ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Once we get into the summer months, it seems like there’s a festival every weekend. Starting this Thursday night, music fans will be able to take in some free concerts in downtown St. Paul for three nights.

On any given Tuesday, you’ll find the Cory Wong Quartet performing live at the Artists Quarter in St. Paul. The rich blend of guitar, bass, drums and piano make up a sound that millions have grown to love.

It’s the sound of jazz.

“Jazz really is about letting go of boundaries, bringing people together, interacting in a free open way. It is an American art form, it started in New Orleans, a century of music we created,” said Steve Heckler, festival organizer.

Thirteen years ago, Heckler and a few of his music-loving friends started what is now called the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

“It started in 1999 as a small event to promote jazz. We were astounded by the number of people who showed up. We expected about 300 and 3,000 showed up,” he said.

Last year 25,000 people showed up over the three days of free, outdoor music.

The main stage of the jazz festival is in Mears Park, in the heart of St. Paul’s Lowertown.

Jazz fans are not the only ones who appreciate this festival. Business owners in the Lowertown area of St. Paul are pretty excited about it, too.

The festival brings lots of exposure to Lowertown, a section of St. Paul that is normally pretty quiet.

National recording artists like Joshua Redmon and Delfeayo Marsalis are sure to pull in a big crowd again this year.

“It really requires, any art form like this, a group of folks to keep it alive, a group to keep the art form alive, it requires a people to step up,” Heckler said. “And I am hoping others carry the baton and keep the art form going.”

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival started out at Peavy Plaza in downtown Minneapolis and then moved to St. Paul in 2004.

The main stage is at Mears Park, but there is a second stage on 6th Street, plus performances at a few nearby bars and restaurants.

It runs Thursday through Saturday and again, it’s free.


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