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Indy Jazz Festival goes virtual

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Deafening live sets and block parties have long been a staple of Indy Jazz Fest. For two decades, the festival has brought international and local legends to downtown Indianapolis. This year, as COVID-19 continues to spike throughout the state, organizers had to scrap their plans for a 2020 gathering. But still, the bands play on.

Hoosiers can now attend Indy Jazz Fest from the comfort of their home Nov. 13-14 and Nov. 20-21. For four days, audiences will be able to tune into virtual concerts and watch films shot by local musicians. 

The festival will open at 8 p.m. Nov. 13 with a pre-recorded concert, “Celebrate Naptown Allstar Show.” Featuring over 25 of Indianapolis’ jazz performers, the film was shot in Garfield Park by WFYI. 

The festival, along with the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, commissioned three local artists and bands to create content with an Indianapolis focus. Local musician Charlie Ballentine recorded an album, “Vonnegut,” based on the works of Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut. Jared Thompson of the band Premium Blend created a documentary about issues such as police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, intertwining interviews with live performances. Native Sun, an Indianapolis jazz trio, plans to perform a set titled “Legalize Being Black.”

Throughout the festival, these performances and films will be available to stream at indyjazzfest.net.

Richard “Sleepy” Floyd, drummer for Native Sun, is looking forward to performing, something he hasn’t gotten to do a lot of since the pandemic.

“’Legalize Being Black’ is our first full-length performance since the pandemic,” Floyd said. “Native Sun has always had our ears to the streets, and we stressed being a voice for the community. This is a collection of our catalog of some of our songs from the past combined with our latest release. It’s a journey of perseverance.”

Every member of Native Sun took part in downtown protests earlier this year, and Floyd said their active involvement “really drove the point home that we were on the right path with our music.” He stressed the band wants their music to speak to the current social climate. 

Native Sun will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 14. The band expects their latest album, “Never Be King,” to be released in accordance with their performance. 

“All three groups were able to go above and beyond what was expected of them” Rob Dixon, artistic director of the festival, said. “If we don’t support art, the art goes away, and it’s a huge part of Indianapolis that I think people often take for granted.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

Tune into the 2020 Indy Jazz Fest!

When: Nov. 13-14 and Nov. 20-21

Where: Online at indyjazzfest.net or on YouTube Live

Cost: Free

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