The Minnesota Festival of Jazz on the Prairie began about 30 years ago to showcase big band jazz ensembles in the Twin Cities.
That’s according to Rob Estrine, director of the Jazz on the Prairie Big Band. It is one of seven bands performing in the festival from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Staring Lake Amphitheatre, 14800 Pioneer Trail.
Each band plays for 45 minutes at the start of each hour of the festival.
The bands perform in this order: Just Friends Big Band; Good News Big Band; Bend in the River Big Band; ACME Jazz Company; River City Jazz Orchestra; Genesis Jazz Orchestra; and Jazz on the Prairie Big Band.
For the last few years, Estrine has helped organize the festival with other jazz band directors.
He said the community bands are made up of volunteer musicians. The players get together to keep the tradition of big band music alive and well.
According to Estrine, big band jazz has been popular since the 1930s “swing era” with such familiar names as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.
He said it continues to be popular, with many composers writing new music.
“Many of the bands performing at our Minnesota Festival of Jazz on the Prairie have even performed original compositions and arrangements created by their members,” he said.
A few years after the festival began, he said the Eden Prairie Noon Rotary Club joined in the fun with its Rib Fest fundraiser.
“What could be better than lots of great, swinging big band jazz with a side of ribs, all washed down with an ice-cold beer!” Estrine said.
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