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Summer Guide 2011: Uptown Charlotte Jazz Festival returns — and grows 

OK, Queen City jazz fans — are you happy now?

I mean, consider the fact that the past 365 days have been peppered with a whole lot of jazz music; I'm talking about performances by greats like Branford Marsalis, Robert Glasper, Al Jarreau and even recent Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding.

In addition, nearly one year ago folks witnessed the debut of the first-ever Uptown Charlotte Jazz Festival. Produced principally by promoters Tammy Greene and Charles Whitfield (working hand-in-hand with a veritable army of others) and held at the N.C. Music Factory's Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, the one-day outdoor event featured contemporary jazz and R&B acts such as Maysa, Norman Brown, Alex Bugnon and more.

Luckily, the music shows no signs of slowing down — and, actually, the next 365 days of jazzy sounds gets started with the return of the Uptown Charlotte Jazz Fest. But while the 2nd annual edition of the festival is still set to go down at the Uptown Amphitheatre, this year's fest does feature some big changes. For example, the event is expanding to two days — with the first show taking place inside The Fillmore (also at the N.C. Music Factory) on the night of June 24 and at the outdoor amphitheater on Saturday, June 25.

In addition to expanding the duration of the festival, the roster of talent has also been expanded to feature heavyweights like Michael Franks (taking the stage on Friday), Jeff Lorber, Gerald Albright and the group DMS — which consists of George Duke, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn (all performing on Saturday). This expansion of the Uptown Charlotte Jazz Fest, according to Whitfield, was part of the plan when the event was originally conceived.

"Basically, what we want to try and do is grow each year ... we figured the logical thing would be trying to do something Friday evening to take advantage of The Fillmore and seeing some artists in more of an intimate-type setting," he said, adding: "And then we're going to have [Charlotte-based artist] Shableek & Uncommon Jazz actually open up [on Friday] — because what we also want to do is start trying to get some local talent involved as well. In our mind, in order to really get something established, we just really have to ... take more of the artists people are going to know. But when it came up, we thought, 'Let's give those guys the opportunity to open up on Friday night.'"

While acknowledging the power of last year's lineup, Whitfield credits this year's bigger and better collection of artists to the power of relationships — specifically Greene's established relationships with some of the nation's most influential booking agents and his relationships with big-name musicians.

"[Greene] and I have been really good at working with each other as we identify each of the artists that we want to have come. We've been able to give, I think, some real personal attention," said Whitfield. "Like Norman Brown lives in L.A., he and I are good friends. He talks to George Duke, you know; so I think because of the way we did stuff last year, it definitely put us on the radar. And when George Duke, Sanborn, and Marcus Miller were touring, that's also a situation where, [because] Tammy had a good relationship with the booking agent, we were able to get them. ... The talent was good last year. I think this year it's better."

The Uptown Charlotte Jazz Festival hits the N.C. Music Factory June 24-25. For a full list of artists, showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit www.uptowncharlottejazzfest.com.

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