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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Jazz & Beat Festival celebrates its seventh year

On Oct. 4 and Oct. 5, the John Natsoulas Gallery will be hosting its seventh annual Jazz and Beat Festival. Featuring various Jazz, spoken word and dance performances, the festival celebrates the art and culture that came about in the 1950s Beat Generation.

Hosted by the Davis Cultural Action Committee, the Jazz and Beat Festival features exclusive performance the many jazz musicians, world-renowned poets and painters. These include performances from the Linda Blair Dance Group, the Cave Women, the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet with Performance Painting by Victoria Smith, Davis High School Jazz Band with Performance Painting by Myron Stephens and a special guest musical group sponsored by the Mondavi Center.

John Natsoulas, a long-time Davis resident, is the owner of the gallery and is responsible for running the annual event and finding the local artists to participate in the festival.

“We want to celebrate these brilliant iconoclasts in an environment similar to what would have been during that era. I want to preserve the element of collaboration that was so vital to the movement. Art, poetry and music will all be accompanying one another across different stages to create a type of performance art that was unique to the Beat Generation,” Natsoulas said.

The festival celebrates the Beat Generation of the 1950s, a period of art and literary Renaissance in America during which young artists valuing anti-conformist values found liberty of expression within this group of free-thinking collaborationists. Their art lives on in intimate festivals such as this one, where some of the most intriguing art of the era will be exhibited.

“The Beatniks were young talented people, who did not necessarily have a lot of money and spoke like pseudo intellectuals, very comparable to today’s hipsters,” Natsoulas said. “They found the need for spaces where they could express themselves artistically, and that’s where the Jazz Club phenomenon came about. That’s the inspiration behind this event.”

An especially exciting part of the event is the Jack Kerouac poetry contest on Friday evening, in which many local University as well as High School students will participate. Artists get the opportunity to share their poetry in honor of one of the greatest American poets and Beatniks, Jack Kerouac, in the presence of poets such as Indigo Moor, Phil Weidman and D.R. Wagner.

“The festival gets the whole town involved, especially with the Kerouac poetry contest. In a way, it is paying homage to the Beatniks in its own right by involving the Mondavi Center, the University and the High School. It becomes a performance based on collaboration, which was a vital element of the Beat Generation,” Natsoulas said.

D.R. Wagner, a UC Davis lecturer in design, has been performing at the event for many years and will be reciting some of his poetry from two of his recently published books, Breaking and Entering and 97 Poems.

“Natsoulas does a fantastic job at picking the artists, music and poetry of the time. He really has a clear vision of the Beat Generation, and owns one of the few galleries that actually really makes sense. It’s an honor to participate,” Wagner said.

UC Davis professor, head of Davis Cultural Action Committee and poet  Andy Jones, is the master of ceremonies and organiser of the event. In the past, he taught many courses on the Beat Generation and has found it to be the center of many of his professional studies.

“The poetry contest on Friday night is a great opportunity to experience quality poetry, a great place to freely experiment with poetry. It is rare that you get to have poets performing to such phenomenal jazz ensembles,” Jones said.

Participants also have a chance at winning prizes, such as the opportunity to recite their poem in accompaniment to a world-class orchestra.

“I want the youth to be able to express themselves, and I think the poetry contest is a great opportunity for that. The festival offers different ways for younger artists to be linked to the Beat pathos. By involving the younger generation, it maintains the spirit of intellectual curiosity that is associated with the Beat Generation,” Jones said.

Admission to the event is free, and complimentary refreshments will be provided. For more information about the event, please visit natsoulas.com.


LARISSA MURRAY can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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