MARQUEE - Jazz & Wine Among Friends finds its groove

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WALLA WALLA -- What started as a single concert at the Whitman College Reid Campus Center then progressed the following year to two days of music that included several downtown venues and a main performance at the Walla Walla Foundry is once again augmenting the notes to be heard at the third annual Jazz & Wine Among Friends concert this month.

"If we can build this bridge to a community event, then it's going to be something that everybody is going to build on and love on its own," event coordinator Mark Brown said.

"And people who come, if you excuse the expression, are going to be jazzed about it."

For Brown, getting all jazzed up about the third year for the festival is almost like playing in double time, and that's because Brown has two vested interests in seeing the festival succeed.

As executive director of Friends of Children of Walla Walla -- an organization that pairs adult mentors with children who need a friend -- he sat down with other supporters to come up with a fundraiser for his nonprofit, and that's how the festival got its start.

And last year, the jazz festival raised $7,000 from ticket sales for Friends, he said, noting that he expects this year to net much more.

And Brown might be right on key, because this year's festival has grown again, with more performers and performances.

The festival will begin the evening of Sept. 24, with concerts at Walla Walla Wine Works, Stephenson Cellars, Marcus Whitman Hotel and Sapolil Cellars. Then on Sept. 25, an afternoon concert at Waters Winery will feature jazz vocalist Marilyn Keller and the Augustana Jazz Quarter in what promises to be a family atmosphere where folks can bring a blanket and kids and sit down on the grass. But chairs will also be provided, he noted.

Later that evening, the main event of the festival will once again take place at the Walla Walla Foundry, and once again it will feature festival headliner and favorite, the Gail Pettis Quartet.

For those who "think" they don't like jazz, Brown said he's heard that song before.

"I had a lot of people saying I don't really care for jazz, but they came away from Gail Pettis and said, 'My God. That was fabulous.'"

As for the other reason Brown himself gets deep in to the groove over Jazz & Wine Among Friends, well it turns out he has spent time in the woodshed sharpening his ax.

In addition to being a big fan of jazz and helping kids, Brown will also appear during the Friday night concert series with fellow jazz musician Gary Romjue. They will perform at Sapolil Cellars from 8-11 p.m.

"Just getting the word out is the biggest obstacle. But once people are there, they will want to come back," Brown added.

The cost for the Friday night concert series is $15 for all four concerts, which are downtown and within walking distance, and includes performances by Paul West, the Bluestiss Jazz Group, Gary Winston & Friends and Mark Brown and Gary Romjue.

The Saturday afternoon concert with Marilyn Keller and th e Augustana Quartet is $25. And the Saturday night concert featuring the Gail Pettis Quartet is $75, and also includes a performance by the Whitman Jazz Collective.

A combined ticket for Friday and Saturday concerts is $100.

Tickets are on sale at the Visitor Center, 26 E. Main St., or at the Friends office, 120 E. Birch St., No. 10.

For more information call 527-4745.

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