandemic year of 2020. The headliner for this year’s festival is Big Sam’s Funky Nation, whose New Orleans style epitomizes what the event’s organizers envisioned when the Festival first began in 2016.

It was that year that a citywide survey of residents revealed a desire for a more diverse blend of musical performances in town. So, instead of the mainstay west Georgia sounds of country or rock, Main Street Villa Rica conceived of an event that would be modeled after the famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

By coincidence, this year’s event will take place on International Jazz Day.

First up on the Thomas Dorsey stage at 4 p.m. will be the Blair Crimmins Hooker Duo based in Atlanta. Crimmins has made a name for himself across the South with a retro sound that is based on classic Dixieland performances of a century ago, when jazz was in its popular infancy.

Their supercharged blend of ragtime and swing has been described as a modern sound rooted in the past. Crimmins is both a music academic and multi-instrumentalist who studied jazz as a way of becoming a better guitarist. 

Taking the stage at 5 p.m. will be Gwen Hughes, an Atlanta-based musician and sometime actress who has taken her unique, bluesy sound across the world.

Hughes has produced six albums of original music, but often does cover tunes of modern jazz. A professional musician for nearly 30 years, Hughes has toured extensively in eastern Europe under sponsorship of the U.S. State Department. And, when she’s not busy with furthering the cause of music education, she has acted in and various series for television.

At 6 p.m., DynaGroove Atlanta takes the stage. Familiar to Villa Rica audiences, the group’s sound has evolved since the band got their start in 2017. Steeped in southern rock and soul, their signature style has become synonymous with a diverse collection of great covers performed with their signature flair reminiscent of Cream and early Gov’t Mule — with a side of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.

The headlining act, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, begins at 7:30 p.m.  

“Big” Sam Williams is a trombonist who studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. According to the band’s website, he later joined the Dirty Dozen band, which allowed him to play with such musicians as Dave Matthews, James Brown, and the band Widespread Panic.

He later formed Funky Nation, which has performed at Bonnaroo, Gathering of the Vibes, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, South By Southwest, and on Austin City Limits. The group is primarily a funk and rock band with elements of traditional and contemporary jazz, hard rock, and punk.

The West Georgia Jazz Festival is sponsored this year by Jones-Wynn Funeral Homes and Crematory, Main Street Villa Rica, and the City of Villa Rica.