The Style of Jazz

porter Andrew Davis is a proud sponsor of the B’Town Jazz Festival, one of the biggest and most anticipated outdoor music festivals in Bloomington. Now in its 4th year, this year’s festival will take place on Saturday, August 22nd at the Monroe County courthouse lawn and promises to bring an exciting line-up. Traditionally, festival exclusively featured local artists. This year, the B’Town Jazz Festival is featuring artists that are primarily based out of town including saxophonist Jamey Aebersold from New Albany, Indiana; and trombonist and Jacobs School of Music faculty member Wayne Wallace from San Francisco.

According to John Porter, the festival’s coordinator and Committee Chair, the relationship between jazz and fashion is a two-way street. “Jazz and fashion are both cyclical and evolutionary,” he said. “Miles Davis is the classic example. He changed the course of jazz four or five times in his career and his wardrobe went along for the ride. Everyone wanted to sound and look like Miles, especially in the 50's and 60's.“

During the early part of the 20th century, the tuxedo was the utilitarian staple of a musician. In many instances, it still is. Jazz Historian Gary Giddins tells an apocryphal story about a young Louis Armstrong arriving in Chicago for the first time, in the middle of summer, wearing a threadbare tux and long underwear. Granted, things eventually got much better for Armstrong, but you rarely saw him onstage in anything but a tuxedo. The same was true for Frank Sinatra who referred to wearing a tuxedo as “a way of life”.

Outside of formal wear, fashion in the jazz world has changed with the times. In the 1940s, Lester Young (also known as “Prez”) wore long top coats, pork pie hats, and huge peak jacket lapels. Miles Davis later came along with his soft-shouldered Brooks Brothers suits in the 50s and 60s, a style that is favored today by companies like Luigi Bianchi Mantova, Byron, and even Sammuelsohn. Today, there is great tailoring and style from performers like Chris Botti, who loves his Prada; Wynton and Branford Marsalis; Joshua Redman; and Jamie Cullum.

The B’Town Jazz Festival will take place this Saturday from noon-11pm on the downtown courthouse lawn. Admission is free and food and beverage will be available for purchase. For more information about the festival and a complete line-up of this year’s performers, please visit btownjazz.org.