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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

HONORING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HAMPTON JAZZ FESTIVAL

June 22, 2017
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the Hampton Jazz Festival on its 50th Anniversary.

The idea for a jazz festival emerged after a visit between friends--the President of Hampton Institute Jerome Holland and jazz entrepreneur and promoter George Wein, who was noted for his festivals in Newport, Rhode Island, New York, California, and New Orleans.

This first festival was in 1968 when Hampton Institute--present day Hampton University--celebrated its 100th birthday with a musical night filled with jazz. This celebration took place on Hampton's campus at Armstrong Field. Artists that performed at the original festival included Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsay Lewis, Herbie Mann Quintet, Nina Simone and her Trio, Muddy Waters and his Blues Band, and many more. It was supposed to be just a one-time event, but the attendees loved it and wanted more. In 1970, the City of Hampton became the third partner when the festival moved from Hampton Institute to the newly built Hampton Coliseum due to growing crowds; it went on for three days and has been a tradition in Hampton Roads ever since.

The Hampton Roads community welcomes fans who travel from all over for the weekend long Jazz Festival each year. Many think of it as more than just a few concerts. The festival is a celebration of jazz, pop, blues, soul, and R&B music and artists. It is a time for fans and artists to celebrate the culture and the life of jazz. It is a terrific opportunity for the community to come together for a great time listening to great music. As a result, many events surround the dates of the festival, including parties, family reunions, class reunions and other gatherings.

There are fans who have attended the festival since its beginnings, and enjoy it just as much as they did when they were younger. And I count myself as one of those fans, as I attended the very first festival at Armstrong Field and have attended virtually every festival since. Because jazz is such a unique genre of music that crosses so many ethnic and cultural barriers, the festival is a way for different generations and diverse groups of people to come together and share in their love of jazz.

I commend Hampton University and the City of Hampton for their ongoing partnership to bring well-loved and critically acclaimed artists and musicians to Hampton Roads for this annual event. A record was set in 2011 for the festival when all three shows, featuring the artists Charlie Wilson, Kem, Jonathan Butler, Chaka Khan, Boyz II Men, and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, sold out.

Last year's festival included Babyface, New Edition, Gladys Knight, and many more. Hampton strives to make the festival better and better each year with more artists and vendors, and I know this 50th Anniversary festival will be no different.

The remarkable success of the Jazz Festival has helped the City of Hampton build up the reputation of the Hampton Coliseum as a premier venue for the region. Thanks in part to the high profile acts that performed at the Jazz Festival, the Hampton Coliseum has been able to attract many popular artists and other events. As the Festival has grown in popularity, annual attendance is usually around 25,000 fans in recent years.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to mention a few names who have been instrumental to the success of the festival over the years--Dr. William Harvey, Joe Santangelo, John Scott, Joe Tsao, George Wallace, and Lucius Wyatt.

The 50th Anniversary of the Hampton Jazz Festival is to take place as it always does during the last full weekend in June and will include many fan favorites, including Jill Scott, Kem, Brian Culbertson, the O'Jays, Patti Labelle, and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.

Mr. Speaker, as a fan of jazz and a regular attendee, I congratulate Hampton University and the City of Hampton as the Hampton Jazz Festival celebrates its 50th Anniversary. I look forward to a great weekend listening to some of my favorite artists knowing that this Hampton Roads tradition will continue for many years to come.